How To Get Your Eyes Off Your Spouse This Valentine's Day
I’m so thrilled to have Jami Nato on the blog today. Those of us who read Jami’s blog have come to love her genius for making you laugh so hard you snort coffee out your nose, designing a kitchen as well as Emily Henderson, and bringing the Gospel into any conversation. As a part of the Valentine’s Day series on love in marriage, Jami has a written a beautiful piece on what it means to live with real love for your husband ::
when i first got married, i thought that marriage was about me. i wouldn’t have said that, of course. but the reason i got married in the first place is because i loved how he loved me. i loved how i felt around him. i loved how secure he made me feel. i loved that i would be taken care of and that i wouldn’t be lonely anymore.
for our first year, it was fun and fast paced. we did a lot of things really fast like buy a house, buy a car, and well…have a baby. we got pregnant 2 weeks after the honeymoon and when that baby came 9 months later, life came to a hault as far as the busyness that we thrived on. all the action, all the chaos, all the new and shiny—gone. i was left with sleepless nights, sore nipples, and a very tight financial situation since i decided to stay home. and so what seemed like overnight, i began to see who i was. when i got my way and things were going great, i was great. when they were bad, then so was i. riding the waves of my emotions was exhausting—then add caring for another human and caring for a husband! it made me see how inward i was and i didn’t like it. that season was tough, but nothing particularly crazy happened in marriage. our fights were normal and we still loved each other—my battle was happening more inside as i observed myself in less than ideal situations. i kept thinking, i was so selfish when i was single and i didn’t even know it!
so i tried to press in more. i tried harder. i began to think that marriage wasn’t about me, but about my spouse. i had lots of responsibilities now and one of them was to make my husband happy. i would try and have dinner ready every night when he got home, i would try and be intimate as much as i could conjure up, i would pray for him often, praise him publicly, and happily read those christian checklists on how to make your husband your best friend. date nights, regular intimacy, devotionals together, small groups…we were doing it. i mean, don’t get me wrong, i failed too. i wasn’t perfect but i sure gave it a try.
with all that trying, you might be surprised to know that in the 2nd year of marriage, my husband had a one night stand with someone from work. i had no idea it had happened because nothing changed in our marriage. we hadn’t skipped a beat. he didn’t mention it, but instead, buried it. swore to himself it would never happen again and moved on.
a year later, after our second child had just arrived, things became really rocky. i noticed he was more distant, i caught him in little lies often, he was secretive and we were miserable. i chalked it up to just having a baby…hormones…a recent job change for him. we’d get through it like before.
but this time, when it got pretty terrible, i caught him in an affair. and then it all came out, this wasn’t even the first. plus, he loved this other gal and i was “a great person” but not who he was in love with. my world had been completely shattered, i didn’t believe in divorce and it had never been an option. in fact, i judged others for divorcing. she must have not prayed hard enough. she wasn’t having sex enough. they didn’t have good community. they probably didn’t love God like us. but this time, i was faced with the big D word. the scarlet letter. my whole world was him. i had done everything right, hadn’t i? i had made my life about him and now i was left with two kids and no husband, at the bottom.
it was there that for the first time, i realized i really needed God. before that, i had kept things pretty under control. God was useful to me and he obviously really needed me to do “his work”. but in the very darkest moment of my life, at my very most un-useful, God became real to me. i needed Him to save me and to save my marriage.
that’s what it took for me to get my eyes off my husband. and that’s where i experienced the Gospel.
not the gospel i thought of before… the gospel was the hurdle you jump over when you ask Jesus into your heart and then go be a good believer, right? no. THE GOSPEL.
God said, that’s you. you are your husband.
no not me. i’ve followed you. i’ve done the right things and followed the rules.
you have not. you chase after things all day long and worship them. control. comfort. money. him. your hope has not been in me.
coincidentally, there was a verse on my chalkboard at the time. be kind. tenderhearted with one another, forgiving each other the way christ forgives you. and for the first time i had considered how christ had forgiven me. scripture gives us the answer,
while we were still sinners, christ forgave us.
that’s when i realized marriage wasn’t about me being happy or getting what i wanted. it wasn’t about my spouse and focusing all my attention on him. it wasn’t about steps and trying harder… regular date nights and regular intimacy can’t even save you. it was all about God. it was about dying and it was beautiful.
i saw that clearly while we were separated when i was asked to forgive my husband regardless of his actions, regardless of him apologizing or not. regardless of him deserving it. when you see yourself as undeserving of Christ’s love, it becomes much easier to extend grace and love to others.
and so i did. i forgave him and the other woman. i forgave the friends that left our side and refused to be our friends when all the crazy hit the fan. over and over again, every time the horrific thoughts or situations walked in front of me. it was truly a full time job for a while there.
and guys, that’s not normal… that’s a miracle. God did the work. when i looked to Him and stopped looking at myself or my husband to fix it. the most crazy thing is that God brought my husband back home a month and a half later. completely repentant and changed. we had so much work to do and only by God were we able to sprint (and walk and limp) into healing. now every day we wake up together, we see the face of God. his mercy in how he mirrored death to self in our marriage. when we look at our marriage, we see the cross and how he brought life out of death. he did that 5 years ago and we are thankful for the death and destruction because our marriage is leaps and bounds better than our best times before anything was wrong. when i look at him, i don’t see the affair, i see God’s goodness to me because that’s when i saw HIM. if that’s not a modern day parting of the red sea or raising lazurus, i’m not sure what is!
you’ll hear lots of christians telling you how to affair-proof your marriage and you can find checklists anywhere to tell you what to do to be a good wife. i will tell you something else. you can behavior modify all day long, but eventually, you’ll get tired. all the tips and tricks will fail you. this valentine’s day, look to Jesus as your only hope for lasting change in any area of your life. repent where you see the your sin and then let God change you. real freedom from relying on your spouse to tell you who you are and what value you hold will change the way you live your life and change they way you love him (and others around you). when you don’t need your husband(or children or boss or parents) to give you value, make you feel good about yourself or tell you who you are, it frees you to just love freely and supernaturally. not based on merit, but based on the way God loves you. this is real love.
(Photo of Nato and Jami via theNatos)