One of things that caused me to fall in love with Chad was his words. He has written, sung, and spoken all kinds of words to me and about me over the years. I remember all the late nights, sitting up with my dial-up internet, waiting for his words to mysteriously find their way to me across the interweb. Love was new. Heck, the internet was new. And, I could have lived on one sweet word from him for weeks.
But, I didn’t have to. He was an extremely prolific communicator, and I loved every little syllable of his sweet letters, his love songs, his late night phone calls that he couldn’t really afford because long distance used to be a thing.
After two years of complete infatuation and a passionate cross-country romance, we were married. Suddenly, we lived not only in the same state, but in the same city. In the same house, even. There wasn’t an abrupt end to the sweet words. But, something new had been introduced into our lovey-dovey existence: criticism. Before marriage, we seemed to be blind to each other’s faults. We glossed over every imperfection and excused away the little annoyances that might have otherwise caused an issue. But, now we were sharing life. Quarters were close. The air conditioning didn’t really work. The house was old and creaky and quite scary. And, we were quick to point out each other’s flaws.
I had spent our two years of dating allowing Chad’s overblown ideas of me define who I was. I had gradually and rather innocently let his opinions about me (which were much too generous in so many ways) tell me who I was. His words had given me a great sense of confidence, of worth, of belonging. In fact, I had let his words become more important to me than God’s word. I believed it when I read in the Psalm “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” yet I believed it more when Chad said so. Chad told me that I was special, that I was worth sacrificing for, that I was love-able and precious. And, that mattered more to me than anything that God had said about me. It was okay, right, since they were saying basically the same things?
The trouble came when Chad and I had been married long enough for the criticism to begin. It didn’t happen often, and it wasn’t harshly stated, but little by little we both began to see that the perfection we saw in each other while dating was wearing away. Beneath that best-foot-forward, we learned, were just two people, as imperfect as anyone else. And, because I had placed Chad’s words on such an impossibly high pedestal, when any kind of criticism came, it cut me to my core.
I had lived by his compliments and praise, and I was dying by his criticism, however slight.
I had gotten my God focus all out of whack, and I had allowed Chad’s thoughts, ideas, and opinions about me to take precedence over God’s. I had forgotten that my sense of worth should never, ever be dependent on another flawed human being, but on the God of the Universe, my Savior, my Creator. He tells me that I am loved, created for a purpose, intricately designed and deeply known. He tells me that He knows everything about me–even my thoughts that are too awful to utter aloud, and that He loves me anyway.
It was unfair and spiritually damaging for me to lay in Chad’s lap all of the things that only God can give me. Chad can help guide me to be more Christ-like, he can encourage my gifts, he can direct me toward better things and the best things. He can help me know God better. But, he can’t be my sole source of confidence, strength, worthiness, and love. If I try to force him into that role, it leads to spiritual devastation and a marriage that is ruled by the fear of rejection.
By the time we had been married for a few years, I had begun to learn what it means to be well loved by your husband. It means words of all kinds: some sweet and generous, some honest and painful. Chad has taught me a lot about myself over the years, and I’m so grateful for a husband who loves me enough to encourage me to grow, and who loves me enough to be blind to some of my most glaring faults. True love is such a great, life-giving blessing. But, I try from day to day to remember that as much as I love or hate Chad’s words, none should mean more to me or speak louder to me than the words of Jesus Christ. Jesus says I am purified, adored, imperfect, but being perfected. And, He loves me like no other. I owe Him my greatest attention and my deepest heart connection.
When I have my spiritual priorities in order, then I can be a wife who is confident in her true value, not one desperately looking to her husband to make her feel worthy or loved. It’s exhausting to be wrecked by every opinion that your husband hints at. Jesus said that if we come to Him when we’re weary and burdened, He will give us rest. When I rest in Him and His unmatched love, then I find that I can rest comfortably in the amazing marriage that He has blessed me with. I can focus on loving Chad and enjoy being loved by him, knowing that neither of us is perfect, and that’s really okay. Because we have Jesus, and He is always, always making everything new.