I do what a lot of people do when we get comfortable online: I over share. I’ve shared things I wish I could un-share, but as Vanessa noted in a recent post, the Internet is in perpetuity. So, those who have followed my comments or blogging for any length of time know a lot about me.
You know my real first name, what state I live in, how old I am, how many children I have, and how long I’ve been married. You know many of the circumstances surrounding my courtship and marriage. More than once, I have found myself in a most uncomfortable position because of the sharing of that experience.
Specifically, I have found myself asked to justify what is not Scripturally justifiable. I was recently questioned by Mensch about the circumstances surrounding my marriage. It’s not the first time (or the second, or even the third) that I’ve been confronted with it:
That sounds for all the world as though you claim that you were a believer, and simply ignored the injunction of God’s Word, because you wanted a particular man. Did you? With eyes wide open? Did you believe that you knew better than Paul? …That God would just “sort it out”, because hey, we’re talking about you and your happiness here, after all? So many women follow their tingles into bad relationships, and your paragraph appears to say, “Well, hey, it’s difficult, but God’ll fix it for ya” — that’s an absolutely deadly message
He is right. It is a deadly message and not at all one I intend to convey. I can see how it can be construed as such, because we are happily married, I hold my (now devout) husband in the highest regard, and truly cannot imagine what life might be like without him. None of that however, excuses ignoring God’s word in pursuit of my personal happiness and to the extent that I have given the impression that I think my story negates the truth of Scripture, I repent of it.
I would never advise any Christian to marry an unbeliever. We have counseled our daughters in line with the Word as well. Not only does Scripture admonish us against it, but it can be a hard row to hoe. Even marriage to an unbeliever with high standards of integrity comes with crisis of faith moments you have to deal with. As the wife, submission is not optional based on a husband’s piety. Being unequally yoked is not only objectively wrong, but it is hard, even when your faith is rather lukewarm, which is a very generous description of my Christian status at the time I married.
That said, what do you do when you’ve done what you’ve done? One of the things that prompted me to begin blogging was to encourage wives in difficult marriages that no matter how dark it looks, it can get brighter as you keep faith in God and obey his commands to submit to, respect, and serve your husband as unto the Lord.
It would have been easy for me to pretend that I married under ideal circumstances and that everything has worked out because we did everything right. None of you know me personally. At least, none of you did when I started blogging. It would have been easy to play “let’s pretend my life is perfect.”
In fact, for quite a stretch, I counseled and answered emails from hurting wives all while keeping silent about the child my husband already had when I married him, the fact that we had what used to be referred to as a shotgun wedding, and the very real difficulties that come when you start a marriage dragging that kind of baggage over the threshold.
I remained silent until I heard from a woman in 2008 who said to me, very directly:
“I am sicked and tired of listening to you go on about submission and sex and loving and serving. You are full of crap. If I was married to a man who was kind to me and treated me with respect and didn’t have sex with me as if just any warm body would do, I could be Pollyanna about marriage, too.”
I still have her email, because it was one of the few times someone online said something to me that gave me serious pause. Why wasn’t I up front about the fact that my marriage began less than ideally in every way? Well, partly because I was wary of conveying exactly the message Mr. Mensch confronted me with. The other part was that I built my early blog traffic with a readership of mommy bloggers, many of whom had testimonies of being Christians from an early age, married good Christian boys from their churches, and had earned the right to wear their white wedding gowns. Besides the fact that I’d been married longer, I was at a loss to see what they could possibly learn from me.
That woman’s email opened my eyes to the reality that the story with the most impact is the one I was holding back. Married women need to know that there is hope for their marriages, and that the standard for obedience isn’t a moving target that adjusts in relation to their husband’s level of religious devotion. I can help them with that. I have no idea what it is to be a devout virgin bride marrying a devout virgin groom. I can only share from what I know.
Being thankful for what we have is in no way an attempt to diminish the gravity of our past sins. To wallow in guilt for two decades rather than celebrate this precious gift of redemption and a loving and passionate marriage is to dishonor the work that God has done in me, in my husband, and in our family.