February 13, 2015

Keeping This Covenant - 50(ish) Shades of Marriage

Note: This is not a post about 50 Shades of Grey.

I just needed to get that out there, because while I'm no supporter of the movie...I think the blogging world has embraced the boycott enough for all of us. So if you want to read some great posts mirroring my thoughts on the subject, visit here or here.

Now that that's out of the way (cue huge sigh of relief), let me tell you what this is all about. This post is about love. About marriage. About trust. About God. My words touch more on 50 shades of grey wall paint in our guest room and Blake was so great to tape off the edges best husband ever than they will ever touch on BDSM or bondage.

Marriage and love aren't all rocket-fire moments. Life, good ol' "mundane" life, exists within marriage. We're moving into a new little home right now (kissing that condo life goodbye!), and moving brings about lots of mundane. Cleaning baseboards. Painting. Dusting. Packing. Boxes, boxes, and more boxes. In those moments, the average, everyday, dusty moments...we decide who we are and who we will be in our relationships.

My old pastor counseled us before our wedding, "Every marriage has ruts, so make good ruts." These are the words we like to think of when we try to establish our good ruts. These are the prayers we pray as we speak to one another and practice true love. These are the definitions I hold tightly to as the world around me tells me to be aroused by what I see, even if it isn't my husband. These are the definitions I grip when I close my eyes and seek holiness within marriage instead of self-gratification. These are my 50 (or maybe more like 10) shades of marriage.

1. Trust. This is my #1 in marriage. More than love. More than anything else, I value trust. When you trust someone, you can love them. When you love someone, you can't necessarily trust them. Cultivate trust. Be honest. Be true. Cultivate trust in marriage. When trust has been broken, work hard to restore it. As a couple, in the ruts of life, knowing that you can trust your spouse to support you, to love you, to hold you accountable, to be faithful...knowing that your spouse can be trusted builds a foundation for so many good things in a relationship.

2. Love. I love passionate love, I really do. Unashamedly. But I hate distorted views of "love". I hate seeing people buy the lies that love is based on emotions, or physical compatibility, or abuse. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Stop trying to buy the lies that love is sex, or passion, or being happy. Love might encompass those things in its own way, but it is so much more. It is so much harder. It is so much better. Stop selling love short and let it be fantastically more than we imagined.

3. Faith. My life is not my husband's (yay feminism!). My life is not my own (wait, what?). Our marriage is not just about us. (Hold up, Mandy.) We believe, as a couple, that this relationship is about more than just us. In our marriage, we hope to somehow, in some way, bring glory to God. To trust that God is intimately involved in our love. To believe that He is the author of holy love. When life doesn't make sense, this is the foundation we are building on. When hard questions get asked, and they do get asked, we place our faith in the unseen. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

4. Patience. Love it patient. I struggle with this. I think fast, I reply fast, I want answers fast. I get angry quickly and cool off even slower. But love is slow to anger, patient in every moment, and kind. I prayed for God to help me be patient, and he sent me Blake. Lord, help me. (Laughter is also really good for the soul, FYI. Love you, husband!)

5. Commitment. Choose this, every minute, every day, every second of every year as long as you're alive. Forget thinking, "I would be better off alone." Keep the covenant you made. Water it, give it sunshine, and watch it grow. In the rainy days, in the tough seasons, keep it then, especially then. Stop toying with the word "divorce". Stop thinking, "If we weren't married..." Stop believing that the grass is greener on the other side. Trust the choice you made all those years (or weeks or months) ago. Choose the commitment you made, every day. (See disclaimer.) 

6. Consent. I'll admit it, this word was triggered from all the 50 Shades blogs I've read recently. But it makes the list, because I believe that a healthy relationship involves all sorts of consent, and not just in the physical sense. Marriage is, in so many ways, consenting to be vulnerable around another person. Consenting to their presence in your life, their involvement in your activities. When we choose marriage, we choose to let someone else be a part of our future. When the walls go up, when we push boundaries we shouldn't push, when we force someone's arm in a direction they don't want to go...we lose the trust of a healthy marriage. In marriage, there are boundaries that have to be evaluated and respected, but to keep communication open and to grow, there is a level of vulnerability and consent involved.

7. Respect. Remember the first time someone told you they looked up to you? Remember how it felt when someone you respected told you they were proud of you? Remember how those moments made you want to be a better person? When we respect someone, and then love them unconditionally, we can build mountains. Tell you spouse you respect them, because sometimes they forget. Build them up. Believe in them. Trust their choices and work constructively together. Don't let your pride prevent you from letting your spouse know that you believe in them, you trust them, and you respect who they are and who they are becoming. Build mountains.

8. Kindness. Living with someone else is pretty awesome. Except when you're both really tired and all you want is a cupcake but the other person ate the last one. And then it gets way tougher. Be kind in those moments. Listen, attentively. Always believe the best and stop assuming the worst. When we view our partners with kind lenses over our eyes, the faults begin to melt away. It becomes easier to forgive. To drop the defenses. To love purely.

9. Honesty. White lies count. Little lies, big lies. Half-lies. They're all lies. Honesty backs up the whole trust factor, but it deserves its own bullet point. Because it's easy to act defensive and cover our bases. It's easy to hide our tracks and make ourselves look better. But love doesn't hide behind words. Hidden behind every good marriage is a layer of honesty that provides the foundation for trust to work its magic.

10. Toughness. Not tough like a Ford, or a rowdy little boy, but tough like a runner who finishes a race even when they're in pain. Or tough like a dad who keeps working at the job he doesn't like because he wants to support his family. Tough like the cancer fighters, the survivors, the people who just won't quit trying. Marriage happens in the moments when it's tough to keep going, and you do. When love perseveres over trials, life, and bad days. I value wiry love, gritty love, stick-to-it love over any other type of love that Hollywood tries to sell. I value the type of love that wakes up every day and says, "No matter what happens, I choose you." Tough, persevering love.

 In no way do I support abusive or unhealthy relationships. These thoughts are gathered from my own experiences within a healthy relationship and are by no means offered as a solution to deeper issues relating to problems not discussed within the article.  

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