Are you failing your spouse? The truthful answer is yes. And so am I. We are all failing our spouse in some way or another. We are human. We are sinners. Thankfully, God offers us His grace and the exact manual for how to do this marriage thing successfully. (We just often choose to ignore His wisdom!) In the eight years I have been married, my desires still regularly get in the way of God's plan for my marriage, paving the perfect path for my failures to take foot. It is this false notion that I'm "fixing" my spouse where it becomes far to easy to point the finger at my husband every.single.time. he fails, in my eyes.
However, God says this in Matthew 7:3-5: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." And this verse is where God is moving in my life. Our pastor in New York recently finished a series on marriage. How I wish I would have heard each of his seven messages before marrying my husband! Each week he offered a new truth about Biblical marriage and a challenge to better our union. Truth number one stated, "My spouse is not the problem...I am!" Ouch. So often I sit in church praying for God to speak to my husband. This truth reminded me that I need to be praying for God to speak to ME!
The assignment card we received on week one challenged us to write a letter expressing our failures to our spouse. This is not a letter I ever intended to write, but one that allowed God to move in my marriage. Before I began composing my letter, my husband placed his confessions on my pillow. Tears fell quick and heavy as I read his heart. His letter was vulnerable, compassionate, and humble, giving me the desire to express my flaws as he sought my forgiveness. I immediately wrote this response to his letter.
When we said our vows almost eight years ago we didn't know the challenges life would place before us. We knew they would come, but as is true for most couples standing at the alter, it is often hard to see past the visions of romance and bliss when you're so eager to embark on the adventure of all that marriage promises. We didn't know that you would be deployed for our one year wedding anniversary. We didn't know that terrorists would attack your airborne helicopter. We didn't know you would miss most of the first year of our daughter's life due to another deployment. We didn't know if you would survive the daily rocket attacks that infiltrated your base. We didn't know we would deal with the stress of moving nine times in as many years. We didn't know my parents would divorce. We didn't know my dad would pass away from an overdose of prescription medications. We didn't know I would feel so homesick while at West Point, longing to be done with this whole Army thing. We didn't know that God would give us two strong willed children and another baby about to arrive, without the support of family nearby.
But God saw all of this on the day we held hands at the alter, as we vowed to be there for one another, regardless. He knew the challenges we would face as a couple and he has allowed each circumstance, watching us grow in Him as we persevere through the trials and even allowing us to see the blessings as he weaves the hard times into good. But there was also something else God could foresee on our wedding day, the blessings we often miss as we focus on the mess. God saw our first home together, the lake cottage next to our angel-like neighbors. He saw the students I would teach and grow to love. He saw the unbreakable friendships we would be provided with as He moved us across the country. He saw the ministries we would work in to advance His kingdom. He saw each church where we would worship and grow. He saw the birth or Adeline, gifting us with a radiantly Christ-filled child. He saw the birth of Lincoln, blessing us with our son's unexplainable light. He saw the birth of the child I now carry in my womb, knowing precisely how this child will enrich our family. He saw it all, good times and bad, on the afternoon when we promised to walk through both with one another.
As I stated in my letter to you on our wedding day, I knew I would fail at times in our marriage, despite my love for you. I am sorry for my ever-present criticism that discourages you when I should be working to build you up and inspire you. I have begun to let our nomadic lifestyle affect my attitude as I express an ungratefulness for the way you provide for our family. Feelings of resentment for your career and the sacrifices it forces us to make are infiltrating all areas of our marriage. I have allowed Satan the privilege of seeing you as the enemy, instead of the God-fearing, dedicated man that loves us. Intentional daily prayer for you has become infrequent since our latest move and I apologize for not making that a priority. Speaking respectfully has often fallen away in my exhaustion and irritation and I am not always the model of a Godly spouse that I want our children to imitate one day. During this pregnancy, I have made rest and sleep a priority instead of quality time with you and allowing that to turn into the intimate bond God has gifted to married couples. I have failed in making you feel loved, adored, and desired. May this letter evoke a desire within us to invigorate our marriage with the fruit of the spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
With love and respect,
I challenge you to write this same letter to your husband or wife. In what ways have you failed your spouse? See how forgiveness, grace, mercy, and healing pour from the skies as you move deeper into a connected, loving relationship. May God stir in your soul as word hits the page.
View Pastor Jarrod Jones' message that inspired our failure letters by clicking here. Watch all seven videos in the marriage series at the same site under the tab labeled Watch Messages.