30 years ago today, February 18th, Eugene and I stood before both of our pastors and made a covenant with God and with each other to spend the rest of our lives together. I often look back on that day, so many years ago, and think to myself: “God must have assigned extra guardian angels to us that day!” 🙂 I was 21 years old; he was 23. We committed, both to God and one another, to love and serve Him all the days of our lives, as not only were we entering into the covenant of marriage but into full-time ministry as a couple.
Neither one of us had come from families who were in ministry. Neither one of us had a clue as to what we were doing…either in marriage or in ministry. Our guardian angels were working overtime during those early years!
I am not the same woman as I was 30 years ago. Of course, I still have the same personality, the same giftings, the same calling of God on my life, but I have changed dramatically from that 21-year-old girl…and all for the good.
Marriage changed me. If you are married or want to be married, you must understand this: marriage will change you too. And if you allow it to, it will be all for your good as well.
Here are just a few of the life lessons that God has used (through my marriage and my mate) to change me into the woman I am today:
(1) I realized early in our marriage that God never gave me the control/authority to change my husband; He only gave me the control/authority to change myself.
I remember as a young wife, whenever I got aggravated with Eugene for whatever reason (in big things and the small things), I would go to God asking Him to change Eugene’s heart concerning that matter. And I prayed fervently. Surely God would hear my prayer. Surely God saw the matter from my perspective and would work in Eugene on my behalf. But the longer and harder I prayed, it was amazing that God wasn’t pointing His finger at the same thing I was pointing my finger at. He was pointing His finger at MY heart, MY attitude, MY perspective… showing ME the areas that I needed to work on. God never talked to me about how Eugene needed to change; He always talked to ME in how I needed to change.
It took me several years (and a lot of frustrating prayers) for me to realize this truth:
I am the only person in my life that God gives 100% control and authority to change. Just me.
Once I got that revelation and began working on the changes that needed to happen within my own heart, it was amazing to watch how God began to work in my husband’s heart as well. He began to change also. But it wasn’t because of me or my nagging or even my prayers to God about him. It was because God began to work in his life, just as He was working in mine.
It was beautiful to watch God’s handiwork in both my husband’s life and in my own life, but that didn’t happen until I surrendered trying to change him.
(2) Submission is not a bad word.
I never heard about submission or saw submission acted out in a positive way when I was growing up. Any reference to submission was in the negative connotation.
As years of marriage passed, I learned that submission most certainly is not a bad word. It’s not something to resist or run from. It is not a word that means less than or weaker than. It is a word that even the strongest of women can exemplify and even embrace.
God’s Word speaks specifically about submission in Ephesians 5: 21-22. Yes, it does say for “wives to submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (v22), but in the verse before that it also says that we are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Submission is a vital part of the Christian life. We are to live our lives in submission to God and to His Word. We are to be submitted one to another. But I have found, over all these years in ministry, that a woman who has an issue with submission in the marriage context most often times first has an issue with submission to God and others.
After 30 years of marriage, I can say that my heart is submitted to God, to His Word, to my husband and to the people in my life that want only the best for me. It is a decision I make to live submitted. And it will be a decision you will have to make too.
(3) My husband and I are on the same team, not opposing teams.
It is amazing to me how, as women, we cannot wait to get married to the man of our dreams, to live out our lives with this man, to conquer the world with this man…but as soon as we get married or the honeymoon stage ends, we start seeing this same man as our opponent and not a fellow teammate.
We, as wives, are to compliment (add to) our husbands, not compete against them.
If he wins, you win. If you win, he wins.
We are on the same team, fighting for the same things, wanting to win the same game.
Once I realized that as a young wife, things began to change in our marriage… and change for the better.
All these years later, Eugene and I are still on the same team and there is no other teammate in the world that I’d rather play this game of life with!
(4) I had A LOT of rough edges in my life when I got married, and it was my husband that God used to smooth them out.
My husband showed me grace when I didn’t even know the meaning of the word.
He showed me love when love (through my upbringing) was always conditional, never unconditional.
He showed me what “healthy” looked like when all I had seen and experienced was “unhealthy.”
And he accepted, cherished, championed, valued and validated a girl with a STRONG personality and STRONG calling from God by helping to steward not only his own gifting’s but mine as well. I will forever and always be so grateful to God and to him for that!
(5) My relationship with my husband is my #1 human relationship.
Above our children, our family members, and our friends, our relationship with one another trumps them all.
Because we set that as a priority from day 1 of our marriage, 30 years later we are living out this season of empty-nesters, having the time of our lives because we prepared for this season all those years ago.
30 years later, I am not the same woman; he is not the same man.
Due to the extravagant grace of God and through both of our commitments to finish this race STRONG, we are living out our dreams!
We want to leave a legacy and a godly example to our children and grandchildren (both natural and spiritual) of what TRUE faithfulness and commitment looks like-both from God and from one another.
I know that God will continue to change me as Eugene and I embark on our next 30 years together. But as an older (and hopefully wiser) woman, I’ll embrace those changes with open arms, knowing that God only brings about change in my heart for my own good and for the good of my husband!
So, here’s to the next 30 years!