Life After Marriage
God wants to be first in our lives over all other relationships for many good reasons. Little did I know that I would revisit this issue in marriage.
When I was single I was either satisfied with God or wasn’t satisfied at all. I didn’t have a spouse or boyfriend to give me the love I was seeking outside of God. It forced me to seek God because He was the only one around. I didn’t have the option of receiving love from anyone but God. Many single people struggle to find their fulfillment in God instead longing for a spouse.
Often we believe that when married, this struggle will be over- but this is a huge lie. If we already struggle with God being enough for us when we are single, then it gets worse when we are dating or married. Now there is someone to take His place, someone who can give us some kind of love when we aren’t receiving it from God. It has become dangerous because it’s EASIER for us to be ok without God (that’s a scary thought) because there is someone else’s love available for us to choose first.
Let me explain… We got married a year ago on August 12, 2006. Leading up to the wedding day was wonderful: Jimmy’s presence in my life challenged me to grow deeper with God and our relationship was focused and centered around making Jesus famous. Our wedding was beautiful, and we enjoyed a wonderful honeymoon in Hawaii. Then real life happened.
The first thing we did as newly-weds was fly to Nashville so Jimmy could do a few interviews, and appear on a TV show. Until this point, I was not traveling with him (obviously because we weren’t married) and this was my first experience in the music industry. It was probably the most intimidating, discouraging, and threatening thing to me as a new wife.
Jimmy had his own dressing room, his own make up lady, everyone wanted to talk to him, ask him questions, get things signed, and take pictures with him. He was doing interviews, singing songs, talking to important people... and I was completely overwhelmed. I had a wealth of thoughts like: No one cares about me, what am I getting myself into, Jimmy doesn’t care about me or love me… all kind of things that weren’t true. I was miserable the whole time.
I remember sitting alone in the hotel room journaling all of these emotion to God. I felt like I couldn’t handle being married to someone who was going to be famous; it was too much for me. I felt too alone and scared. But I just got married… I shouldn’t feel alone… but I did. It was a very hard weekend, and I had some very tough days that followed that weekend.
I would sit in the back of the auditorium while Jimmy was performing on stage and cry. “That’s my husband on stage. That’s Jimmy. Hundreds of people came to see him. With all that attention, why does he need me?” I had known Jimmy before he got signed, before his songs were on the radio, before anything happened. His sudden popularity was a shock to me. I felt alone. Very alone and scared.
It was difficult to see my husband surrounded by other girls who wanted his picture or autograph. I’m ok with this now, but imagine for a moment, a new wife, already struggling with issues of insecurity, seeing her husband with multitudes of other girls who want his autograph… Satan spread his lies over my mind so thick that I couldn’t think straight. I had never been this insecure before and I began to wonder why. In the midst of my insecurity struggles, God began to reveal the root of the problem: I had begun to find my identity and security in Jimmy. Instead of depending on the steadfastness of Christ’s love for me, I was placing my worth in how much Jimmy loved me. I had traded the love of Christ for the imperfect love of my husband.
First of all, it is my prayer that no one would ever read what I write and think that it’s wrong to be excited about marriage. Marriage is an amazing, beautiful, wonderful gift that God created as a picture of His love for us. Our marriage is part of our witness to this world about the love of God. “They will know us by our love for each other.” (John 13:35).
As Christians, our marriages should be the most passionate ones in all the earth because of the passionate God that we know and serve. We should be more in love with our spouses than anyone else. This is a testimony and a picture of the love between the church, and Christ. Marriage is a gift from the Lord, just like children are a gift from the Lord, just like our families are gifts from the Lord.
This is the problem: often we take what is a gift FROM God and put it in God’s place! This is idolatry! If you don’t understand why God is against this kind of idolatry, picture this: Imagine you are dating someone. You love and care for him so deeply and his birthday is coming up. So you spend hours searching for the perfect gift. You end up getting him two all day passes to his favorite theme park so you can go together. When you finally give him the gift, he gets so excited that he runs out the door to go right away, leaving you alone. And when he returns you ask what he did with the other ticket, and he says he’s going to use it the next day so he can enjoy going twice.
Obviously, you would feel hurt. You intended the gift to be enjoyed together and to continue to bring you both closer together. But he took the gift, forgot about you who gave it and enjoyed it all for himself. That is what we have done to our God. He has given us the precious gift of marriage, with the intention of it being a means for us to become closer to Him. But we have taken the gift, forgotten the one who gave it, and tried to enjoy it all for ourselves, seeking to use it to make us as happy and satisfied as possible. What was intended to draw us to God, we have used to satisfy our own needs and desires.
Without Christ, we are very, very, very selfish people. My own heart is saddened as I think of how I have neglected the God who gave me life and breath to selfishly satisfy the longings of my heart. So is it possible to enjoy the love of your spouse while also keeping Christ first in your heart? Yes!
For this to happen, you must understand that your first identity is a child of God. Second to that is being a wife or a husband. When I wake up in the morning, I must remember that I am most importantly a daughter of God and need to make sure my relationship with Him is right before I can expect my relationship with my husband to be healthy. If I am truly filled up by the love of Christ and walking as a daughter of God, then I can enjoy and receive Jimmy’s love for me, not as a necessity, but as an added blessing. Then, when Jimmy’s love for me is inconsistent because he is a sinner just like me, I am not shaken, but rather able to encourage him in his shortcomings.
But this is not where I was at those first few months of marriage. If Jimmy didn't love me the way I thought he needed to, I got scared and insecure that I might not be worth very much. My self-worth was varying every day based on my emotions. Because I was not receiving God’s love for me and was not being filled up by Him, I naturally began to try and be filled up by my husband and his love for me. Not only is Jimmy’s love not enough for me and not as consistent as Christ's, but I began to expect my husband to love me perfectly like Christ does. This put an incredible amount of undue and unfair pressure on him to measure up to Jesus, which he cannot do, and caused me to be frustrated and insecure when I was in a circumstance where I thought he loved me less: namely his concerts.
One night we were in Florida for a concert and Jimmy had a long line of people waiting to talk to him and ask for pictures and autographs. I, like usual, was feeling unloved and jealous and insecure. Then I looked around the room and saw two girls sitting alone. Something in me sparked to life as I remembered a time when I was so filled to the brim with God’s love that all I desired was to give it out to others. I would often talk to random strangers and encourage others I didn’t know in their walk with God. I had been empty of God’s love for so long I hadn’t thought about encouraging others at all.
I went over to talk to them and we had a great conversation where I got to challenge and encourage them to fall in love with God and to not settle for lesser loves. Truthfully, I think I needed to hear what I had to say as much as they did. That night helped me realize that I had been empty of love and insecure because I was trying to fill up the place in my heart where God’s love was with Jimmy’s love. It would be like trying to fill up a swimming pool with a water dropper.
Through this first year of marriage I learned what I should have known from the beginning: the purpose of marriage is NOT to satisfy my needs. Usually, even if we know that’s not the purpose, we often only know that with our head while our heart is still hoping for the fulfillment of its desires through this union. I thought that I knew what it meant to be satisfied with God and Him alone before I got married. And that was probably true, but as soon as life began as a couple, I transferred part of my needs from God to Jimmy, without realizing it.
“From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” In my heart I was aching for satisfaction and fulfillment through my marriage, not through my Maker and Savior. And when marriage didn’t satisfy, my mouth began to speak of the disappointment in my heart. Now I can say that I am learning to have a much better perspective on my marriage. I have learned to never forsake my times with the Lord and to make it a point each morning to remember that my most important role is as a daughter of God. In this way, I can make sure that I am already filled to the brim with God’s love, so that when Jimmy’s love comes, I can enjoy it freely as the added gift and blessing that it is. And when his love is not there because of the struggles he is going through, instead of being angry by his lack of love, I can encourage him and help him through those hard times, because I already have all the love I need from God. This is what I would expect and hope from him when I come up short as a wife as well.
Now, there is much more freedom and joy for me at our concerts. Instead of being caught up in who is talking to my husband, or what is taking his attention away from me, I am able to ask the Lord how I can share His love with others. Sometimes that means encouraging other girls that are at our concerts, or sometimes that means encouraging Jimmy so that he can minister better. I am able to pray that God would give Jimmy words of encouragement for the people coming to talk to him, instead of being jealous for his attention. This is the team mentality that God desires for us in marriage. Not acting because of what we NEED or what we WANT, but acting in a way that helps our teammate to become more like Christ. And the ONLY way to do this is to be filled with the love of Christ, receiving it each day so that we can give it out to each other and to the world.