Dying For A Healthy Marriage
I just wanted to share something that is on my mind. About a week ago, Jake and I weren't getting along as well. We had been nit-picking at each other and getting irritated with each other over random things. Typically this happens when I'm about to start my period. I'm a little more sensitive and so is he (man period, amirite?). I had to drive to drop my girls off to my sister halfway between Arizona and Colorado because they were going to spend some time with my sister for the week.
The night before I was supposed to leave, Jake and I got into a little fight and we weren't getting along. We just ticked each other off. I responded to him in an unkind way about something really stupid and we didn't go to bed the happiest with each other (so much for not letting the sun set on our anger LOL). I had to get up really early, I mean like 2:30 in the morning so I can leave by 3:00 to get to Albuquerque. Jake stayed home because he had to work that evening and we wouldn't be home in time for him to go to work, so it was just the girls and I driving to Albuquerque and I'd drive back home alone. You get it.
The night before we were leaving Jake asked me what time I needed to get up even though he was really mad at me and I was really annoyed at him. I told him I needed to get up at 2:30 am and so without me knowing he set his alarm for 2:00 am. By 2:30 am, I got up and Jake had already been up for 30 min. He was getting the car ready for me and had gone to the gas station at 2:00 am to get a bunch of caffeinated drinks and water, just all the things for me to stay awake while I drove the whole day.
Our big fight the night before was just about getting caffeinated drinks for my trip and blah blah blah. We were just really annoyed with each other and it was a really dumb argument but stems from a lot of other things we went through earlier that day.
Ok Sydney, what's your point? Our marriage is healthy because we do things for each other like Jake did for me even when he was mad at me. He got up early even in the midst of being really upset with me and really took care of me. In those moments he died to himself, to his own feelings about me, to his own ideas, to just serve me well and love me well. He's way better at doing this than I am, I'll admit. Jake dies to himself all the time for me even when I upset him or hurt his feelings. We are just constantly trying to serve each other. We aren't perfect but this is what we both committed to.
When I was really in a tough time of my life about 6 or 7 years ago, before I married Jake, I was living a pretty crazy life. I was partying all the time, I had really low self-esteem, I had very little understanding of my self worth, I was sleeping with a lot of people. I was really just searching for people to affirm me and give me what only Jesus could give me.
In the middle of all that, I had really poor mental health and I found myself in a lot of inpatient and outpatient programs, mental health programs. I was suicidal and I made plans to harm myself, I didn't get to the point where I acted on them but I was getting there. I was really depressed and had gone through a lot of hard things with the men in my life. I felt worthless. I really felt like I had no purpose and I was looking for all the wrong things to affirm my worth. As I was going all these therapies and mental health programs, I learned to highly focus on taking care of myself. It was all about setting hard boundaries and taking care of my physical and mental health and for that to be number one over all. When you're going through a crisis, yes, it's super important to just survive. That is something you just have to do.
However, that pushed me to be so hyper-focused on myself and that mentality has carried on with me. My mental health is the best it's ever been in my entire life. I'm healthier than I've ever been, I'm on a good medication, I have a really healthy relationship with Jesus where my trust has been more dependent on him than anything else. But, one of the biggest things that I have learned especially in my marriage is that I can't afford to not think about others, Jake specifically. We are so trained as a western society to have an "every man for themselves" mindset or I need to have all the self-care first before I can even think about caring for others. From my experiences this could not be more wrong.
When it comes to having relationships, when you are so hyper-focused on self, you have no way of loving the people around you well. In turn, you aren't loved well and respected either. I don't know of anyone who is truly happy and selfish at the same time- at least not if they're being honest.
Jake and I have a successful marriage because we die to ourselves (or try to) all the time. Actually, I've come to find that it's a lie to say that I have to take care of myself before I can love Jake. If I love Jake first, if I put him first, in turn that's actually caring for my soul. That's not the motivating factor in doing so but it's a product of loving him well. That's not an accident. That's how we were created. I challenge you in your hardest moments, your most depressed moments, the moments you're struggling the most, to focus your attention outward on other people. Do something kind for someone, sacrifice a piece of yourself and your convenience for them. Have gratitude for other people being in your life. I understand not everyone has a huge support system or maybe you're feeling alone so find people in your local grocery store, or people you just pass by and find ways to love them well in the short time you encounter them.
When you stop hyper-focusing on self, your perspective just opens up. That is not an accident. That's exactly who Jesus was. He was completely selfless and cared for the people around him which is even crazier because he was fully man and fully God. He had all the authority and all the grounds to say, "I am God, serve me, worship me," but he didn't. He came to this earth and he served other people. He took people from a place of dishonor to honor and made them feel loved and seen. People who were considered outcasts and a disgrace to society were greeted by forgiveness and love. If we model that, oh how that would change our world, the way we love others, and the posture of our own hearts.
We have an opportunity to shift from perseverating on all the things that are going wrong in our lives to all the good that God is doing and that looks different for everyone. Look, I'm a person that has an actual chemical imbalance in my brain. I struggle with depression and anxiety. It's not always a spiritual deficit, sometimes it's an actual illness that needs to be treated. Don't ignore that. Take care of it. But also try to get very real with yourself about the things you focus on. Are you self-centered? Do you make a conscious effort to serve the people around you at the expense of your convenience? Do you do things for others for selfish gain or expect something in return? Do you practice thankfulness and gratefulness? Are you conscious of other people's needs? Do you care about meeting other people's needs when you're able to?
At the most painful times of your life when you're struggling the most, that's when it feels the hardest to love on other people, but that's also when you need to be loving on other people the most. The strength that comes from Jesus is what is gets me through the moments I'm struggling and have no idea how I'm going to pour into others. It's through him. It's amazing when you choose to focus on loving the people around you, you feel so fulfilled, that's literally our purpose in this life. We love God and we love others.
This is exactly why I believe what I believe. When I think about who God is, I'm blown away. It's not about this set of rules and making sure we are keeping track of all the dos and don'ts. Truly it's about walking with the Lord through this difficult life knowing that He experienced this life as fully man. He experienced all the emotions and hardships that we experience. He left us with the groundwork on how to navigate this life in a way that brings us peace and joy and fulfillment and purpose. We are gifted access to all of those things. Not earned, given, as soon as we believe in him.
If you're hesitant about Jesus or you're not really in a place to receive Jesus, that's fine. Not going to push. But if you look at this as a perspective of being a good person, I guess, just focus on serving and loving the people around you. The way Jake served me the morning I had to drive the girls, he got up 30 min before me at 2:00 am; that's early. He didn't have to get up and go to work until that evening. He could have left me on my own to get ready for my drive by myself. He didn't. He chose to love me even when he didn't really like me.
After Jake loved on me that morning, as I started driving, my heart had a huge shift towards him and our dumb arguments. I instantly knew that I had somethings to apologize for (which I later did) and we were able to get through those weird days of bickering and fighting. We would not have been able to work through those moments had we not experienced the forgiveness and love of Jesus first. If we can't forgive and love each other through the small moments, how the heck would Jake and I make it through the hard things life throws at us? We need Jesus' example of service and love.
The foundation of our marriage is this. Our marriage is healthy because we work to be selfless. We work to die to our own ideas, our own needs, our own wants, for the sake of loving each other well. This applies to every kind of relationship you have.
There are a billion circumstances we are all in the middle of and every one of them presents opportunity to serve the people that have been placed around you.