If I Could Turn Back Time
Growing up in the 80's and 90's mean't living in the best of times (ever)! And if you disagree, then we agree - to disagree ;-) My predisposition to music began at a very early age. Long before the desire to actually learn to play an instrument set in. I love me some 80's music! I was jamming out the other day and a familiar song by Cher popped up on my playlist; If I could turn back time. As I was singing along absent minded, I had a random but intriguing thought about the very words I was singing along too.
If I could turn back, I'd give it all to you.
Now I don't know in what context Cher meant, but it got me thinking about my own past. My past marriage in particular. And I really feel a strong conviction to share with you what I have learned through that experience. That failed experience. You see, marriage these days is almost like an item on a bucket list. If you can say you've done it, you can mark it off the list and move on to the next thing. Or at least that's what the 50/50 divorce rate in our American culture would have you believe. Ohh yeah, and it doesn't matter if you call yourself a Christian or not. The odds are still unfortunately; the. same.
I'm not going to spend much time hashing out the destructive force that divorce was for me. But I will say that it is by far the worst, and most painful experience I have survived. My ex and I were both Christian's when we met and fell in love. And we both vehemently opposed divorce. Until... divorce. We made it all of 10 years (9 married) before it crumbled. And after many months of standing for a marriage miracle (I did not want divorce) - and an entirely overhauled/redesigned heart and character (by God), I began to realize what I wish I could have known back then. Or as Cher would say, If I could turn back time. As strange as it may sound, im not entirely un-thankful for divorce; as it has revealed to me God's purpose for marriage. I would say it has allowed my heart to be broken for the things that break His heart. The Lord didn't say He hated divorce lightly. Nor for futile reasons.
If you are divorced and reading this, im glad! And i'll tell you why in a moment. If you're not divorced and still married, im glad you're reading too! If you are single and never married, you have an opportunity to learn something that will keep you on the 50% side of marriage success. So, who made me the professional you might think? I admit, im nothing of the sort. But God and divorce have taught me some things that I guarantee will change your life, change your marriage, change your engagement, and save your wedded future. But only if you are willing to comply. What im presenting is simply obedience to God's way. Just from the perspective of someone who has already failed and had to learn the hard way.
If you are not interested in reading further, and you just want the quick answer - here it is: complete self-sacrifice!
If you want to know what that looks like and what that means from God's perspective, keep reading.
I would do my marriage-turned-divorce a huge disservice if I said there had only been one or two issues that caused it. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, but there are incredible marriages. One's far from ever seeing the threshold of divorce. The way I see it, it doesn't matter what my ex-wife did or didn't do. It only matters what I can control. And looking back, most of my issues were wrapped up in me. And when I say me, I mean selfishly. Now had you come to me at that time in my life and told me that I was being selfish, and that oneness with my wife was deteriorating faster than a flower drenched in weed killer; I might have called you crazy. But the truth stands, I was a selfish man. And I was sadly, oblivious for the most part.
I could spend a few more posts exposing all of my faults and failures to prove that point. But by the time you were finished you might be rather disgusted with me. And I wouldn't blame you. I look back and despise that guy myself. And if I could turn back time I would have drug me out of my house, slapped myself silly and probably screamed like a drill sergeant what all I needed to do to fix me and fast.
"Ok we get it, you were a bad husband"
I want to speak to the men first. And if you are a woman, i'll leave it up to you to get him in the room to read it. I know I may sound arrogant right now, but please understand: marriage is a huge deal to God! And if we don't stop taking this thing lightly, the idea of family will cease to exist! Let's face it, no one goes to the alter thinking they are going to get divorced. But what we don't realize is that most all of us walk into it already at a disadvantage. Not because we don't love the person. Not because we didn't do premarital counseling. Not because we didn't (or don't pray) enough. Not because we were too incompatible. Nor many other reasons. We are doomed from the onset because we are all designed with a self-seeker in mind. To make matters worse, God created male and female as two completely different entities with two entirely different sets of needs. We're not meeting each others needs because we are too focused on wanting our own needs met. Then it's the other person's fault for not meeting them etc.
After divorce I made an oath to myself and God. I swore that if I ever failed at anything else in life, it would not be marriage again. So needless to say, I spend a lot of time studying and learning what it means to truly be a godly husband. So that the next time around, I will be on the other side of the fifty percentile. And by my own choice, I will give up my single - self lived life - for her's.
So men, listen up! I'm going to challenge you. Man to man. Evaluate yourself! Be hardcore! Be brutally honest! I'm going to list some things below that being a godly husband represents. Are you fulfilling that role? If you are REALLY a man, I ask you to take the next step and have your partner evaluate you also. If you cannot accept the constructive criticism, or allow her a voice of honesty. Then you have already failed entirely. Listen. to. me. - if you're heart is not in it for her now, your "D" day is just a matter of time. And I will guarantee you the most miserable place you have ever been. Or, step up your game - follow through and watch God do something you both may consider miraculous (even if things are good).
Here are the guidelines (ill have to make a part two to expound).
This is marriage: to devote the rest of your life to your wife as if she were Christ.
Christ served and sacrificed His entirety to His bride. Not in a single moment only, but His entire earthly life. And that's what He has asked you to do. If you want to live for you, then don't get married. If you're already married, then you have a 50/50 shot left if you keep "you" first.
There is no job. There is no hobby. There is no parent. There is no friend. There is no amount of money, or success. There is nothing. That can come before her but God himself. It is in essence; giving up your life - dreams - whatever - for her. She is the center of your world now.
The second thing you should do, is learn her greatest needs. If you don't know, ask her! Most women want security (to feel safe). Not just physically like you beat up a robber or "lay out" some other dude for smacking her behind. She wants to feel emotionally safe with you. It's about her heart. That's why women love to talk so much (at least in part) they are conveying their heart. And it will either feel safe and protected with you. Or trampled by you. And trust me, there are a thousand ways in a moment you can trample it without even knowing. So you have to truly have your head in the game. Marriage takes work. Period.
Other needs women have are intimacy and oneness. And I can't possibly touch on either in entirety, with a single paragraph. But her idea of intimacy is not yours. It's not physical (ill leave it PG). She wants to know you have a heart too. And she wants to feel connected to it. There are lots of ways you can do this all day long. It doesn't require romance or constantly leaving flowers or notes. In fact it's interaction before any of those other things. But it has to be sincere. Convince her she is still the woman of your dreams! Oneness is similar, but maybe a tad different in that you include her. And most of all, she has presence. Which means she will feel appreciated, heard, valued, and did I mention heard. Let's say she has a gift for managing money wisely. But you trample it by not ever considering her opinions on how you spend money. Even if it is just small (but probably frequent) purchases. If she doesn't feel safe enough, heard enough, or included enough to speak to you about a better "spending" pattern. That's not oneness, that's - you-ness.
So many couples focus on their incompatibilities as if God made a mistake by bringing them together. When we could embrace the differences in a way that create better versions of ourselves. If your mindset and focus are shifted to view differences in the proper light, you can not only complement each other, you can become nearly perfect for each other! At first it doesn't make sense because it seems like you are operating at opposite ends of the spectrum. But by letting each others God given gifts thrive, you will begin to see how great you really are together. Unfortunately men, we either passively stifle women's gifts. Or we alpha male them back into submissive hiding. It might sound like im putting all the work and blame on us. And offering little for a woman to be left accountable for. But bibllicaly speaking, we are the spiritual leaders. That's just the way it is. We set the example - how? By being the example. Besides, I don't know a godly man that is living these principles out who has a wife that is unwilling to follow his lead. Or a marriage that isn't thriving past 20+ years and running.
I couldn't say all of this without leading some kind of example myself (as writer). So at the very least, im going to put a list of things i've learned and discovered below. These are things I have a strong conviction to grow within myself. And eventually, will be the realm I operate relation-ally out of.
Love selflessly. I live to serve her, as Christ served His bride.
Push her closer to God at all costs.
Understand her needs at all costs (they may change so I have to stay on top of my game).
Build up (always) - speak words of life! Encouragement - encouragement - encouragement!!
Put our convictions, views, standards, and anything else aside if it causes our loved one to be less like Christ.
Ponder submitting to unity and oneness, which means embracing each others biblical convictions equally (one I can sidetrack on easily I admit).
If she asked me: "What would make you happy?" - My answer: Knowing how to stay "joined" with you as you walk out your journey (stay by her side in life, not behind her, not in front of her).
If children are involved, have equal parental roles. Teach me what I lack to be on par with you. (Example, get up earlier on Sundays and dress the kids so she has time to herself. If you mis-match the clothes or can't curl a little girls hair, let her teach you so you are operating in a equal parental role. Going the extra mile by doing this with sincerity will go a LONG way with her. Don't expect anything in return. Don't tally it. And don't use it as leverage later for something else. Do it because you love her more than you love yourself).
I have more but you need to come up with your own. Can't copy all of my homework ;-) Again, I am not the leading authority on relationships. I have a divorce on my record and I don't even have a girlfriend. I'm just sharing what i've learned.
Now a short note to the ladies: If you have a man already doing these things for you. Don't take it for granted. You too; can lose an amazing thing by not realizing what you have. If you have a man that is trying, be gracious and patient. Help him when he struggles and know that he isn't perfect. But by trying, he is already doing more than the ones who are on the path of 50% heading towards divorce. And lastly, if your man has just decided to start. Be his number one cheerleader. Be patient, be gracious. And help him when he falters. Most of all, remember that ultimately: it is only going to make you feel more loved and cherished than ever before. And it could lead to the dream marriage/relationship that you always wanted.
You can settle for mediocrity, or pay the price for something great.