Monday, July 02, 2012

Seven-Year Itch

I've heard people talk about the seven-year itch for as long as I can remember. Well, we've been married seven years, and I have an itch.

It's the itch to roll over and snuggle with my husband when I wake up in the middle of the night and we aren't touching.
...the itch to flirt with him via text message in the middle of the day, and imagine him smiling at work.
...the itch to see him recognized and appreciated in his job, to see his skills develop and his talents well-used.
...the itch to talk to him about what I read, what I hear, what's on my mind.
...the itch to get his perspective, to learn from his wisdom.
...the itch to embarrass him by writing blog posts like this, because I just can't keep to myself how I love this man of mine.

Our marriage isn't perfect. Steve is a sinner, and I'm a worse one. But six years ago, I learned to see.

I was at a crossroads as a new wife. We had been married less than a year, and while I was still over the moon about my husband, I was also not completely satisfied. I longed for certain things to be different. And I didn't know what to do with that longing.

It was at that point that the book Sacred Influence came into my life. Having read Gary Thomas's brilliant and beautiful book Sacred Marriage, I was eager to pick up this follow-up as soon as it was published. (A book for wives, written from a husband's perspective? Seemed like a no-brainer!) And I'm convinced that the book changed my marriage. Thomas wrote:
"How is God using the reality of living with an imperfect man to teach you how to grow in patience and understanding? ...How is he using your marriage to teach you how to love? When you find yourself in...a basically good marriage with one particular issue that grates on you, you can be sure that God wants to mature you as you face this problem with strength, courage, dignity, and biblical wisdom."
I thought I loved Steve when I said "I do" in 2005. But over the course of that first year, I began to realize that God wanted to use marriage to teach me, among other things, how little I truly understood love and how much more deeply I could love. He wanted to grow my love for Steve so that I could be better equipped to love others.

Thomas continued:
"Only one perfect man ever walked this earth, and he never married. Since every wife is married to an imperfect man, every wife will have legitimate disappointments in her marriage. Are you going to define your husband by these disappointments, or will you pray that God will open your eyes to the common blessings that your husband provides and to which you often become blinded?"
That resonated with me deeply--it reaffirmed a theme that God was beginning to play in my heart six years ago and has continued to reinforce ever since. Would I focus on what was lacking? Would I feed the critical spirit that comes so naturally to me? Or would I "make the daily spiritual choice of focusing on qualities for which [I] feel thankful"? Thomas reminded me: "no man is ever 'on' all the time. ...The spiritual challenge comes from the fact that you are likely more apt to define your husband by his bad days than you are to accept the good days as the norm. Hold on to the good; begin to define him by the good; thank him (and God) for the good--and thereby reinforce the good."

In other words, take Scripture seriously:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8)

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor" (Romans 12:9-10).

"Love is patient and is not irritable or resentful; it...rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

At that crossroads in June 2006, by the grace of God, I made a decision to see. I chose to give thanks for who Steve is and what he does--which truly gives me plenty of material on which to meditate! I shifted my focus to gratitude instead of complaint, to affirming the good instead of lamenting what was lacking. And I think God used that choice to change me. I shudder to think of the nagging, disapproving, proud and critical wife I so easily could have become, apart from His grace.

Instead, when my mind does go to disappointment or dissatisfaction, thoughts of what he hasn't done or what I wish were different, I choose to look at who I'm not and all the ways I have failed. Have I been the wife Steve truly needs? Have I prayed for him faithfully in these areas where he is weak? Have I loved him in the ways I know he wants to be loved? That stops the complaints pretty quickly, when I am convicted about my prayerlessness and reminded of his patiently bearing with me in all my faults and flaws.

I'm so thankful for Gary Thomas's wise words. And I'm beyond thankful for the incredible husband God has given me, and the fact that God has given me eyes to see and appreciate this gift. I know Steve's flaws better today than I did seven years ago. But I also know his strengths better, and I have seen God's grace at work in him in more ways than I can begin to recount. When I truly see this man of mine, I truly love who he is and who he is becoming. I love that I have been chosen for the privilege of walking by his side, hand in hand for the journey. I pray that God will satisfy my itch to grow old with this amazing man.


Danielle said...

Congratulations on 7 years, Amy, and beautifully written. I loved how you used the "7 year itch" saying and made it your own!

Anonymous said...

great post! i've gotten a few ideas from you lately, thanks!!! :)

emily said...

unbelievable. i literally just ordered "sacred influence" this week off amazon! "sacred marriage" was/is profoundly impactful for us and i am so thankful to have come across this other book that gary thomas has written. how amazing that you are sharing about it today!
what a GOOD word on focusing on the blessings, gifts, GOOD things ... when my mind can so quickly go to the critical and complaining.

Ann Kroeker said...

What beautiful pictures!!

And more importantly, what a beautiful marriage inspired love-provoking words. I'm always so amazed at how a book is used by God to reach into my life and change me.