Eleven days ago, Nathan and I celebrated our three-year (three years!) anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, I read back in my journal to three summers ago when we were brand-newlyweds. Three years is a long time; an eighth of my lifetime. And yet, in many ways my life has come full-circle to the way it was back then. Once again I am in-between jobs. Once again we are searching for a church home. Again I find myself with long hours to fill between waking and sleeping. Again our future is uncertain; we have no roots, we are not grounded.
Those early days as a wife were intense. Days of worrying, days of wondering:
I gained four pounds since our honeymoon! Three months and I haven't found a job. What am I supposed to do with my life? How do I maintain the independent qualities that Nathan loves, yet submit to his leadership? How do I take on my husband's preferences, habits and dreams without losing my individuality? What if I'm not enough? What if I really can't do this whole marriage thing? HOW do I love someone else more than myself, all day every day??
These thoughts and fears flowed freely in the summer of 2010, filling page after page of my journal. Reading back now, I wish I could have a conversation with my newlywed self. Tell myself to relax. It takes time, but marriage works itself out. Routines are established, personalities explored and understood, new habits evolve, and love becomes more richly seasoned. If God is the center of a relationship, and pleasing Him is the highest aim of husband and wife, conflict and selfishness - though a lifelong struggle - cannot thrive. And, as Ecclesiastes states, two are better than one. Countless times Nathan has lifted my gaze from the depths of self-pity to the blessings I've been given. So often he has deflected my accusations leveled at him to remind me that we are on the same team. Together we have learned the truth that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
In many ways, marriage and relocation across the country have felt like a full-blown identity crisis. Who I thought I was is morphing into someone entirely different and yet, deep down, the same. It's uncomfortable. It can be scary. It has definitely revealed where my previous identity was rooted in the wrong things. Yet, through all the change and uncertainty, I've learned several invaluable truths that I wouldn't trade for anything:
1. 99% of God's will for me is revealed in Scripture. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what my job is or where we live or go to church or how many kids we have. Circumstances fluctuate. Change is constant. Life is immensely unpredictable. And yet, God's Word is my rock. No matter what storms we face, I am called to live in a way that honors and glorifies my Savior and puts others first. My feelings, my mood and my situation can never excuse me from obeying God. And I firmly believe that "finding God's will" in those big life decisions is of secondary importance to living every moment of every day in step with His Spirit. My greatest priority in this season of uncertainty needs to be living each day in accordance to what I already KNOW God's will for me is, and trusting Him to lead us through the rest.
2. I am not alone! No matter where I go or what I do, it's not just about me anymore. I have a husband who loves, supports and cheers for me in the smallest things like learning a song on the piano, taking a good picture or making his favorite meal. My life goal is no longer about being the best at my job or writing the next hit novel or impressing anyone else with my accomplishments. I have married a man and taken on his name and his identity. It's not about me. It's about us. His successes are my successes. Whatever God calls us to, we will accomplish together. This goes against the grain of an individualistic, independent culture, but I cannot survive long in a universe where I am at the center, nor would I want to.
These past three years Nathan and I have grown in the art of loving well. The childhood mantra of "God first, others second, me third" is even more true today than it was then. C.S. Lewis defines true humility not as thinking less of myself, but as not thinking of myself at all. Those rare moments when I am caught up in complete joy - worshipping God or marveling at His creation of another human being - and my self ceases to exist, even for seconds, are the definition of pure and perfect happiness. In heaven my brain will not be running a constant background dialogue about how everything going on around me effects me, or how I feel about it. Every facet of my being will being will be caught up in eternal, blissful worship. This doesn't mean that I'm seeking to detach myself from my personality now. As Lewis explains, when I am fully God's, I will be more myself than ever - who He created me to be!
Thinking back on these three years of change, of being stretched and torn away from my comfort zone with nothing concrete about our future, I wouldn't trade a minute of it for stability. There is no growth in ease. In my selfish heart I so often equate God's will with what I want (i.e. not being challenged). I am so thankful that He loves me too much to let me have my own way, "for this light momentary affliction is preparing us for a weight of glory beyond all comparison." - 2 Cor. 4:17
Nate, thanks for being with me on this journey. It's been a crazy ride, and there's no one I'd want beside me but you. Here's to many more years of unpredictability!