Thursday, November 10, 2011

Seems Like an Odd Time

I am taking a marriage class. "Really?" I ask myself,  "Now?  Isn't this the absolute oddest time for me to take a marriage class?"  And its not because I'm single.  Before I was married, or even dating, I took a marriage class, and it was extremely beneficial.  It helped me to learn quite a few things I didn't know about Christian marriage.  I took another marriage class with my husband during the course of our marriage.  And I even went through almost a year's worth of marriage counseling.  All that was amazing, and very appropriate.  But now I am a widow. I'm purposely not dating right now.  And I am still healing from the loss of my husband, and the issues which we had to face during those last 3 difficult years.  

It doesn't make any sense to me in the natural that I would find my self at this stage in life taking a marriage class.  But God's timing and God's plan doesn't always make sense to us.  Sometimes it does feel a little awkward to be in a marriage class after just losing a spouse. But even as I am sitting here writing this I am realizing how amazingly appropriate it is.  

My husband and I had been through some very difficult times, and through that season of reconciling we attended amazing marital counseling.  After going through that type of situation and seemingly making it through, you think you know a thing or two about marriage.  To be honest, I learned a lot about marriage in that season, which is going to tremendously bless my next one, when the Lord brings it.  But you almost feel like you know it all; after all we reconciled after a tremendous blow to our marriage.  I forgave, I accepted, I did everything right.  "I don't need a marriage class, not now." Between all my experience, previous knowledge gained, and the fact that I am not pursuing a relationship right now, the topic of "marriage" just doesn't entice.  Don't misunderstand me here, I am not saying I'm an expert on marriage, but I did feel very confident that I have a good handle on the topic.  After all I lived it.  But I humbled myself to the schedule set before me for my ministry school and I am taking the class.

I expected the class would confirm somethings which I've already learned.  And I expected to learn a few new things as well, that I could put in my back pocket and save for the future.  I expected to feel uncomfortable and awkward at times.  But what I didn't expect was the healing that God would bring through this class.  This healing is two fold: understanding and confirmation.

I'm receiving some very in depth understanding about my late husband.  God is revealing layers of him.  There were external characteristics he had, which I could easily recognize and associate with difficulties in our marriage.  But God is now peeling those layers back, and helping me to understand why he was that way.  This weeks class really helped me have insight into him, and the more insight I get, the more peace I have.  Its as if I'm getting little slices of closure.  There were several things which I began to really understand, and I'd like to share one of them with you.

The topic was esteeming your spouse.  The main point for the first half of class was how you can't give what you don't have.  If you don't esteem or value yourself you won't be able to give it to your spouse, and you won't receive it when your spouse gives it to you.  One of the hardest things I struggled with in  our marriage was his inability to give and receive love.  It took me years to accurately identify it.  It was extremely frustrating.  I would tell him what an amazing business man he was, or how smart he was, or how I admired him for working so hard for our family.  And he would literally reject it.  It wasn't a fake, "no I'm not" to encourage me to say more.  It was much deeper.  He would feel that I was being condescending to him.  He couldn't receive the sincerity of what I was telling him.  And tonight I understood finally why.  He didn't see it.  

He was surrounded by hurt his whole life that when genuine (me) came along he didn't understand it.  Its sad that he never saw himself the way I did.  In one of our last good conversations I told him that.  I told him that even though I believed in him, it wasn't enough.  That he needed to believe in himself.  Despite the best counseling, and the availability of God's love, he never overcame that negative self opinion.  And it is what destroyed him in the end.  But here's the healing or closure I received tonight: My husband wasn't rejecting me when I'd esteem and honor him, he was rejecting himself.  I also had a fresh reminder that yes my husband did love me.  He just wasn't able to express it to me because he didn't love himself.  You can't give what you yourself don't have.

There is also the healing God is bringing by confirming my actions.  I am not perfect, nor was I a perfect wife.  But I always tried my best.  I was teachable, and would always adjust myself for his needs.  In our difficult times, I did all I could to try to make it work.  I followed the strategies given by our counselor, I listened to what my husband needed of me, and I gave grace, grace, and more grace.  I gave second chances. I gave forgiveness.  I let go of my offenses.  I closed the door on the past and I gave our marriage a new start.  But in the end it didn't save our marriage.  We had a little over a year where it seemed like we had made it.  However, the months before he died our marriage literally was falling apart.   He fell back into some of the destructive behaviors he struggled with, some to my knowledge and some I wasn't aware of.  Then he died.  Had he not, our marriage would have ultimately failed, he just died before it officially could.  

But by sitting in this marriage class, each week God reaffirms me.  As the material is taught I am reminded that I did these things!  I fulfilled my role as wife, with a pure and loving heart.  I did what God expects a wife to do.  I did it in the good times.  I did it in the bad times.  I did it in the really, really bad times.  And I did it when he died.  It wasn't dependent on Jonathan's behaviors, it was dependent on the fact that he was my husband and for that reason alone he deserved it.  It wasn't easy, but I did it!  And God is pleased with me for always honoring my husband.

As I sit in this marriage class I'm being healed.  God is confirming to me that I did all He expected of me as Jonathan's wife, and that I did it well.  I'm grateful for God reminding me I was a good wife.  I'm receiving His pleasure in me, and it heals my heart.  He's helping me to understand the deep inner workings of my late husband, and it frees me.  It releases me from hurt, from questions, and from blame.  It reassures me that he did love me.  So while this may be the most awkward time ever to take a marriage class, I'm so glad I am.

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