A Dangerous Fairytale for Future Wives

As little girls we might have pretended to be a damsel in distress — held hostage by a fire-breathing dragon, and saved by a knight in shining armor. We grow out of pretending, but as women we still tend to gravitate towards romantic books and movies.

The thing we love most about a fairytale romance is the happy ending. No matter what the ups and downs, the guy and girl always make it in the end and achieve romantic bliss. It’s so neat and clean, and perfect. Yet, the romance books and movies are just pretend. They deliver us a modern fairytale: the American Dream that comes with a successful career, two children (a boy and a girl, of course), a faithful and devoted husband, good health, and an abundance of wealth and material possessions.

But what happens when reality doesn’t line up with our hopes and dreams? What if the real story of our life and marriage disappoints us? Is our knight in shining armor who we thought he was when we married him? Can he save us from the dragon?

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Do Not Fear the Hard Things of Marriage

The picture in my head was clear, the image of a sheep being guided along from the rear by its shepherd. The sheep stayed the course on the straight path by the taps of the staff to its hindquarters. I heard the Lord say: “Do not fear, I will guide you and protect you.”

God was speaking to my heart as I confronted my fears of marriage. I was dating my husband at the time and fear tethered me back from going forward in the relationship. I was afraid of putting myself in a vulnerable position, because it could possibly lead to hurt. I wanted a life devoid of personal pain and heartache. I wanted to take my own hands and shelter my heart, instead of placing it into the hands of my Father…

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Adversity Can Drive Our Affections to Christ

I didn’t want to get married. But I knew I was turning away a gift from God. Fear was gripping my heart as I resisted the gift of marriage. I knew it would be hard work and I would get hurt in the process. I thought thinking about marriage in terms of a gift meant adopting a sentimental view: a dozen red roses, date nights, dinner and wine, romantic picnics, and late night pillow talk. Maybe the romanticized view of marriage would elevate my negativity? After five years in my marriage I’m just now learning what that gift actually means.

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Love & Personality

I like personality tests. My analytical mind loves examining and discerning people’s personalities; even my own. I recently took an online personality test and my result was the assertive and stubborn leader found in ESTJ.  One paragraph in my personality type description said this:

“However, ESTJs don’t work alone, and they expect their reliability and work ethic to be reciprocated – people with this personality type meet their promises, and if partners or subordinates jeopardize them through incompetence or laziness, or worse still, dishonesty, they do not hesitate to show their wrath.”

Unfortunately, my husband gets the brunt of my ESTJ personality combined with my sin. So, when he doesn’t do things right, according to my standard, I can be harsh and unloving (or as the paragraph above states, “show my wrath.”)

To Love and to Abide

The above paragraph resonated with me, but didn’t turn to conviction of sin until I was reading 1 John 4:7-21.

Liberally peppered throughout 1 John 3 and 4 are the words abide and abiding. These words are referring to the definition: to remain, continue, stay, dwell, reside, and to continue in a particular condition, attitude or relationship.

Another word that pops up in these two chapters is love. There are also phrases like ‘abiding in God’, ‘God abiding in us’, ‘abiding in love’, ‘loving God’, ‘God loving us’, ‘loving our brothers’, and ‘keeping God’s commandments.’ These individual themes tie together in these two chapters.

When we choose to believe Jesus is the Son of God then God abides in us. We in turn abide in God, and thereby prove God abides in us, by loving God. How do we love God? According to these two chapters, we love God by keeping his commandments and loving others. In fact, the essence of keeping his commandments is through loving God and others.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40

We Love Because He First Loved us

So, what does this have to do with a personality test and conviction of sin? The fact that I am not good at abiding in love. Abiding in love is harder than I think. It’s not a fuzzy emotional feeling; it’s obedience. It’s nailing my wants, needs, and desires to a tree, so I can be resurrected to a new life of selfless love. I’m the one who dies, so others can live. This is what it looks like to identify with Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:5.) When we abide in him we take on his identity.

For most of us it is easy to love strangers, because we never see them again. But it’s harder to love those closest to us; the ones we experience life with everyday. We are going to have some friction at times with either a spouse, child, roommate or parent, because we see and experience more of each other. When they do something we don’t like we try to conform them into what we want-change them.

Yet, the most loving thing I can do for my husband is ask God to change me. It’s easier asking God to change others rather than asking him to change me. I need to ask him to help me be loving and kind to my husband, and this is possible through God’s Spirit abiding in me. It’s possible, because God first loved me.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19