"I can't do this anymore!" I ranted and raved to my husband. Five different people, all who needed something from me. One of them was taking far more time and energy than I thought I had so that I didn't feel like I was doing a good job anywhere with anyone. I felt like a failure. And I had had enough.
But as usual, my husband didn't jump in to give me advice. He was silent for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, when he spoke he gently said, "Maybe this is exactly where God needs you to be, at the end of your rope, where you can do nothing else anymore. It is there that He can then start doing His real work in you."
Of course, I didn't really want to hear that. But deep down, I knew he was right. I just didn't want to hear it then.
This was certainly not what I dreamed of when we got married almost 19 years ago. As two idealistic, starry-eyed dreamers, we had our share of plans and hopes. I remember sitting down together one evening and writing out our 10-year goals and plans. It was just the two of us back then, and anything was possible. We plotted in our four children, evenly spaced, on our timeline, with a house, a trip to Hawaii, and a ministry job at appropriate intervals. Life was hopeful then.
Fast forward about 17 years. I found that sheet of paper while I was cleaning up last summer, and I called my husband over to look at it. We laughed uproariously at our naivete. Some things we did. But many more things we didn't. Life now doesn't look a bit like what we had thought it would look.
And that has been sad for me. I am now beginning to realize that my husband and I may never have those golden years of retirement together, just the two of us, roaming around Europe or running that retreat house we have been dreaming about for the past five years. At moments, I am downright resentful, at both God and my husband, for leading us into the life we are in now.
However, one quote from Paul Tripp's marriage book, What Did You Expect? really stood out to me at this time. In writing about one of his distraught newlywed clients, panicked at the thought that her marriage was over, he says, "But at this moment I think she is about to experience the good stuff that only honest marriage can experience. She is about to be taken beyond herself, and in being taken beyond herself she will abandon her dream, and in abandoning her dream she will pick up a better dream, and in picking up a better dream she will commit herself to a set of daily habits that will not only heal her marriage but make it something better than she ever conceived of. The problem is that none of this is what she expected."
Now that's a new idea.
I had written last month about grieving. But have I merely looked at it as a sacrifice that I must make as a martyr? What if God is requiring me, for both of us, to walk this road because He actually has something better for us? However, as long as I hold on to what I want, what is comfortable for me, what I think is best, I am unable to grab hold of what God has for me. And being God, that something is always better than what I think is the ultimate best.
And that's the rub. I want a wonderful marriage and family life like everyone else. But I want it my way. I am at a crossroads in my life right now. I can keep insisting on my way. Or I can willingly let it go, knowing that what feels like a sacrifice of tremendous proportions is a drop in the bucket compared to what God has in store for me and for us as a couple. Instead of losing out, we are trading up.
As Dr. Tripp writes, only when I am willing to let those old dreams die will I be free to walk into the new and far better plans He has for me, our marriage, and our family. Only then will I be free to learn new habits that will improve the tenor and the atmosphere of our home. Only then will I be an agent of good, of healing, and of inspiration to my children and others.
Do I believe that about the heart of God?
Lord, I confess that even though this makes sense, I'm not sure I'm 100% ready to walk through that door. And yet, I also know that what I have now is not ideal either. I can keep fighting you, or I can lay down my hopes and dreams at your feet so that my hands are free to receive all that You have in store for me, for my marriage, and for our family. The choice is mine. I choose You, Lord. When that temptation to indulge myself returns, please remind me to keep choosing You again and again. I thank You in advance for all that You have in store for us. In Jesus' name, Amen.