I met my husband in a bar after work. His tie loosened, rocking some trendy aviator sunglasses, there was no way not to notice him. Oh, and that smile and those dimples. Wait. Was he wearing Old Navy flip flops with dress slacks?!
Yes. Yes, he was. And I married that man a year later--Old Navy flip flops and all!
Ok, so the bar we met in was actually at a church gathering called Theology on Tap. (and BTW this was not a singles group!) But depending on who’s asking, I might say I met Chris in a bar, or through church... both of which are true!
That first meeting in the bar was on August 12, 2008, and we were married a year later on August 8, 2009. Chris was my first boyfriend and my first love. Within the first two months of dating him, I knew I would spend the rest of my life with this man, and I am not mushy gushy or overly romantic. I just knew where I was in my life, I knew where Chris was, and I had faith in Who God was.
In our one year of courtship, we lived 15 miles apart. I was finishing my master’s degree, Chris was busy working at his brand new job, and we bought our first home-- all while we were preparing for marriage, visiting relatives, and planning our wedding! We also attended 11 weddings together during that year. Life was busy and full and fun! We couldn’t wait to be married and start our life together.
After our wedding and honeymoon, we arrived home to our brand new house. It was filled from floor to ceiling with moving boxes and unopened wedding presents. And within 12 hours of our homecoming, my husband put on his suit and grabbed his work bag. I sat on the floor in the middle of our big empty living room just staring at him as he left with a “see you later, babe.”
The loneliness was deafening.
Where do I begin? What am I doing? (I had just finished my Master’s program and hadn’t found a job yet) Do I open these presents by myself? Am I supposed to have dinner prepared when he gets home? How do we do this living together thing?
This was how the first two weeks of marriage looked for us. I cried every day, because every day he left for a ten to twelve hour work day. Within this same time we learned that we were going to have a baby. I was an emotional wreck.
When I look back at that sweet couple, they had no clue what they were doing--and they certainly had no idea what was coming. None of us do. Marriage is the hardest thing I have ever experienced… and then I had a baby! Ok, nevermind; in fact, LOVE is the hardest thing I have ever experienced--the hardest thing I’ve ever had to live out.
One year into our marriage, I remember this constant nagging that would keep me up at night. Why do I feel so alone? Even with my husband sleeping next to me in our cozy bed, and our sweet baby boy sleeping peacefully down the hall in his crib, I was overcome with anxiety. There was a gnawing realization that I had lost my identity. I struggled with my purpose, and I was wrestling for Chris’ attention-- so jealous that he got to leave for work everyday. I didn’t really fit in my own skin, and I didn’t really fit in my jeans, either. I’m failing. We’re failing. This cannot possibly be what marriage is supposed to be like! I heard these words on repeat in my head, and no amount of reassurance from Chris or others could convince me otherwise.
Truth is I have never felt so lonely as I did in those first few years of marriage. How ironic that you think you finally have someone in your life yet it can still feel so empty. On the outside everything looked perfect. We were a seemingly happy young married couple with a growing family. But on the inside, a storm was brewing in our marriage.
It was during a very intense *ahem* discussion, that Chris laid it out there for me. Some painful truth had to be brought to light. He looked into my eyes and said, “Stef, you have to stop finding all your worth, your joy, and your happiness in me!”
Those words hurt. They hurt then, and it still stings typing these words now. Not because my husband spoke them, but because they were true. My everything was wrapped up in my husband and our babies. I set arbitrary heights for Chris and for myself to leap over, and when we missed them I fell apart. I know I’ve shared this before that my heart aches for that young wife and mom. She thought she knew where her true hope rested, but really she was resting it all on her husband’s shoulders.
Thankfully, we are eight years on this side of that season in our marriage. God has been so faithful and so merciful to us. He knew Chris and I had so much to learn when we got married, and so many areas we needed to grow. We had walls to tear down individually and together that needed to be rebuilt with Christ as our foundation and also woven in every detail--in every trial, in every joy, and every heartbreak.
I was lonely in those early years of marriage, because I was relying so much on my own abilities. I was expecting the impossible from Chris, and I did not know how to fully rest in the Lord. I realize now how unfair it was for me to expect Chris to complete me, to fulfill all my wants and desires, to be the reason for my joys, and the blame for my sorrows.
I had to arrive at a place where my identity was found in One Source. I had to accept that Chris was human and his love for me, although the strongest I had ever known, was still only a fraction of the love my True Love had for me. I was, I am, Christ’s beloved. I had to arrive at this point in order to experience the fullness of my marriage. Once I yielded to the truth that my worth could only be found in Christ, the graces that flowed into our marriage were life-changing.
You, Lord. YOU are where my worth lies. Your grace is sufficient.
In the spirit of vulnerability, this transformation within me and my marriage did not come easily. Each year I grew closer to Him as the source of my everything and I loosened my grip on Chris. God has gently led us to where we are today. During those transformative years I also began seeing a phenomenal counselor who saw me individually, and also us as a couple. I was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety after my fourth baby, so the introduction to medication helped bring added healing. In fact, I joke that one of the greatest blessings in our marriage was the gift of anti-anxiety medication.
I no longer feel alone. I feel whole.
Here’s what I’m getting at, friends. We have journeyed with you for almost two months through the MPC. We have spent a great deal of our web presence focusing on the power of praying for ourselves; the power of knowing who and whose we are; and being set free from the lies that we tell ourselves that try to separate us from the love of Christ. Now we’re shifting our focus to our spouse, because the closest person to us is our husband. When we got married, two became one. So it’s time to turn our prayer pages and our attention to this man we’ve been given to call our own. Wherever he is, whoever he is, whatever he is doing...that husband of yours needs you right now. We’re going to pray for him.
Let’s do this.