If Only

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It was one of our first Christmases together. As we sat around our humble tree, my husband handed me a little package. He smiled with satisfaction as I opened it, and I was filled with anticipation as to what it might be.  

A hair drain.

No joke. A stainless steel, mesh hair drain to catch my hair in the bathtub so it wouldn’t clog the pipes. From the look on his face I could tell he was so delighted with his creativity. Are you kidding me? And then I opened up a pair of microwavable warming socks, filled with some kind of ‘special’ gravel rocks. After heating them up in the microwave, you slide the socks on your feet, and it’s supposed to feel good. What???!!!!  

On the outside, I fumbled for some kind of fake thank you. On the inside, I was fuming - pretty darn certain that no other wife on the planet had received either of those from her husband for Christmas. I can still remember that bright Christmas morning, when the dark lie of comparison reared its ugly head in my marriage; and the joy in my heart gave way to disappointment and discontentment.

It happens to every one of us, when we start the game of comparison - not just with ourselves - but our husbands too.
When the perfect man we’ve enthroned as the king of our heart comes falling off his pedestal - the one we’ve so unfairly placed him on.
When the rose-colored glasses come off, and we start that list of secret wishes in our head…

If only he were...
If only he did...
If only he didn’t do...
If only he could just be like…
If only...

      …then I’d be happy; then we’d have a happy marriage; and a happy life.   

Yikes. That’s a recipe for disaster. Setting my husband up as the keeper of my happiness, and expecting him to be perfect. No man can be that. No earthly man that is.  How desperately I needed to place the Lord on the throne of my heart, and let Him show me the unique and incredible gift He’s given to me in my husband.

It took too many years for me to figure that out - too many Christmases of opening less than perfect gifts - to realize the real secret wish in my head. If only he was someone he WASN’T.

I had no idea in those early years of our marriage how painful it was for Kurt to shop for me; and how stressed out he got every time Christmas rolled around. I couldn’t see it, because I LOVED to shop for him! I am a gift-giver. Gift ideas for Kurt popped into my head months before Christmas. He was still scrambling for me on Christmas Eve.  And come Christmas morning, there I was, comparing what he gave me to what I gave him; and what my friends got from their husbands.  But Kurt isn’t me, and he isn’t married to any of my friends. (I know, big revelation.) So WHY did I expect him to be like me? Or those other guys?

I found my answer when my oldest son was in middle school. Ironically, I didn’t recognize it in myself as a wife until I saw it in myself as a mom.  

In the MPC 101 video “Discovering our Gifts”, I share about a radically life-changing realization I made in my life as a ‘recovering perfectionist’ mom.

“Sometimes we focus so much on who our kids aren’t, we forget who they are.”  

Sad truth is, we do this with ourselves and our husbands too.  And we miss out on the pure gift of who they are; who God created them to be - apart from me, and who I think they should be. This realization was a true turning point for me - as a mother, a wife, and a daughter of God.  

I was expecting Kurt to be someone he wasn’t; and failing to see the beautiful gift of who he was.

Have you ever noticed what happens to you when your mind spirals into the ‘if onlys’?  I know exactly what happens to me. I become irritable, restless and discontent. I walk around in a state of angst.

I heard a quote once that really struck me, but I have never been able to find the source.

“Contentment is the fruit of gratitude.”

Wow. If that is true, then the converse must also be true: discontentment is the fruit of ingratitude.  Maybe if I developed a spirit of gratitude, I would find more contentment.

When I began to look at my husband through the lens of gratitude, something changed. As I took the time to reflect on who he is - his unique gifts, strengths and virtues - and then thank God for who HE created my husband to be, I experienced a newfound peace and joy.  This spirit of gratitude didn’t just change the way I looked at him, it changed the way I thought about him, spoke to him, and related to him.  It changed me. The fruit of gratitude was more than contentment - it was freedom.

Kurt Klement isn’t a gift giver, at least not the ‘tie it up in a bow’ kind of gift. It’s just not who he is, and I’m totally okay with that. Because that man gives me so many other countless gifts - like for starters, the most amazing cup of craft coffee every morning of my life!  Sure, I can tell you who Kurt isn’t, because he’s far from perfect. But sisters, I can tell you who that man is...  he’s so much more than the sum of his strengths and gifts. He’s a beloved son of God, His chosen masterpiece, loved totally and unconditionally, and designed for a purpose.  

I know who my husband is, and I know who he’s not. And I have learned to love them both. Yes, you read that correctly. I love my husband’s strengths, but I have learned to love his weaknesses too.  

Friends, over the years I’ve discovered that my ‘if only’ needs to change - from the critique in my head to a cry from my heart. Instead of wanting to change my husband, I need to ask the Lord to change me.  

Oh Lord,
If only I can see him as You see him.
If only I can love him as You love him.
If only I can forgive him as You forgive him.
If only…

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Instead of anticipating what our husbands might give to us - let’s ask the Lord, the true King of our heart, to give us a gift that cannot be purchased… a gift that only He can give - the eyes to see, the heart to love, and the mercy to forgive.

And this Valentine’s Day, let’s give our husbands a gift that will not disappoint - the gift of a grateful heart. Let’s cultivate that spirit of gratitude by filling out his page and thanking God for the unique man He has created our husbands to be.

Lord Jesus, I will not stop giving thanks for my husband
and remembering him
in my prayers. (Eph. 1:16)
I entrust him to you, Lord. Through your grace, may he become the man
You have created him to be; nothing more, and nothing less.