This past weekend, my husband and I had the opportunity to work with some young couples from our church who were either contemplating marriage or were already engaged. Wow! We are exhausted, but it was an amazing weekend as God is continuing to unfold His dreams and plans for our marriage. As we watched these young couples, we reflected on how far the Lord has taken us. Not only had we changed, but our marriage changed as well. When we first got married, I thought my husband was perfect (ha!). But as time passed, I also began to realize that there were things about Daniel that also bugged me. As we passed our years together, I began to complain, make snide comments or just be plain nasty about those areas. The more that I did so, the more they seemed to grow until that was all I could see. No longer did I see the man I married.
Last year, the Lord has been teaching me that if I want my marriage to keep moving forward, I needed to give my husband the gift of acceptance. Until I am willing to accept the whole package that is my husband, we will not be able to move forward in our marriage. So, how do I do that?
1. Accept where he has been.
There are things in our husbands' pasts, before he met us, that have shaped and molded him into the person he is today--a non-Christian upbringing, poor choices, previous relationships. Whatever they are, it is likely that our husbands, like us, have some "baggage" that he has brought into our relationship. These things may have influenced him in ways that are beyond our control.
It does no good for us to dwell on these things. They are in the past. What we can do, however, is to pray that the Lord will help us to accept the consequences of those past experiences with grace and patience, and then, to...
2. Accept him where he is at.
Some women set out to marry a man to "transform" him, to save him for his own wretchedness. Others of us are not so blatant in our expectations, but deep inside that is our real motive. After all, why do we nag, complain, or give him the guilt trip? Is it not because we hope that by doing so, we can break him down so he will give in and change to our liking? (Just keeping it real here.) These things usually don't work, and if they do, the results are usually short-lived.
To clarify, acceptance doesn't mean condoning poor choices or overlooking sin. But it also understands that we are not the change agents in our husbands' lives. Only God can effect the change that we long to see.
When we whine or nag, we are attempting to play God. It's a type of indirect manipulation. On the other hand, prayer is putting the results in the hands of God. It is acknowledging that God knows my husband better than I do and He knows how to get through to him. As I pray, the Lord either changes him by convicting his heart or giving him the motivation he needs or He changes me, by helping me to accept my husband or giving me words or guiding my actions so that I can encourage him to change in the desired direction.
One of the things I wished my husband did was lead our family and relationship spiritually. While desire spiritual leadership is a good thing, I was still discontent with his lack of leadership. As the Lord showed me that leadership is developed over time and nurtured by encouragement, He helped me to take notice of the ways my husband was leading, as well as deal with my expectations of what a leader should look like. This was a big step for me.
3. Accept who he is becoming.
Like us, our husbands are also on a journey. Even as God was dealing with me, he was dealing with my husband as well. He was used to letting me take the lead. As God was challenging that old way of doing things, and as he began to assert his leadership, even though it was what I wanted, you can imagine why there would be conflict. For someone who was used to getting her own way, to have someone step up and lead, even if it is under God's directive, is not going to be taken well. Frankly, I didn't like it at all.
As God worked on my husband, I forgot that even though the desired change is good, it will also require adjusting to that change, especially if we are breaking old habits. This is true whether your husband is a non-believer who becomes a Christian or a believer who is growing into Christlikeness. When we give him the gift of acceptance, it is also a gift of faith and trust in the work of God.
We are told to "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." (Rom. 15:7) Again, this is not about sin that is damaging your relationship. Whether it be issues in the past, present or future, we can accept our husbands where they are while at the same time, trusting God for where He is taking them.