This personal post is actually a little scary to write. Mainly because it is that.. it is SO personal.
It started off as just a desire to share about two books that have really encouraged me over my walk in marriage, but then with any recommendation, a convincing one would involve sharing why, and how it has impacted my own life. So this has been shelved for a little while as a result of my hesitance to let you all in a little into my secret world. The world that involves those closest to me, my husband, my friends, my family, my God, my deepest dreams and desires, and also my deepest fears and heartbreaks. Things that I don’t often share about, despite how public my life has become since becoming a photographer.
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So for this very small slice of time, I wanted to un-shelve, and personally and honestly share why these two books have profoundly affected me. I know alot of people come up to me and say that the life I live is incredible, amazing, and that I am so blessed. And in many ways, I know I am. God has been ridiculously kind and generous. The fact that I have a complete family, good friends (though small in number ), a roof over my head, I never want when it comes to food, I am married, and the reality of a job that allows me to do what I love are all blessings… and I know that. But one of the areas I have struggled much in, is marriage. I find it hard being a good wife. There, I said it. Ironic, I know, considering the fact that I am a photographer that photographs people in love all the time. Realistically however, I have learned in the years I have been married (and talking to others) that while there have been some lucky few that have had it easy (something I thank God for, for you – what a beautiful gift you have been blessed with), I am certain for the majority of the rest of us, we fall into the ‘marriage is hard and tough work’ category.. the honeymoon period did not last. While we all sort of know in our heads that marriage is not ever a walk in the park, I don’t think anyone really honestly tells you when you are walking down the aisle just how hard it can be right from the get-go… I remember being in our first year of marriage and wondering every day, what was wrong… why were we always fighting, always arguing, asking if this would ever get better….It was discouraging. You do end up thinking, if it’s worth it, and entertaining thoughts about giving up….. well I can safely tell you, being on the other side and pulling through, that it IS worth it. And while it isn’t easy, if you fight for your marriage, and remain committed, I can tell you that it DOES get better. In marriage, it is definitely true when they say you reap what you sow…. and that the grass is NOT greener on the other side…it is greener only where you water it. That IS what the vows say right? For better or for worse :)
I have been married 6 years…almost 7, and while I love my husband to the moon and back, and I know he loves me just the same, it doesn’t change the fact that marriage has not been easy for us. There have definitely been seasons of great joy, don’t get me wrong… but in the 6+ years we have been married, there have also been seasons of deep hurt. The kind of seasons where you sleep in separate rooms. Don’t speak to one another for the longest time. Or you yell across spiteful things to hurt the other. Praise the Lord that we have settled into somewhat of a place of haven in the past 1-2 years, however, it has taken us a long time to get there….the process has involved many tears, sleepless nights, and long hard talks to really understand one another better, and also learning how to make good on the promises we made on our wedding day to love one another unconditionally despite being so different. Yes, we are so very very different as individuals (which is part of what attracted us to each other in the first place)..I say that alot, however, you couple that with the fact that we are both strong characters, stubborn, and aren’t afraid to tell each other what we think, alot of times, we clash heads. So I will admit that we drive each other crazy alot! And there have been days where we sit and say to ourselves, “I don’t know how to make this better“. There really have been moments where I have been rendered incapacitated, and unable to do anything because of how hard some periods have been. But by the grace of God, while we aren’t masters of our marriage or experts in the area, I have seen in hindsight that God has been sharpening us to be better. I don’t think we would be as strong as a couple if we hadn’t been overhauled from the ground up, and inside out…. He has taught us (and is continuing to teach us) lessons of compromise, patience, sacrifice, and unconditional loving when we don’t feel like loving. I can see God’s wisdom in putting us together as alot of our differences complement each other, and we make each other better through those differences. I am a planner, he is not. He is easy going and flexible, I need things in order and stress when plans change. I sit and reflect about things deeply, he likes to think about things only if there is a need for it. He loves being out. I love being home. He needs alot of time to come back to solve a problem, I need it solved right then and there. And the list goes on. But, to be able to say that I love my husband more today than I did when we started going out, is only proof that God has been working. I am amazed, and thankful that by the grace of God, and that alone, we have been together almost 15 years, and married for 6. With hopefully more years to add to that :)
I was shooting a wedding recently, and while the couple was not Christian, their vows and promises to each other in their toast really struck home with me. They said “your happiness is more important than my happiness. ” They said “By putting you first, and making you happy, makes me happy“. I swallowed the lump that was in my throat because there was SO MUCH truth and wisdom in that. I used to think that I would only get my happiness if I fought for it… if my husband didn’t listen to me, I would have to push my way, only MY point of view mattered.. .and lets face it, many of us get into those situations all the time…But I have learned that marriage involves so much sacrifice and putting the other person first… and that is scary for us as people. Because we are so inherently self focused, and selfish, and always ask ‘ well what about me‘? You see, what they also NEVER tell you before you get married is that marriage is NOT about you. If you are getting married with the expectation that the other person makes you happy, I can safely say that you may be sorely disappointed. While it isn’t wrong to want the other person to make you happy, a successful marriage is one where each half of the marriage prioritises making the other half happy instead. I read somewhere in my 2 years of absorbing information from all sorts of marriage books, that “A successful wedding day is one where everyone serves you. A successful marriage is one where you serve your spouse.” 6+ years on, I see that truth to be blaring loudest and truest. And while Ju and I haven’t perfected this skill… not even a little, what i have learned from just TRYING is that when both people are committed to putting the other person ahead of themself, it makes the grounds for a great great marriage to grow.
What happens if only one spouse is making an effort I hear you say? Well… I have also learned from personal experience that even if it is just ONE party trying, the other person does eventually notice and it helps in instigating change and is easier to obtain what you are after far more effectively than fighting for it by pushing your own way ahead of theirs. Crazy I know right? But look at it this way… isn’t it easier to love someone who is loving, encouraging, beautiful on the inside to love than someone who is always nagging, or scolding, or criticising? I’m not saying it is easy, nor will it happen overnight… in fact, it can take months or even years…. but I look at the way our parents love us… unconditionally loving us despite us being unappreciative or hurtful, we eventually see their goodness, and it only prompts me to want to be better for them. Similar principal. But what if they take advantage of that? I also hear you asking… funny you ask that, because I thought that too. But then I thought about the days when couples first get together… they love unconditionally, almost blindly, and will do so without really thinking how much the other person loves them back…. why do we stop doing that in marriage? I sometimes think, because we stop, our spouses also stop… whether it is due to laziness, busyness, or just plain complacency. And why should you wait to be the person who makes the first move to ‘love’ first? It’s a horrible cycle to be caught in if both partners thought that. Someone has to be the bigger person. Why not you? If the rewards are, that your spouse loves you better, loves you more… I think that is HIGHLY worth taking that plunge.
So these books are for those who have found that marriage isn’t a bed of roses (and even if your marriage is, I think it is still a great read and reminder of why and how your marriage is so good). I know there are alot of books out there on marriage, and believe me i have read ALOT (like, in the double digit range – i am too embarrassed to even admit how many I have read), but I have found these two most helpful and most encouraging because 1) They have really helped me get through some very difficult periods, and more importantly 2) they have pointed me back to the heart of the gospel, and driven me back to how God has loved us. Our amazing Lord loved us, and died for us, even when we hated and rejected him, and that is how I hope we will love each other in our marriage. I’m not very good at it, and I suspect for my husband and I , it will be a lifelong journey of teaching, sharpening, and growth (both in painful and joyful ways), but I am so thankful that through faith, I can depend on God to carry us through. He has said that He works for the good of those who love Him, and that is such an assuring thing to rest upon because i know if something is hard, something good is coming from it. And that means, pain, toil, and heart ache are never in vain.
Tim Keller – The Meaning of Marriage
* Website: http://timothykeller.com/books/the_meaning_of_marriage/
* Amazon/kindle version: http://www.amazon.com/The-Meaning-Marriage-Complexities-Commitment/dp/0525952470
John Piper – This Momentary Marriage
(this book is also available to download and read for free in PDF format!! Check out the official website below)
*Amazon/kindle version: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1433531119
I know these books are written with Christians in mind, but I hope those of you who have dared to pick these two reads, will learn that the Christian view on marriage, and God’s view on love is profoundly beautiful. Unselfish, and lasting. I promise I am not trying to be religious here at all.. I just hope you can see that God’s view on love involves joy, deep companionship, belonging, unconditional love, desire, (all of which are great things we all want no matter what religion we belong to) and it shows that by putting the other person first, you gain far more than you ever imagined if you had tried seeking your own happiness first. It gives fruit to a marriage that goes deeper than those initial crazy fireworks, and more rooted and lasting than those hollywood romanticised love stories we all chase after. And that is a great great thing to rejoice about.
Remember, good marriages are not about looking for the perfect spouse, it is about trying to BE the perfect spouse.
ps: I would LOVE to hear your experiences about marriage, in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other. So do share your stories, or any tips you have, that have made your marriage better :) Otherwise my inbox is always open to all of you :)