Many of you know that July 17th, 2019 (yesterday), Carissa and I celebrated our 9 year marriage anniversary. Part of me thinks that it is crazy that we have been married for 9 years already. Not in a negative way, but in a, “Wow, where has the time gone?” kind of way, or even a, “We’ve been through so much in 9 years.”
I think, especially for this anniversary, that second question is most on my mind. The last few years have not been easy for us as individuals or in regards to our marriage. I’m coming up to 6 years of being a bi-vocational pastor, and while it is wonderful, it comes with its fair share of struggles, most notably exhaustion. On top of that it has been almost 2 years since we lost the twins, an ever persistent heartache. Meanwhile, Benny and Libby keep getting older, and the older they get, the more excited one becomes, but also it causes sadness because they are growing up. Oh there’s also the seasonal depression.
Then, there is my incredible wife Carissa who has been by my side through it all; the joy, tears, pain, and laughter. She has been here with me. She has been faithful, encouraging, all the while having her struggles (in particular these last few years with the twins and other things). They have not been easy times for us. There is so much there, so much to do, so much to maintain.
Something I have learned, however, is that even with all these things, my wife is still there. She is a person who is in need of me. She is in need of me to be better, to do better. She is both worthy, but also at times desperate, for me to be faithful in my call to love her and desire her. Not only to desire her as male to female, but to desire her in her personhood, who God has made her to be, to relish in her, to delight in the wonderful creation God has made which is Carissa.
This is something which has, unfortunately, taken time to learn. It has taken time for my little mind and my oft times wicked heart, to let go of lesser desires of my own in order to fulfill desires of hers. But, it is a lesson I have learned over the last few years. A valuable lesson of accepting to desire something other than what I personally desire. This necessary lesson of love, which is that compromise, is a good thing.
This isn’t to say that everything she wants or desires I suddenly want. Far from it! Personally, there are a number of things she is gifted at which cause her delight, which I am not gifted at and causes me headache and frustration! I dislike gardening. I love the idea, but when I am involved I find myself having no passion in it. Carissa, however, loves it, and what’s more, she’s good at it. She is gifted with having vision, something I am not good at. She can look at a place and put things here and there to make it even more beautiful, I see a wall, and a floor, and maybe some dust.
I think, in my earlier selfish state, I would do whatever I could to get out of doing things like gardening, or helping make a room what Carissa wants it to be. I would probably find the excuse that these are not my passions, and therefore it’s ok that I don’t love to do them or want to do them, and therefore I don’t have to do them. But, that would be missing the point as well. It’s not about the object, it’s about the person, Carissa, and that is how my perspective has changed drastically in the last few years.
Now, I am finding far more delight in helping her be delighted. I am finding more desire to do what I can for her, and with her, because even if I don’t love doing the things she loves doing, I want her to know I am here, I am for her, I am with her. I compromise what I would want, to run from gardening, to trying to want to simply be there for her.
“But Sean, aren’t you worried about becoming nothing more but a doormat?” I don’t think so. Because I suspect in the end there are things she also compromises for me too. There are things I love, things that seem core to me as a person that will likely never change. Some of those things, I think, she doesn’t love, but she understands the need, the desire, and the delight I have in them. Am I concerned about her willingness to compromise along with me? Not really. My purpose in my marriage as ordained by God is not me, but to glorify God by loving my wife and laying my own life down for her (Eph 5:25-33), not neglecting all my wants or needs or desires, but compromising in the smaller things and finding my delight in her.
So guess what? I may not love gardening, but I have learned to love an aspect of it. Watering. I come home every day and one of the first things I do is water the garden Carissa planted. I do it not thinking, “I really want to water this garden today.” I do it thinking, “I really want to bless my wife today, and let her know I am thinking of all that she does, even if it is in this small way.” In this way, I love watering, because it leads me to further delight in something she has done, and delight in who she is.
These last few years, yes they have been tough. But, if through these hard and broken times I have learned to better love the wife God has given me, the only person I have been called to lay my life down for, then I can say out of darkness has come light. Out of hard times, has come a deeper understanding of my marriage, of my beautiful wife, and a deeper desire to honor God by loving her with all I can.
Safe to say I am not the perfect husband. By God’s grace, though, I am learning, and by His grace I will continue to learn for His glory, and for my beloved to whom I belong.
Soli Deo Gloria, Pastor Sean