Not every day is a good day. In fact, some are just downright hard. Marlin and I are both VERY strong personalities. Our children have all inherited this from us. I titled this “Reality Check” for a reason. Marlin and I have been involved in the Reformed community since the beginning of our marriage. We were married by Steve Brown in Miami, Florida, at a PCA church in 1981 and began our faith journey together there.
Like most people in the Reformed community, we read everything we could get our hands on to try and “better” our marriage and when we had children, to learn how to raise them. Now that we are in our fifties, I see that there was a downside in all of this. So many books that we read create this paint-by-the-numbers approach that leaves you with the feeling that all I need to do is follow this path and then I will get a certain outcome. The problem is, on any given day you are likely to not get the outcome you thought you would.
Marlin and I are very alike and at the same time very different. The blending of our marriage was not always easy for either of us. When you read many of the books that we did, there was this attitude that the husband leads and the wife is submissive. We were part of a group that leaned toward patriarchy, although I have to tell you we never bought this hook, line, and sinker. As I looked back now I wish these authors had been more honest. I can tell you after talking to hundreds of women that they were left with the idea that they were failures because their marriage was not like the ones they were reading about. I felt this way on a regular basis. The reality of it is—just read your Bible—marriage and child rearing are hard work and a journey of sanctification. I wish that Marlin and I had read more things that were in the reality check realm. I wish we had read more about GRACE. I am categorizing here, but we Reformed people like checklists. I guess all people do. It makes us feel like we are doing what we should. The problem is, life happens and life doesn’t fit into something as neat and predictable as a list.
I am not organized. I drive Marlin crazy. (He made me take out the word insanely, because he didn’t want you to think he was actually crazy.) I don’t want to drive him crazy, but this is who I am. I have tried for more than thirty years to change and, try as I might, I am not much more organized now than I was when Marlin married me. For years I have felt guilty that I was not being submissive to my husband because I constantly let him down. I rarely lived up to his expectations in this area. And believe me, it’s not that I don’t want to please my husband. About three years ago we were sitting in church listening to a sermon on marriage, and our pastor was talking about how we see things. He asked this question: When you ask your husband or wife to do something and they don’t do it the way you want them to, what is your response? If you look at the situation and see what they didn’t do, you can pretty much be assured that your marriage is in for tough times, but if you are the kind of person who looks at it and sees it from their perspective and what they did, you probably have a great marriage. Here is an example. You asked your wife to clean up the porch today. You get home and the porch is still exactly what it was like when you left, so you start in on why the porch is not clean. Well, your son had to get stitches because he fell, so she never got to it. The same can go for wives. You ask him to pick up milk on the way home, but he forgot. Give him grace; he may have had a really hard day.
When you are keeping a check list and these things fail, it makes you feel like you are a constant failure, and it also causes strife in a marriage and in raising children. A better way to look at it is from the other person’s perspective.
Marlin and I have a better marriage now than we ever have. We have both learned a lot about grace and loving one another. You know life is a lot happier when you are not constantly looking at what the other person hasn’t done, but instead at what they have done. And not worrying about what other people think. What I mean by this, and we will talk more in my next blog post, is in many circles there is quite a bit of judgment by those around us. There is an unwillingness because of this to be real, to have reality checks. You shouldn’t feel shame if you are having problems in your marriage or with a child. Guys, this is just part of life. All families have issues. If you were to closely inspect the life of your favorite author on these subjects, I can guarantee you that everything is not a Norman Rockwell painting.
When there is strife in a household it will affect all of your life, including your schooling. If you feel under pressure from those around you to do things a certain way, shake it off, know that God loves you for who you are. You are you, and one day you will stand before our heavenly Father and give an account. You should be at peace that you have been on a journey and ALL of your life is part of His story for you. Embrace your weaknesses, let those around you help. I can guarantee that if we all adopt an attitude of GRACE, our family and friends will want our help rather than hiding their issues from us. And believe me, we all need a community that helps.
By Laurie Detweiler
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