Marriage and Writing: Truth and Lies

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I watched as many Disney movies growing up as the next girl. I read several ‘Christian’ romance novels and watched/read Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice religiously. Plus of course, the obligatory watching of Titanic and other such movies. None of these are bad in and of themselves. None of them are evil. But, I am one of those girls who went into my marriage expecting my husband to think I hung the sun, moon, and stars. I wanted him to look in my eyes and lose himself in their beauty. I wanted Prince Charming at my beck and call.

A husband should think his wife is special, otherwise, why marry her? But when she thinks it’s his obligation to think she is always right, adorable, and pretty much infallible, there’s a problem.

I was one of those girls. I was trapped in a relationship where I treated my husband as a god and expected to be worshiped in return. Isn’t that normal? Normal, maybe. Right? No.

The only person I should ever worship is God, the Triune one, the one who became man so that I might draw near to Him. He is the only one I should worship. And he is the only one my husband should worship. It is completely unfair, and downright egotistically to expect your husband to worship the ground you walk on. Not only are you unworthy of that worship, you can’t live up to that standard. And you worshiping him does the same thing. I became a slave to his every whim. I became susceptible to his every mood swing. I was trapped in the worship of a man who is sinful instead of safely resting in the worship of God who is perfect.

It almost destroyed our marriage.

Once identified, the real fight for our marriage began. It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been smooth. It’s been hard. It’s required us to be hard on each other. My husband has had to help me watch for times I’m caving to him, and I’ve had to watch times when I mistreat him because he’s just not treating me how I feel like I deserve to be treated. Thankfully we’ve won, by God’s rich grace alone, the big battles. The small battles still creep up now and then in the most unsuspecting ways.

A while back, I found myself mentally complaining that my husband didn’t take a greater interest in my writing. Woman after woman out on social media praise their husbands for his encouragement and support in their writing career. (Especially the romance writers. Go figure.) My husband asks me not to make it my focus in life but something that I do in submission to the Lord as an encouragement to my church. Many men go out of their way to take care of kids, clean house, and do the shopping, not to mention working to support the family, so their wives can write. My husband says limit your writing to a few hours in the morning before you start your day. Many husbands are their wives first readers. Mine only reads my stuff if I go out of my way to ask him.

Woe is me.

Wait. Is that my desire to be worshiped kicking back in? Yes.

It took me such a long time to realize that. (See what I mean about that unsuspected creeping?)  It took me forever to realize what other women share about their lives on social media isn’t my standard of perfection. God is.

Is my husband caving to my desires or is he looking out for the well-being of my soul? Wow. Maybe, just maybe, he’s looking out for the well-being of my soul. Maybe he isn’t so interested in what makes me happy—knowing how skilled I am at finding things that make me happy. Maybe he’s more worried about what will help me seek after Christ. Maybe I should stop looking at the world and start looking at the Word.

Does my husband encourage my writing? Yes. When I look back over the years I’ve been writing, he is responsible for my biggest moments of growth. He is the one who pushed me to take it seriously. He is the one who pushed me to embrace my action flick writing style. He’s the one who encouraged me to start a blog. He’s the one who encouraged me to write for children. At every turn, he is the one who has shown an interest beyond just surface cheering and focused on the harsh realities that really push a person. Maybe I misjudged him.

Does my husband inhibit my writing gift by demanding I give it a place of lesser priority? No. Instead of letting me sit for hours and hours on my butt in a fake world, my husband demands I regulate myself so that my house doesn’t crumble around my ears. He demands I spend the majority of the day in the real world. He realizes that I am his helper and that he isn’t mine. And then he demands I seek to fill that slot while giving me space and grace to learn. He doesn’t cut me any slack, but he does treat me with great forgiveness and grace. Isn’t that like the Lord? Christ doesn’t indulge our sin, but he does give us grace. My husband doesn’t try to make things that are difficult go away, he tries to make sure I have the tools and the support to deal with them.

Instead of sitting by and letting me indulge every selfish desire I have to hide from the world, my husband challenges me to use my gift to serve my local church and the church at large. Does that not mean that he believes in my gift? What greater evidence could I ask for than his encouragement to write for my church family?

I have a huge group of very loyal fans who love everything I type. Just because my man doesn’t read every word with adoration doesn’t mean he doesn’t support, love, and enjoy this gift. He’s not a fiction reader. He works from six in the morning until three as a computer programmer and then from three until six or seven studying for his Wednesday night class on Systematic Theology. Can I really blame him if me exclaiming over a fictional character doesn’t rate as high as the truth of God? Maybe I need to examine my priorities.

It’s so easy for us as women to evaluate our husbands by the world, movies, and books. It’s so easy for us to lust after something and complain when we don’t have it. Sometimes, many times, we need to reevaluate our standards based on the Scripture and the Word. If you feel the pull of the desire to be worshiped take it to the Lord. He is your friend always. Stop complaining about being unloved or alone and put your eyes on Christ. He is your true friend. Then, reevaluate your that lack of love and friendship. Is it truly there, or do you have a wrong understanding of love?

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I’ve started a new practice, since our pastors have been working through prayer, of not only praying about my writing during my prayer time, but praying about it specifically before I get started. Right now, more often than not, I remember at the end of my writing time, but I’m working on creating a good habit and that takes time. This has helped me keep my writing in the proper place: a part of who God gave me, not the entirety of my being.

When I feel the desire to grumble because my husband isn’t showing me the attention I think I deserve (which makes me feel so small when I type it out. Who do I think I am?) I remember a few things: my husband is a sinner, not God. God is my friend, the most perfect friend I could ever have. Then I ask a few questions: Is it just me feeling neglected? Am I really being neglected or is that old sin of wanting to be worshiped raising its ugly head? Am I being discontent? Am I being thankful?

I love my husband more than I can put into words and I know he loves me. We’ve learned the hard lesson of divesting ourselves from the worldly notion of lovers and embracing the Biblical notion of being fellow pilgrims, of being a picture of Christ and the Church, instead.

It’s not a relationship devoid of romance by any means, but it is not a relationship based on romance or happiness. It is much deeper and more fulfilling than that. It’s a friendship, it’s an adventure, it’s support every day, all the time.

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Count the Cost: A Letter to New Believers (or a letter to my younger self)

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Dear New Believer,

It’s hard to imagine as a young believer how much you face. A baby can’t know the heartache of growing up. You can’t know the heartache this choice to follow Christ will bring you. In some ways—and please don’t misunderstand me or read this with any bitterness, but only with a tender longing—I want to tell you not to do this. You have no idea how hard and dark your path will be, and how much of that hardness and darkness will be based on your ‘choice’ to be a Christian.

You will be forced to choose, almost daily, between the things you love and Christ . . . not in big ‘martyr’ type ways, but in private, little ways which will seem insignificant to the world, but might mean the world to you. You may have to decide to leave a group of friends you love because one of them is living in open sin and by hanging out with them you lend credence and support to their life decision. You may face setting aside what is good for what is better, but only in the eyes of a handful of people. You may have to stand up to your friends facing life alone and in the dark. You will have to choose Christ over what and who you love. You will have to choose between what you can’t see and what you can.

Count the cost.

You will have to decide not to watch a TV Show you’re interested in. (See how un-glamorous the Christian life can be?) More so, you will have to spend the rest of your life thinking about everything constantly. You will have to judge your heart at every moment never resting. The fun part? Things change. A TV show which didn’t go against your conscience last year, may prick it the next time you watch it. You must practice Constant Vigilance, but not against enemies sneaking in, but the enemy within. In choosing to become a Christian and follow Christ, you have made an enemy out of your very heart, mind, and body. Do you want to do the hard work of living with an enemy all the time?

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Count the cost.

As you get older, the choices get harder.

Count the cost of choosing things the world doesn’t understand and deal with being called a fool.

It gets harder.

Saved at a young age, growing up in a home-schooled, conservative, Christian home doesn’t give someone much of an opportunity or desire for blatant sinning. Let me warn you. You think that being mean to your siblings, getting upset with your parents, or skipping out on chores is bad, wait until you get older and wrestle with your own sin nature a little more. It doesn’t get better. You don’t sin less. If you stick with this whole Christian thing, you will go from thinking you’ve got it all together to realizing just what a sick, selfish, God-hating, relationship destroying monster you really are. It’s not fun. It’s more fun, it’s easier, to think you have it all together and that you’ll just have it together more as you get older.

Count the cost.

The road you have chosen promises you a difficult marriage, a life of constant guarding of your heart and mind, working for others and thinking little to none of yourself, being on the outside of culture, being thought of as strange, in a cult, belittled, labeled as wasting your life, never well-known for your creativity, and living a life of insignificance. And that’s the easy Christian life, the ‘first-world’ Christian life. Some believers face lost jobs, rejection by this world AND by fellow believers, the suffering of their children, and loss of their own life.

Count the cost!

This isn’t a fun life. It’s hard, toilsome, sweaty, uncomfortable, and ugly.

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Count the cost, but also, start now. If I could instill one thing in your mind, it would be Start Now. Forgo waiting around to do all the ‘normal’ things and busy yourself with your church. You were just baptized and you took a vow of membership. Many of us looked to the day we would say our marriage vows, but did you pay attention to the vows you just made to the people sitting around you? Are you taking them seriously? If so, you need to spend less time thinking about Friday night, who’s cute, who’s annoying, that TV show you love, and what degree you want to get in college, and start thinking about serving your church family.

Help the older members. Do you have a driver’s license? Go to the elderly in your church and mow their lawn, clean their house, water their plants. Forgo your parties and serve your church.

Study theology. It’s not for stuffy old men who never had adventures. It’s the very truth of God to whom you just promised your life. Make church a priority. I can’t stress that enough. This will make you different in a weird way and possibly poor, but put your church before your schooling and your job. Don’t sacrifice your youth to establish your career at the detriment of your church. Put church first and the rest below that. It won’t win you any fame or many friends. It may lose you a high-paying job and really cool friends who are going places. It may mean you have to pass up on dreams because the people who are successful work on Sunday.

Sit down at the feet of Christians who are older than you, not at the feet of other teens. Your life seems ahead of you with so much time to be and do. It may or may not be.

Count the cost.

I didn’t do this. Most of my young single years were spent on me. Yes, I was growing and learning, but I applied myself to this world and little to my eternity. How I wish that I’d spent more time loving my church and less time seeking this world.

I wish I ‘d spent more time using my energy being helpful to my church family, being engaged there, memorizing Scripture and applying my mind humbly to theology, and less time at the mall, concerts, hanging out, or watching movies. I would have seemed strange to the world. I would have probably looked strange, but I still wish I’d been wiser with my time.

Count the cost.

In all this, I’m thankful for each horrendous trial the Lord brought in my life, for while I feel so much of my youth was wasted, the Lord used all of it. I’m humbly thankful for all He’s done in my life. But, they were hard-won and hard-fought lessons. They weren’t a walk through fields of flowers.

Count the cost.

Are you ready to learn what a sinner you are? Are you ready to be rejected by fellow ‘believers’ and labeled a cultist and possibly dangerous? Are you ready to lose your grip on this world? Are you ready to give up on your dreams of houses, children, a spouse, education, artistic expression, career, and more for Christ? Are you ready to be an old maid instead of living in this world if the Lord calls you to that? Are you willing to give up what makes you feel alive if it’s not serving your church? Are you willing to put your church before your family? Are you ready to stick with and love people who may annoy you? Are you ready to give the best that you are for something the world sees as a waste of time?

Being a Christian will not guarantee you get married or that your marriage will be happy. It won’t guarantee you have kids or that you get to keep them. It won’t guarantee your safety, health, or wealth.

Count the cost.

Being a Christian will guarantee you a hard life, filled with sin, surrounded by the least and weakest of people.

Count the cost. It is great though often unseen.

So, why do we do it, us older Christians? Because Christ saves sinners. It is all of grace and none of ourselves.

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." - 2 Timothy 2: 3-4

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” – 2 Timothy 2: 3-4


 

(Our church just baptized several of our young people. What a blessing to see them take communion for the first time, become members with us, and do this first act of public obedience. Yet, as a now older Christian, there is a part of me that wonders if we would take these first steps if we knew what was coming? I hope the spirit of this letter is understood. I in no way regret my walk with the Lord. It is my life. But, I do wish I had had the capacity to dedicate my life more fully to the Lord at a younger age. I wish I had loved my church then as I do now. He is sovereign over that and I trust Him with my rate of sanctification.)

Chuck

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Recently some people we thought were dear friends inflicted Chuck on us via massive arm-twisting and emotional evangelizing.  My husband and I are both busy people, we have a wonderful evening entertainment routine which includes Rhett and Link’s Good Mythical Morning, and we really didn’t have time for another TV Show.

They applied the pressure. (We’re so glad they did.)

Hesitantly, we started season one in early February.  And once you start…you’re doomed.  In about four weeks, we devoured all five seasons becoming Chuck-evangelists ourselves.

This show is the Get Smart of my generation.  It’s very specifically geared towards those of us fortunate enough to be born in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  It is brilliant.  It now occupies a slot in my Favorite TV Show List alongside Star Trek:NG, Firefly, Band of Brothers, Sherlock and 24.  Chuck is funny, cute, intense, heart-warming, relatively clean, and relatively moral.  The jokes are both nerdy and geeky, and cover everything from Court Jester, Terminator, Final Fantasy, Cobra, Batman, Tron and so much more.

The real beauty of this show, though, is not the jokes only my generation will get, it’s the characters.  The main characters all grow, but don’t change.  They all mature without losing the core that made you love them in the first place.  Each season they add important layers to the main characters that give them an unusual amount of depth for such a fun show.

Normally, I don’t enjoy shows with a lead female who can fight her way out of any situation, especially against bigger men.  I think it’s unrealistic to the point of being patronizing and insulting.  Strength is not always how much butt you can kick.  I really hate it, generally, when they pair a strong, cold female with a wimpy guy.  I just don’t find the ‘I can be as strong as him’ plot point satisfying.  Call me old school, but I enjoy the strong guy who saves the girl far more than the strong girl who saves the guy.  All this was true until I watched Chuck.  Chuck’s saving grace, his strength, is his moral compass.  He never strays from it.  He always does the right thing no matter what national secrets are on the line.  It’s why you love him.  It is why Sarah loves him.  And while Sarah is saving Chuck physically – she protects him – Chuck is saving her spiritually and emotionally.  Chuck gives her something to live for, not only because she loves him, but also because he’s good.  She wants to be a better person because she loves him.  They play this theme out dimensionally with the other characters.  The hardened John Casey is not immune to Chuck’s good nature.  I think, ultimately, Casey is my favorite character.  He starts out easily mistaken for cardboard.  He grunts, shoots, and has no emotion.  By the end of the show, he’s part of the family, willing to do anything for his team.  Casey becomes human because of Chuck.

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I loved Chuck’s use of marriage.  In many stories once you have the lead male and female marry, the spark is gone.  They fight.  They cheat and lie.  They lose everything about them that you once loved.  Not Chuck.  Chuck and Sarah’s marriage only strengthens their bond.  They have a greater depth of character as a unit and as individuals once they’re married.  I loved the power it gave their characters when they no longer protected their boyfriend or girlfriend but their husband or wife.  Even the side characters, Awesome and Ellie, have a good marriage.  Marriage is not treated as the end of romance, but as the beginning.

There are many heartwarming themes running through this show.   Loyalty to friends and family is at the forefront.  My husband and I have a close-knit family.  We spend a lot of time together.  We’re loyal to each other.  I love this show for honoring that.  It was also nice not to feel like the political punching bag.  If you’re conservative in any way, you know what I’m talking about.  Chuck, probably due to Adam Baldwin’s influence, makes conservative jokes that don’t poke fun at us as stupid but as strong.  Casey has a picture of Ronald Reagan in his house, Rush Limbaugh is mentioned, and guns are used regularly.  Chuck’s personal aversion to guns isn’t touted as the next step in human enlightenment, but only part of his character, making it less annoying.  This is one of the few shows where the wife chooses to be at home with her child.  How often does that happen?  Never.  But Ellie admits she wants to be with her daughter and Awesome sacrifices what he wants for her.  It’s great.

So, this show is one of the few shows that made me laugh like a geek, satisfied my courage/loyalty loves, and didn’t trample my conservative belief system.  On top of all that, it had layers of depth, twists and turns, intense moments, and I cried.  I cried like wake-up-the-next-day-with-sandpaper-eyes through the last three episodes.  As soon as it was over, I wanted to start it again.  I watched much of this show with the similar intensity as 24: just one more episode, one more.

This picture brings on the tears!

This picture brings on the tears.

Parental Warning:  I would rate Chuck PG-13.  It is a feel good, relatively clean show, without too much language or violence, but seduction is part of the spy game.  And as nice as it is to conservatives, it’s not based on firm Christian values.