What I’ve learned in marriage: to worship

Confession: It took me a long time to circle around to the most basic marriage secret of all. I don’t mean here on my blog. I mean in actual living.

If my marriage is to be successful (radiant, life-giving, and permanent), I have to believe my husband is the best thing since sliced bread.

NO DUH. That’s why I married him, right? But sometime soon after the honeymoon sea breezes (and sometimes during), there’s an entire boatload of reality checks waiting for both of you. You can’t live for weeks and months and years with another human without plunging deep into the good, the bad, and the ugly.

She doesn’t like to be told what groceries to buy. He can’t stand when she uses his tools. She wishes to goodness that he’d dress up like he did when they were dating, and think about something other than sex. He wonders if she always leaves socks strewn around like this, and what’s to become of the tub with all that hair going down the drain.

Marriage is hard work. Marriage is exactly designed to rub the bloom off the romance and make that lovey dove sit up and face the music. The loud, annoying music at 3 am. (Oh wait, that’s him snoring.) The hardest work of all is to keep believing in love, to keep polishing it fresh and clean and sweet, to keep remembering that you are the luckiest kid in the world to be waking up every morning beside this amazing person with a bedhead.

I’m not trying to be flippant. I know what I’m talking about, and it’s not easy. Our marriage has had times so painful that I didn’t know if we’d make it through, months when love felt like death. I know what it’s like to wish you’d never given your heart to this man to hurt.

One of the best wedding sermons I’ve heard was in Washington state, by a preacher whose name I’ve forgotten. He stood before the bride and groom and talked about the impossibly solemn vows they were about to take – to really do this thing – “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.” It’s CRAZY, he said. It’s the kind of thing you would shiver to bind yourself to under normal circumstances. But while she’s loopy with love and has no idea what she’s getting into, she’ll look into his eyes and giggle, “Of course I’ll do all those things.”

Infatuated feelings of love are like training wheels, he said. They help you learn to drive right.

Those first giddy feelings won’t last the marriage, but after a while you’ll get the hang of this thing. There are entire levels of stunt driving that the newlyweds haven’t dreamed of. We don’t say “it gets better” just to trick them. It really. gets. better. There is nothing so exhilarating and satisfying as living with love for years and years – past the stress points and into the joy again, never giving yourself to another, putting all your eggs in this one basket forever, and being full-on certain that you are safe and known and beloved. It is riotous; there is nothing like it, folks.

But you must keep your balance, and you must keep peddling.

So when the marriage is a little wobbly and you’re not sure you remember how to steer, pretend you’re back in love kindergarten. Lay down all the scorn and the defenses. Meet him at the door with a hug. Take a little time to talk. Change the light bulb yourself. Write a sweet note. Cook his favorite food. Hide a chocolate on his pillow. Give him the better shovel [wink]. Anticipate your evenings together. Brag him up to a mutual friend. Take some extra minutes to iron that shirt. Scent the house with fresh coffee when he comes home. Use less words, more touch. Buy the kind he likes. Make it all about him.

I know, I know what I’m saying and how psychotic it sounds when you’re walking through disillusionment or pain. But someone has to start this process, and Jesus said that when you lay down your life you find it. Fake it till you make it, honey; the happiness will come back.

Once you have given yourself to this man before God and these witnesses, your path to joy lies through reverencing him, and it is best done with your body. I am talking about romantic intimacy, and I am talking about it as a conduit for more, and I would appreciate if you don’t pass out on me. Act out your love in ways both of you can see and feel and taste and hear. Put some sparkle in your eyes. Above all, give him access to you. He needs to know he’s accepted, and enough. You need to know you’re beloved to the core. The more completely you offer yourself to him, the deeper your love can grow.

There is pain that damages intimacy, and for it there are no easy fixes. But lovemaking is an integral marriage-building device. It is the highest act of human devotion, next to worship and inseparable from it, one of the portals where humans access the divine. It requires the mind and spirit to participate in what the body is doing: to give unselfishly, entirely, unequivocally, until death do us part. It heals holes in the heart. It teaches the emotions to dance again. It shows how the abdication of self and the fulfillment of self are one and the same. If you belong to Jesus, every act of love for your husband is an act of worship for Christ.

Love with abandon. And soon you’ll remember why you thought he was amazing. He’ll be that amazing, and you’ll be the luckiest kid in the world.

* If you could not read this post without pain because of loss, betrayal, or loneliness, please x out of this blog and call up a friend you trust to listen well. You don’t have to walk your path alone. xo

* On a lighter note, and just for the record, my man doesn’t snore. The other examples given about groceries, tools, socks, and drains are likewise purely fictitious; any resemblance to real persons either living or dead is highly accidental and probably a figment of your imagination. I would be happy to share our own factual examples with you, but regrettably, they are protected by the Official Secrets Act of 2003. Sorry.

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6 years ago

Enjoying your blogs on marriage! I love the statement “you must keep your balance and you must keep pedaling ” and when we hit the bumps in the road we need to hang on tight (on our bicycle built for two: ))keep up the good work. I love reading your posts.

6 years ago

Official Secrets Act of 2003. Hahahaha. Love that.

6 years ago

Good, good stuff….married 40 years….it seems like it is through the really hard stuff in marriage that God is revealing the idols in my life…..thanks for sharing…..I still have a lot to learn, but God is sooo faithful and good!!

Mom Coblentz
6 years ago

Powerful words, Shari. Thanks.

6 years ago

Truth. ❤

6 years ago

Sorry. I just passed out on you…. 🙂

No, seriously. Shari. This is really, really, really good and powerful and TRUE stuff. Your words ring very true with my personal experience especially in the past year. Thanks for refocusing my heart and mind this morning.

6 years ago

Beautiful truths written here but I was one of those who x’d out because of pain choking my heart. I have the best husband and a horrible past and those 2 are not always compatible. His patience will kill me if I don’t do it first. I’m crying to Jesus because I believe he has the answers. And I’m shamelessly hiding under a blanket of anonymity

Sister in Christ
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Praying for you…May Jesus help you through the darkness and pain and into His marvelous light.

Katrina Martin
6 years ago

Somehow it’s a relief to me to have put into words what I’m pedaling through and learning. This is both challenging and encouraging to me!

Rhoda King
6 years ago

Thank​ you! I really needed this! Please keep writing!

6 years ago

Very much enjoying this series on marriage. So much of what you have written resonates with me because it’s been true in my own marriage. And yes, no tricks, it does get better!

Hannah Weaver
6 years ago

This is just what I needed to hear!! Encouraging and also challenging. Thank you, Shari, for sharing these truths.
I really enjoy reading your writings ?

6 years ago

For a blog titled Confessions, the author is sure keeping the secrets. Is there a closed session that follows the open session for all the juicy details?

Natalia Showalter
6 years ago

Powerful truth…and more truth. And it needs to be shared….. blessings to you for baring your heart.
Something tells me that “the Boss” is rather honored by his bride’s Confessions:)

LuAnn Peters
6 years ago

Thanks for sharing! You said it very well

6 years ago

So much good stuff in this blog, I plan on passing it along! Thank you for these blog posts!

6 years ago

Marriage is hard work. Thanks for making me feel normal. Our first year (and second and third ) were hard. But I thought something must be wrong with us cuz I always saw and heard lovey dovey-ness not angry tears and SO MUCH misunderstanding. But in spite of all that we had a beautiful “love life” (and still do) thank God! And it DID get better. SO MUCH better. Instead of wishing I could die so he could go get a better wife, I wish we could live forever (at least be married in heaven!). I love my husband passionately. And I thank God. Btw we’re currently married nearly 10yrs. So anyway thank-you for being honest.

cheryl hursh
6 years ago

This was just what I needed this morning. Sometimes I lose perspective of the whole marriage thing and focus on what he should be doing. thanks for your honesty and openness.

6 years ago

The Lord led me to your blog. Your posts on marriage are being used by God to help me let go of the pain and fear that has been holding me back from being the wife my amazing husband deserves.

4 years ago

I’m haunting your marriage archives after we went to bed last night, rather truthfully joking about yesterday being “in the bottom five days” of our four year marriage. These posts might not fix deep dark issues but they are just the right remedy for the sand-in-your-shoes level of issues.

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