Loud, ugly, and stupid

Last night, I posted from our date night. I entitled the post “Sweet sweet evening”. And it was, for most of the evening. Then, we got home.

I’m pretty sure the neighbors heard us yelling. It was loud. It was ugly. It was stupid.

We were tired, and an argument broke out. But in the midst of trying to be heard, our motivations both changed, mutating into something neither of us desire for our relationship. So, we yelled. We were mean. We wanted to be right. We forgot our love, our vows, and our God, and both selfishly went down a road that leads to nothing.

There were apologies before bed. There were more this morning. And then, on the way to church, I asked, “Do I need to edit last night’s post?” We both groaned.

Our family reads the blog. Coworkers read it. Our friends read it. Strangers read it. We set out to be honest here– delivering an honest daily account of year one. But no one wants to read that a date night ended in an epic fight. I hate to write it. But that’s what happened.

I wish the clear headed version of myself from today could step into last night and slap the angry, selfish person I was then. I vowed to Brian that I would put his needs ahead of my own. I vowed to love him selflessly. But I didn’t remember any of that last night. All I knew was that I was hurt and I wanted my hurt to be known.

The biggest enemy to my marriage is in me– my own selfishness and pride. If I seek my own desires and put myself first, I will destroy this marriage.

I told my beloved this morning, as I held him in my arms, that I never wanted to yell at him again. I told him that I love him and I’m sorry for everything.

He forgave. I forgave.

We had a great day today. We even told our friends about the fight at church. We told another group at lunch. We both admitted fault and would squeeze the other’s hand as we spoke.

We promised to be honest, so here it is: Marriage is difficult. Sometimes, even on date night.

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The danger of guilt

Guilt is dangerous. It is dangerous for the guilty, but it is even more dangerous for the forgiven.

Guilt is dangerous for the guilty because justice demands punishment. But when mercy and forbearance reign, and injustice is forgiven guilt is an unnecessary and dangerous burden. Where guilt is present there is no peace, there is no rest. Ultimately, there is no hope.

This evening a very small thing turned into a big thing because of my own feelings of guilt.

The example of Jesus calls me to be a servant to my wife1. I believe this, and take it very seriously, but like any person I am not perfect. I fail. I fail a lot, and I know it. Which is where the guilt comes in.

Lindsey loves to keep a clean house. She’s not obsessive about it, she’s not overbearing and she is nowhere close to a nag. She likes the house to be clean, and clearly shares what that entails. But, as documented elsewhere on this blog, I do not have the same natural desire. It’s not that I like or tolerate dirt, I just don’t have the same level of thoroughness and attention to detail  My level of tolerance for disorganization and clutter is higher than hers. That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself. We’re simply wired different.

But here’s the problem, the disorganization that I do not mind causes Lindsey stress. The last thing she needs is added stress. The best thing I can do to serve my wife is to help her out, to clean up and keep the clutter down. I do this, sometimes. But not enough. She does not tell me that often, like I said my wife is certainly not a nag. But I still know that I fail her.

So tonight when I was emptying the overly full recycling bin I made a selfish comment to her about how full it was, and how hard it is to take out like that. “Don’t fill it too full,” I said in a not-too-nice tone of voice. “It’s too hard to take it out, and it’s not like I care about recycling anyway.”

I said it as I passed her in the kitchen, and I immediately knew how hurtful it was. But when she replied back I just dug my heels in and we argued for the next five minutes.

After Lindsey went upstairs (justifiably) upset, I started to think about my comment. I realized where it came from. It was rooted in the guilt I felt for letting her down, for not doing all of the things around the house that I wanted and committed to do. I knew I had failed, and I think that subconsciously I wanted to knock her down a peg.

How sick is that? Instead of dealing with the guilt that I legitimately felt, I tried to drag my wife down with me. I tried to accuse her of doing something wrong to assuage my guilt. Here when I should be confessing my own failings to her I turn it around on her instead.

In this and other ways I do not live up to my own expectations for being a husband, and I fear that I do not live up to Lindsey’s. ‘Don’t be too hard on yourself,’ you might offer, ‘after all you’ve been at this for less than a year.’ That’s true, but that does not change the standard, it only rationalizes the failure. The standard of Jesus, the perfect man, as my standard for leadership is a tall order. In fact, it is an impossible one for any of us to achieve.

In response to this, one might comment that the weight of that standard is crushing, that no man can live up to it. I agree with that point of view, it is a crushing weight to bear.

That is, it is crushing if we have to bear it.

But we do not have to bear it. If we trust God’s promises to us through Jesus, we will be forgiven. The burden will be lifted. If only trusting that was easy all the time. But it is not. Instead of trusting ourselves we must then rely only on God to help us see our sin, and to change our hearts. He is the only source of real change.

After a few minutes of collecting my thoughts, I walked up the stairs and sat down on the bed next to Lindsey. I told her exactly what was going on, almost exactly what I just told you. Then I confessed and apologized. She forgave me, as deep down I knew she would. We had a serious conversation then spent some time in prayer about some things going on these days. It was a sweet time together.

It was a small argument, but it made something clear to me. I cannot let the guilt I feel from my inevitable failings to rule my mind and emotions. To do so is a demonstration of a failing faith in Jesus’s promises. He died to remove my guilt, and he defeated death to bring me life. The only path for me is rest in that truth and trust in his forgiveness. And Lindsey’s.


  1. There are a lot of misconceptions about the Christian view of marriage that I won’t get into here, but let me set this one straight: the role of the husband is to love and lead his wife, and Jesus shows us that this is done through selfless service. Anything else is a perversion of the gospel. 

Thanks

Facebook is full of 30 Days of Thanks posts. Same with Twitter. I think every blog I read had some sort of “I’m thank for…” list posted today. Writing about our blessings and the gratitude they generate is unavoidable on this day, but I hope to take this in a slightly different direction.

I’m thankful for the hard stuff in life. Honestly, I am. Marriage has been hard, and by all accounts it always will be. People don’t believe us when we say this, but we don’t fight. We don’t argue much either, and when we do it ends well. But that does not mean it’s been easy.

It’s been hard learning to be a faithful husband. The Bible tells us that men are to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” That’s a high bar. I think we can all agree, even our readers who don’t agree with us religiously, that loving someone enough to die for them, to literally give yourself up, is an incredibly lofty goal. It’s a goal I fail at on a daily basis. Every day I make decisions that put myself ahead of her. Every day I accept my passive instincts. I choose my comfort over her good. I do the opposite of what I should, I love myself more than I love her. Yet, I am thankful for those failures. Every single one of them.

I’m thankful because God gave me a wife who knows what it means to fail, a wife who has been forgiven herself, a wife who loves me. In her love, she forgives me for my failures. In that forgiveness I can see an image of the forgiveness I have been given for all of my mistakes.

We’ll be the first to admit, this is not always the easiest or automatic process. We get mad at each other, and sometimes the mercy takes a while to show, but in the end it is always there.

That is what I am thankful for this year, I am thankful for a wife who shows me the grace of God everyday. Because that is when I need it.

It’s a broken world

It is easy for Lindsey and me to get wrapped up in our newlywed paradise. We have troubles and disagreements like any married couple, and even though we have dealt with some tough things so far, we’re still quite happily stuck in newly-wedded bliss. Because of this it is easy, maybe even inevitable, that we are often blind to the troubles around us.

But every once and a while reality breaks through. When friends and family struggle with broken and hurting marriages, disease or suffering in their families, and a whole host of silent afflictions, it affects us deeply. We think about them, pray for them, and cry for them. There is a whole world out there full of broken and hurting people, and we kid ourselves when we think we are somehow not two of them. Our marriage has been the strongest when we both recognize and admit that we are broken ourselves, and have no standing to boast in ourselves.

One of the reasons we have this blog is to share our lives with you, our friends and family, along with our other readers. Our hope and prayer for this site has always been that through our own imperfect and novice attempts at marriage that our readers might gain some small insight into their own relationships and benefit from it. But we can’t fix anything ourselves, we’re broken and need help too.

So, for all of our friends, family a readers out there who are going through tough times and trials, please know that we love you, we are praying for you, and that we hope you know the abiding love of our Savior.

 

The biggest problem in my marriage

Tonight and tomorrow morning Lindsey and I are attending the Austin Stone’s Marriage Seminar with Paul Tripp. It’s kind of an odd way to celebrate the start of her summer, but we had a great time of learning together tonight.

We’ll save a longer post for later, but Lindsey and I walked away from tonight’s session talking about one key point that Paul Tripp made. I am the biggest problem in my marriage. Me, it’s me.

No… it wasn’t a male bashing tonight. The idea we both really loved is this: in your marriage you are the biggest problem. Sure, there are all sorts of bad things that happen to us, without cause, and we can certainly be wronged. But, because we are imperfect, because none of us are without sin, we bring a self-centered nature to the relationship that, unchecked, will destroy the relationship. In a marriage, both husband and wife are at fault when there are issues, because we are all sinful.

Only when we can admit this, to ourselves, our spouse, and to God can we start to address this sin and the effect it has on our marriage.

It was a big insight, it had us talking. We are really looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions.

Getting married doesn’t fix your problems

Time for some tough talk folks. If you are engaged, thinking about marriage, or just dreaming of it listen up. Getting married doesn’t solve your problems. It just doesn’t. I know you think it will, I know it makes sense to you, but trust me your junk just doesn’t go away when you say those vows.

Here is the math: 1 imperfect person + 1 imperfect person = 2 x the junk. Complex right? I know, this is really simple. You’re probably getting a little frustrated with me, talking down to you like this. But seriously, how many times have you thought to yourself, “this would all be better if I was married”? I know you have had this thought, I had it plenty of times in the past.

But it’s just not true. There is no way that two people who make mistakes, have bad habits, and tend to be really selfish (we all are, just admit it) can combine their lives and magically erase all of those faults.

Seeing as this blog is very personal, I’ll share an example that is very, well, personal. It’s a churchy example, but it is honestly the one that matters the most to me and is also the direct impetus for this post. If your not a church person, hang with me, it’s just an illustration, there is a point at the end.

One of Lindsey and I’s foundational beliefs, not just that of our church but one we really believe, is that we need to spend time every day in intentional prayer and reading the Bible. We believe that this is the best way to grow our faith, grow closer together, and build a marriage that will last. Before I was married I had the same belief, and I struggled. It was hard to set aside time everyday for both. I preferred to read the Bible over pray, so I’d leave the prayer out often. Sometimes, I just did not want to do it, so I didn’t.

But the more Lindsey and I prepared for the wedding and started thinking about what married life would be, the more confident I became that marriage was just the slump buster I needed. I was prepared for it, I wanted to do well in this, and I now had a reason to be better. I would do it for her, for us! What better reason could I have?

Well, after about two and a half weeks, I was right back where I was. I had the exact same issues, temptations and failures. What we found out was that we were both motivated, but still failing to fix the problem. Just getting married didn’t do a thing.

That’s the bad news. But here is the point, which is good news. When you are married you have a partner in addressing it. The problem is not solved, but you become better equipped to deal with it. You still have to deal with your junk, but there is someone there to help carry the load.

For our issues, we’re learning to trust God and pray for a stronger desire to do these things, and it works. It’s not solved, but we’re making progress. But whether that is how you go about it or not, the fact remains that you have a partner, a wingman (or wingwoman). And that in itself is a whole lot better than tackling it alone.