I’ve always wondered why the seventh inning in baseball was designated as the time most fitting for a stretch, because I confess I’m usually ready by the third! I’ve also wondered how this need for a “stretch” plays out in marriage, finding it quite ironic that by year seven I was itching for more than a stretch. Although I vowed I would not repeat the cycle of divorce and was determined for my marriage covenant to last until death do us part, I was losing my desire to persevere. Marriage was harder than what I expected.
The days were long, the dollars were short, and the joy we once had in our time together was over-run by those “now you’re an adult” responsibilities.
Time alone with my husband was hard to come by, and time uninterrupted was even more of a precious commodity. Gone were the days in which we could spontaneously head out on an adventure or plan a vacation without needing to book two hotel rooms just to fit our family.
This wasn’t what I dreamed my life would look like.
Where were the romantic dates? How about the family vacations? What happened to the house with the white picket fence? Instead, I found myself moving from home to home, none of which we owned, while chasing down toddlers, keeping up with the laundry, and hoping that “one day” we’d have more money. My dreams of married life and motherhood vanished somewhere in the process of going from daughter to young woman to wife and mother.
Like a woman drowning in a sea of disappointment, I was desperately trying to rescue my own dreams. But it wasn’t my dreams that needed rescuing — it was me!
Those dreams formed in my childhood were all about surviving. They were hopes sown in tears. They were imaginary pictures painted in my mind’s eye of a perfect family in an invisible world. Those dreams weren’t the ones God had for my life. His dreams were painted in full color by the blood of Jesus, securing my salvation and shifting my life mission onto building an eternity-bent legacy with my husband.
The life God was calling me to embrace included honoring my marriage covenant, sacrificially loving my husband, and purposefully investing into mothering our children well.
It was a mission set forth by kingdom vision, not earthly comforts or the fulfillment of childhood dreams.
God’s plans for my life — for my marriage, in particular — are so much greater, richer, and more brilliant than any of my dreams. But in order to see them clearly, I have to give up the ones I cling to so desperately and risk the unknown blessings to behold — especially the blessings that look totally different than expected.
As my husband says, it’s amazing that we agree on the main things — that the Word is truth and that Jesus is the Savior of this world — since we disagree on almost everything else. We are opposites in almost every way. I make quick decision; he labors over them. I like shopping; he hates the mall. I love chocolate; he prefers nachos. To use Dave Ramsey’s description of spenders and savers, I am the free spirit and he’s the nerd.
Every single day of our marriage has been about laying down our desires, wants, and dreams for the sake of each other.
Ephesians 5:21 NIV: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
It’s a daily submission, done out of reverence for Christ. Could there be anything harder to do? And yet, that is the very thing Christ has done for us as He submitted to the will of our Father in Heaven.
He’s not calling us to do something He’s not already done.
It’s this sanctification process that has been the greatest push and pull on my dreams. I can’t have what I want and still submit in the way God is calling me to do in my marriage. So is it any surprise that I was discontented and uncomfortable in my marriage after seven years of going at it? Is it any wonder I felt like I was “losing myself”?
Those early years together were marked by hard work and heart work. And yet, now, as we turn the bend toward year 19, I wouldn’t have it any other way. What God accomplished in us through the most difficult of our married days laid a foundation for loving each other over the long haul. While we’re still learning the art of submitting, we are all the more motivated to do so because we’ve experienced the blessing. As we’ve discovered how to love each other sacrificially, we’ve experienced a joy-filled unity of soul that is indeed priceless.
No, I don’t own a home with a white-picket fence, but I’m learning with every passing day that it’s much more delightful to live out the dreams God dreams for us than to continue dreaming up our own.
Elisa is life coach, author, and speaker passionate about equipping women to experience authentic life change for the sake impacting the next generation. She counts it a privilege to come alongside women as a life coach to help them get unstuck and discover God’s purposes. Elisa also leads More to Be, a ministry committed to equipping moms, engaging teens, and encouraging mentors to shine more bright like Jesus. She considers her first calling as wife to Stephen and mother to her house-full of children. Her favorite days begin on the porch with the Lord and end on the beach with her family and friends. Connect with Elisa at www.elisapulliam.com.