Is It Wrong to Have Longings?

“My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.” Psalm 119:20

I live in a constant state of longing. I can’t think of a time when I did not long for something. On the outside we try to appear like everything is good because we want to portray that we are content. Isn’t a Christian supposed to be content? Perhaps, we confuse sharing our longings with an expression of discontentment.

In the Psalms David certainly did not say stuff down your longings, instead he lays his heart bare before the Lord on page after page. He does not get it all out in a few pages as we might vent with a friend feeling better for a while. No, he lives his life laying his heart bare before the Lord. His vulnerability and comfort level are shocking when we really think about it. If you had a friend like this, would you not think, she needs to pull it together? God gives us a window into David’s heart and his vulnerable relationship with God in the Psalms. David expresses all the uncomfortable thoughts of pain, sadness, disappointment, and devastation that we hold close. Why might David feel comfortable bearing His longings before the Lord? Our modern mind might first go to his personality type; perhaps, he would be considered an “extravert” and a “feeler” according to the Myers-Briggs personality test. There was no Myers-Briggs back then.

What could be another reason that he felt comfortable expressing his longings to the Lord? 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 and Genesis 1 give us a hint. God created us in His Image and likeness. We were made to long for our heavenly bodies, the world to be made right, and heaven to come down to Earth. We were made to long for perfection, but because sin entered the world our longings can go askew causing us to long for plastic and unattainable perfection or things in this world that can never satisfy. Our longings for wholeness, beauty, and perfection are found in God and His kingdom to come.

Some longings are birthed out of discontentment with our lives; particularly not measuring up to worldly standards while other longings are birthed out of godly desires. It can be hard to discern at times what longings come from God. That is where the Word of God is the resource for finding wisdom regarding what longings come from Him. We see the longings for justice, mercy, freedom, healing, marriage, children, and wisdom and understanding throughout the Bible.

 What about when a good desire such as marriage, children, or healing continues to be unfulfilled? I have found comfort and peace while I believe that God hears my longings for marriage and children. He is always working His plans through me for my good and the good of this world. Whether He fulfills my longings or yours, we know that He will give peace, comfort, and joy in the waiting even when it is painful. If He does not fulfill our longing for marriage and children in this life, we know that we are members of God’s family and have spiritual children like the nieces, nephews, or friend’s children whom we have poured love into throughout their lifetime. Whether married or unmarried, the unconditional love and companionship we long for no human can fully satisfy as our first Love is and will always be Jesus. We can live longing for the fulfillment of good things in our lives and this world while being present in our current circumstances focusing on the work, friendships and family, and community where God has placed us to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

– Mary Carmen

Does God Care About What I Like?

Psalm 145:19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them

 “Lord, please show me again that You know what I like.” My weary heart whispered. With the majority of my things in storage I had been living with a friend for a year and a half to save money. After years of crying out to God for our hearts desires for marriage, my dear friend reconnected with a guy friend and they were engaged and planning a wedding. I was preparing to celebrate my friend’s special occasion and looking for a place to live. Not having many personal belongings around me as well as feeling forgotten by God in the area of romance made it harder. I longed for a fresh experience of a Father who knows me and wants to give me what I desire.

To add to the transition I was looking for a car. My 12+ year old Honda showed many signs of being on its last wheel – unable to pass inspection without thousands of dollars in repairs. I went after the car search with all my gusto – looking for “the” deal since raising funds for a living means limited resources and avoiding car payments. I knew I wanted a small SUV but didn’t know the exact make and model.

I made multiple trips to Texas Direct Auto and drove quite a few SUVs which drove the sales guy to give me “the irritated look.” I dug for the hidden options by going to rental car agencies to drive some of their cars. I scoured Craig’s list, and spent countless hours reading the reviews of the various SUVs by satisfied and disgruntled buyers. After hearing the “laments,” I didn’t want to buy any vehicles as every “tried and true” manufacturer had some major issue at one point.

I became a bit obsessed with my search – looking and looking –  and grew very worn out. I thought, “This is not of God when I become frantic and exhausted!” I prayed once again, telling God I was going to quit looking and that He knew my heart – to have a car I really liked and to also avoid a car payment.

While test driving multiple SUVs, I was drawn toward one in particular. AND it wasn’t the SUV I originally thought I wanted. Because I drive my cars until they can go no more, I wanted a car “with all the zip.” Not only one that drives well, but also has comfort and cool features like seat warmers and leather. I realize these aren’t third world problems!

I arrived at my PO Box to pick up mail. I had let my supporters of the ministry know about giving toward my need for a car. However, since it was already January, and most gave during December so they could receive credit for donations in the same year, I didn’t expect to receive further gifts. To my delight and surprise, there was a check for a large sum of money –  more than I’d ever received! Stunned I called my friend to express overwhelming gratitude. She told me she and her husband received some unexpected funds and they were “having fun” giving them away.

The very next morning I planned to meet a friend for breakfast. As I got out of my car at the same time she drove up I realized she owned the exact vehicle I’d come to really like. I asked how she enjoyed driving it. She said she really liked it and wondered if I had found a car because she and her husband were moving to South America for a job transition and selling her SUV!

The rest of the story is an amazing account of buying my friend’s SUV and God providing the means to do so without a car payment. Not to mention a beautiful vehicle with all the “zip.” My friend had bought the car with all the upgrades and a warranty to boot that could be transferred to me. I didn’t even think to pray for that!

I sensed the Lord’s voice, “Not only do I know what you like, I know you better than you know yourself. You became aware of the SUV you liked as you searched for a car so you were able to recognize My provision when it arrived. I was working all along and setting into motion the circumstances to deliver My gift to you. My daughter, I love you and delight in you knowing Me better through My good gifts. I can do far more than you expect.

I am confident God desires to show you and me that He cares about what we like. It doesn’t mean we receive the fulfillment of every longing- yet His care in giving tangible gifts that are stamped with His fingerprints provides faith to trust Him for those things we don’t understand. Savor the verses below about God’s heart for our desires:

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 145:16 Thou dost open Thy hand and dost satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Psalm 20:4  May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your counsel!

~Laura

When Restorative Justice is not Possible

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)

I am grateful for the efforts that are happening today for victims and offenders of crime to experience healing and reconciliation. When I worked as a licensed counselor, I had opportunities to facilitate sessions between the victim of sexual abuse and the offender opening up conversations about responsibility, confession, repentance, forgiveness, amends and reconciliation.

Participants were able to express their experiences and feelings. Offenders explored ways of making restitution for the harm caused by their behavior. Victims considered ways they can continue their journey toward healing and restoration. This is called restorative justice.

When both parties are willing to do the work needed for healing, it is powerful. However, when both parties are not willing or able to do the work, it results in pain and feelings of no resolution. It is especially painful for the victim when the offender does not take responsibility for their actions.

How does a victim continue their journey toward healing and restoration when the offender is not willing to make amends? Or, in the case of murder, the victim’s loved one will never come back, no matter how much the offender seeks to amend.

This is, indeed, agonizing for the victim. Victims can feel shame and responsibility for the crime to harboring feelings of anger and hatred toward oneself and others for years.

We are all created with a longing for justice when we are wronged. This longing is a good longing. God is just and is hot with anger when injustice happens. Read Amos, Hosea and Micah and you will see the heartbeat of God through his repetitive command to “Seek good, hate evil” (Amos 5:14). As we hate evil, there is a longing to satiate the hatred when evil happens to us. This is called justice.

However, sandwiched in the minor prophets is the story of Hosea who marries Gomer. She is repetitively unfaithful to Hosea and humiliates him as he is the prophet. Eventually she leaves him for other lovers.

Gomer’s lovers leave her and she sells herself into slavery. Wracked with grief, rather than glory in ‘justice’ for himself, Hosea repetitively forgives her, pursues her and buys her from slavery obeying God’s command to “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1).

Here we see a major turn. A strong message of forgiveness sets the tone for us to enter into the New Testament where Jesus would die for all sinners, including the ones who murdered him saying, “”Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34).

Jesus’ new command is, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:43). We are now called to forgive as we have been forgiven.

Even in the best outcomes of restorative justice, there are wounds victims may carry to their death. Full justice will never be satisfied until we are in heaven by the One who carries out perfect justice. Until then, the New Testament commands are clear to “forgive our enemies” for “love never fails” (I Cor. 13:8).

The greatest ways victims can continue their journey to healing and restoration is take time to grieve, grieve, grieve for your loss is great. No one can diminish that. Then, give your anger to God who carries out perfect justice. Finally, forgive your enemies so you can be set free.

Edna Lee

Thoughts on shopping, drinking and other touchy subjects

“Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Gal. 5:16

Howard Hendricks, my favorite seminary professor, wisely said, “You need to say no to something every day.”

When is the last time we said no to: getting the last word, indulging in extra food, looking at our phones—again, drinking another glass of wine, judging another person, buying clothes we really don’t need, or succumbing to gossip?

Before I go further I want to be clear. This is not a post about bolstering your will-power and making lists of do’s and don’ts. My thoughts today are about what it means to die to self—a tough issue to be sure and one that is rarely discussed, even in the Christian community.

For the Christian, we are called to submit all things to our Heavenly Father. When we chose to follow Christ, we relinquished our rights to be our own boss. As believers, the Holy Spirit indwells us and convicts us when we are stepping out of His will. Our response to this conviction should include the ongoing practice of denying or dying to ourselves. This must include telling ourselves no, with the Lord’s help, repeatedly.

If we aren’t saying no to ourselves very often we’ve likely left the door wide open for the enemy to have his way building a stronghold in our lives. Remember Satan is a deceiver and crafty in his ways, transforming even something neutral or benign into something that can literally destruct. In the Christian culture we can be so caught up in grace it can masquerade as a license to sin. And the things we laugh off the most may be the things we most need to deal with.

Legalism and grace are difficult to balance and so everything has to be done with the leading of the Holy Spirit. What may be ok for someone else may not be okay for me. The goal is not obeying a list of do’s and don’ts so much as seeking to honor the Lord by submitting to Him when I hear His voice.

These kind of boundaries create healthy parameters. When I say “no” to things when I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit, I am choosing to not be mastered by anything. Scripture says that sin shall not be my master (Rom. 6:14). The things I am saying no to may not be bad in themselves but if I throw an internal fit when I am struggling to deny myself something, it is an invitation to delve deeper and find out if there is something behind it. Am I not “ok” if I don’t have it? Have I built an idol?

This is a struggle for me to be sure. I’ve tried for a while to figure out what makes the most sense with shopping for clothes, for example. Do I set a budget and stick to it? Do I buy a few well-chosen pieces each season and then say no until the next season? Should I “fast” from shopping for a whole year knowing I have plenty of clothes in my closet and I don’t need anything else? While this may seem silly, I have a feeling I’m not the only one who struggles with this and it’s difficult to know how to do this without becoming legalistic.

The point here is to live in peace and freedom and to not be ruled by anything— even a sale! So, you can fill in the blank for what it is you have a tendency to struggle with. Let’s bring it all to the Lord and ask Him to rule over every area of our lives and trust HIM to guide us, convict us and help us to walk in obedience and freedom. It’s there where we will find joy, peace and true fulfillment.

~Courtney

Security Systems

“If you make the most high your dwelling – even the LORD, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.” Psalm 91:9-10

We go to great lengths to secure our homes and possessions with sophisticated security systems. We carefully choose what we eat to nourish our bodies. We over-sanitize our hands to protect from illness. We invite in the people who build us up and block out the untrustworthy. We build our bios and post them in order to advance our careers, agendas, positions in life. We spend our lives building our lives and boundaries to protect them. For those of us who believe God is sovereign over our lives, we invite him to protect the lives we build and call it “faith.” Then, we get disenchanted or even angry with him when something goes wrong.

Is this how God intended it to be? Does he sit in heaven waiting for an invitation from me to protect my kingdom?

We all want protection, and will do whatever it takes to get it. Or, will we?

In Psalm 91 we are promised protection, under certain conditions:

1. If you make the Most High your dwelling.”  Are you building your own dwelling place, or have you surrendered your best plans to God in exchange for his?  How much time do you spend “dwelling” with God each day? The only way to know his plans for your life is to dwell with him.

2. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him: I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.”  How much of your life is spent elevating your own name?  Take some time to examine your heart and ask the Lord how to elevate His Name in your life today. Surrendering your own agenda to advance his name in the earth is an act of love that demonstrates intimate trust.

3. “He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”  When there is trouble, who is your first call? Practice making the LORD your first call, before there is a need.

Are you working hard to build protective boundaries around a life that was never yours? What would it take to surrender your dwelling place and enter the dwelling place of the Most High?

Boundaries are built to protect our lives, but the life of Christ is about surrender. It’s not an invitation to be reckless with your life. It’s an invitation to the only place where resides perfect peace.

In His Unfailing Love,

brandi

Boundaries

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6

I don’t know about you, but drawing boundaries with my time or in relationships is a constant challenge. Presented with many good needs and opportunities, it can be hard to discern what to say, “yes” and “no” to. If I say “yes.” to everything, then anxiety and frustration take root. By saying, “yes” to everything, I am saying “no” to giving my best.

Do you have a friend or family member who is constantly pushing your boundaries? I see every hand up. Who is that person in your life who consistently makes you feel like no matter how much time that you give them, it is never good enough?

Are we afraid that we are not being loving by drawing clear boundaries? Instead can we consider drawing a boundary as a loving act? We need the help of the Holy Spirit to apply God’s principles in specific situations to draw boundaries. A few years ago I drew boundaries with a family member, and we both experienced frustration and awkward moments. However, drawing boundaries has made our relationship better and deeper.

Or may be you need help drawing boundaries with a parent of one of your child’s classmates? Your child participates in an after-school activity each week. One of the moms wants her child to ride with your daughter to the activity, but you have noticed her child’s negative influence. It is easier to share the driving, but what is best for your child?

Think about it this way: boundaries are blessings, providing guard rails where life flourishes within its dominion. Take for instance lines on an interstate; the lines keep the cars in lanes, so that drivers may travel safely. What kind of game would football be without the field marked off? You can’t possibly play a football game without lines. How would either team ever know if they made a first down? No one wins without boundaries. Are you living to win? I do not mean winning a game, but winning in life. Jesus says in 1 Thessalonians 4:12 to live in such a way “that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.” Making the right choice when it is hard and not the most popular wins respect. Wise choices, not popular choices win respect.

Why couldn’t drawing lines in our personal life be as easy as drawing lines on an interstate? Boundaries lines for living a life that pleases God are clearly laid out in the Ten Commandments, and others we learn from the life of Jesus through imitating Him and following Biblical principles. Everybody has been given the same amount of time in a day, and we need the help of the Holy Spirit to discern the appropriate boundaries to living a fruitful and God honoring life. Saying “yes” to every need does not make you a more loving person, just as saying “no” to a need does not make you an unloving person.

-Mary Carmen

Do Your Boundaries Love or Self-Protect?

“Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12)

“What is love? Baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more.” As I have been reflecting on what to write about love this month, I cannot get this high school song from Haddaway out of my head! Songs like these taught me about love. My female hormones were at its pinnacle sending out pheromones to lure every boy, acne and all.

Thankfully, I am growing up and though still elementary in my understanding of love, I am realizing these songs just may be a little misleading. The immediate answer to the question ‘What is love?’ is not ‘Baby don’t hurt me’. Love is not self-protective. However, don’t we live that way often? The truth is, the deeper we are in a relationship with someone, we get hurt. So how do we move past the hurt? Love.

I love marriage. Interestingly though, my husband and I have seen more of each other’s issues, bad habits, selfishness, impatience, anger, etc… So why is marriage even more amazing now than it was when we were dating? There is something secure, transforming and liberating when a person you deeply hurt does not hurt back but instead pursues you, hugs you and treats you with gentleness and tenderness when you know you deserve much worse.

There are no boundaries to love. As a licensed professional counselor, I am afraid boundaries are taught too often to self protect. Boundaries are necessary but the motivation behind it must be love. Boundaries are for the purpose of giving time and space to self-reflect to see how oneself could have contributed to the problem, heal from the wound and forgive so reconciliation can happen.

Often in counseling sessions, married couples pursue separation ‘to see if they want the marriage to work’. Separation is not for the purpose of questionable reconciliation. Separation should be approached as a time of reflection, healing and forgiveness so reconciliation can happen.

When reconciliation happens, you put yourself at a risk of being hurt again. I’m sorry. There are people who are going to hate me for writing this but I’m more concerned about there being people of character in healthy relationships rather than there being no relationships in this society. Divorce rates are increasing and fewer people want to be in relationships. A healthy relationship is not the absence of hurt but the ability to forgive, grow and reconcile in the hurt.

The strength in which my husband and I are able to die to our selfishness and pride, forgive each other repeatedly and pursue relentlessly when we hurt each other endlessly does not come from ourselves. It comes from our relationship with Jesus who is the perfect model of selfless, sacrificial love. Jesus died so we may live (John 3:16, I John 4:9-11). In turn, “we love because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19) Have you experienced such love before?

Edna Lee

Unseen Battles During Easter

“In this way, He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by His victory over them on the cross.” Colossians 2:15

Easter arrives on our calendars and prayerfully rocks our hearts in a couple of weeks. I love high church traditions and worship services during this time of year: the stations of the cross, the observation of self-reflection during Lent, the remembrance of all that Jesus suffered on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday while joining believers together to receive the Eucharist. Then the culmination on Easter Sunday of the elation of the resurrection and forgiveness of sin.

As this sacred time of worship approaches I think about the theme in April at Sacred Story: Boundaries. The definition of boundary is: “a limit of a subject or sphere of activity.” If the curtain could be pulled back on the invisible realm during the last week of Jesus’ life we would see a host of activity. I think about the ministering spirits of God known as angels who fight to sustain the Son of God. (Hebrews 1:14) In the same breath, the forces of darkness called demons bent on destroying the Anointed One. (Ephesians 6:12) God’s limitless power limiting the sphere of activity in the spiritual realm to accomplish His purposes. Ponder with me these fateful scenes.

Upon being arrested, Jesus reminded Peter who attempted to use his sword to fight the Roman soldiers, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53) In other words “A TON!” A typical amount of men in a Roman legion ranged from 3000-6000. Jesus limited the angelic realm from rescuing Him out of His destiny.

After being sentenced by Pilate to death and punished by beatings with a whip – 39 lashes is the projected amount – Jesus was ordered to carry His cross on his back of ripped flesh to Golgatha, the place where criminals endured crucifixion. (Matt. 27:31-33) The demonic realm pressed in to put Jesus to death before He made it to the cross and yet God intervened by providing Simon of Cyrene to carry His cross. I am confident angels assisted in this exchange.

While hanging on the cross Jesus endures verbal abuse from the soldiers and the crowd. No doubt driven by the forces of darkness who are working through the sin nature of rebellion revealed in the soldiers and crowd as they (we) respond to His suffering and humiliation with anger. Jesus is belittled and His authority is mocked. Drawing His last breaths He proclaims, “It is finished!” before giving up His spirit. The soldiers break the legs of the other two criminals to speed up their deaths but when they came to Jesus He is already dead so they confirm by piercing His side with a spear. (John 19:32-37)  This fulfills the prophecy, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.” (Psalm 34:20) and “They shall look on Him who they pierced.” (Zephaniah 12:10) God limits the activity of the evil one in the timing of Jesus’ departure from His body and the way His body is treated by the soldiers.

God exercises limits when it comes to the invisible realm to bring about His eternal purposes. In the horror of the events preceding the resurrection it looks like the spiritual forces of darkness won. Yet Jesus delivers a crushing blow through His death and resurrection. Are you in a battle where you feel like God has the power to fight for you and it seems like He is not doing so? A health condition, a marital struggle, a workplace difficulty, a financial disaster. God oversees the sphere of activity in the spiritual realm for reasons we may never understand. Consider the story of Job! Take heart, sister, if you are depending on Him and there’s not a rescue to the battle, there is a greater YES. God’s children never ultimately lose a battle- even in death. **Read Jennifer’s story about triumphing when it looked like failure was imminent

~Laura

Singleness and the Sovereignty of God

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

I struggle with singleness. While I am gratefully and happily married, I still struggle. I struggle with singleness because I have dear, godly, beautiful friends who have desired and prayed for husbands for years and yet they remain unmarried. I wrestle because singleness brings with it a lot of heartbreak for those I love and it reveals my temptation to doubt God’s goodness and sovereignty.

Getting married at 33, I had a few years where I wrestled with God’s timing and purposes in my singleness. I had times when I wondered why and if God was withholding marriage for some reason. I struggled with why a friend would get married and not me. I wondered if I had sinned in some way in the past and was therefore receiving God’s discipline as punishment.

Over time, the Lord was gracious to show me that He was not withholding anything from me (Ps. 84:11), as if I could do anything to deserve marriage. He showed me that my sin couldn’t trump His plan (Job 42:2), although sin can and does have consequences. And He showed me that His plans and purposes for my life as a single person were good (Eph. 2:10) and that I wasn’t living Plan B. He also helped me to get over myself long enough to see He had work for me to do and serving was a great remedy for self-pity.

If we take time to get to the heart of it, the struggle is really not with singleness—it’s with the sovereignty and goodness of God. At some point we all face circumstances that cause us to question if God is really in control. God is mysterious in His ways and yet we are called to trust Him and believe that He is good and that all things work together for good—even the struggles that go on for years without explanation.

God doesn’t give us a lot of whys in Scripture in the context of trials. He never told Job why he was called to suffer so greatly but we do know He was very fond of Job and loved Him. It’s our steadfast belief in God’s goodness, with or without answers, that is imperative. Paige Benton Brown in her excellent article on singleness says it this way:

“Accepting singleness, whether temporary or permanent, does not hinge on speculation about answers God has not given to our list of whys, but rather on celebration of the life he has given. I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one. I am single because God is so abundantly good to me, because this is his best for me. It is a cosmic impossibility that anything could be better for me right now than being single. The psalmists confirm that I should not want, I shall not want, because no good thing will God withhold from me.”

So I will continue to struggle with singleness because I love my friends and yearn for the Lord answer prayers for marriage. However, when I struggle I will also choose to stand firm in the knowledge and belief that God is good no matter what. And in the meantime, I will also continue to pray for dear friends and many others who are living fully for Jesus while waiting for the Lord to answer our prayers.

~Courtney

For encouraging stories on singleness from the Sacred Story library click here.

For Paige’s full article “Singled Out for Good” click here.

Marriage and Obedience

I admit, I wanted to be married. I jumped right in with an amateur’s mindset. I had loads of energy and enthusiasm and a desire to actively love, but once I hit a few bumps, I realized marriage is no joke. Life, work, unmet expectations, commitments, and demands all hit hard and it seemed active, engaged, and purposeful love was the first to go. It was easy to think things were going to be ok because we were married and made a commitment to stay together, but those thoughts were just not going to cut it. When efforts wane from both parties, the natural tendency is to think I need to take care of myself because I am the only one who can do it the right way. Thus starts the crazy cycle. A fixation on how unfulfilling marriage is became a dark cloud that overshadowed my once rose-colored glasses.

The other day, it occurred to me I have moved onto a new season in my marriage; I am no longer an amateur. A switch has flipped and I now consider extending grace and love to my husband one of my highest callings on this earth. I have become a professional. Like a vocation or a career – this is what I was called to do. After earning two degrees and working many years in the corporate world, I cannot believe I am writing this. Recalling all the hours I once spent as a designer studying the end-user and designing products to meet their needs, I now find myself applying in marriage all the things I would be doing to build my career. Such as on-the-job-training (as a wife), studying and learning about my subject (my husband), and becoming an expert in my field (marriage). It takes quite a bit of work and intentionality every day but I am so fulfilled. Yet, I wonder how our culture has us convinced marriage only requires the same amount of effort as you would put into a part-time job.

As a professional wife, I need to show up every day no matter what. It takes commitment to love my husband because the survival of my marriage is at stake. The stakes are high because my child is watching and he will learn sticktoitiveness and dedication by how my husband love in our marriage. More importantly, I accepted this job – I made a vow and I signed the papers. To become one with another person is not for the faint of heart. The more I seek to love my husband, the more I recognize my need for Jesus as my own humanity often gets in the way.

Genesis 1:27 says “God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” As equals my husband and I are both designed in the image of God. An image is a representation or physical likeness of a person. Therefore I believe I am to mirror God’s love in our marriage. Our union means I am the one person on this earth who is most equipped to extend the love and grace of God to my husband. I realize my husband is human just like me and if God can extend grace to me through His son Jesus, it is my job to extend the same grace to my husband. My mission to love my husband well is purely an act of obedience to the One who made me.

 Sacred Story is honored to have Julie Landreth as a guest contributor to the blog this month. Read her story Did I Marry A Jerk? in the story collection on the site to hear more about her journey. Julie is a speaker and a “wife coach” who loves sharing with women her passion for prayer and ways to actively cultivate a thriving marriage. She leads a growing number of women in San Jose, CA through her WifeLab curriculum: The Art of Praying for your Husband. She and her husband have cultivated a marriage filled with intentional love and communication. They have had a date night every Friday night since their son was 8 months old. She also finds deliberate ways to spend quality time with her 10 year old son who shares many of her artistic talents.