Ever since I read The Cure: What If God Isn’t Who You Think He Is And Neither Are You five years ago, I’ve been able to understand the Gospel for what it really is. While God has continued to mature me into the man that He’s made me to be, the same has been true for my wife, Jan.
All too often, as married couples, we think that in order to have a good relationship with God we need to have a strong marriage, but we’ve got it backwards; the Gospel is about having a good relationship with God first that then impacts others. He wants us to pursue Him as individuals.
I spent a big portion of my life as a baseball player and a good while after focused on my performance—my life was based on that. I also expected my wife to perform in a certain way.
For many years, unbeknownst to me, I was having a damaging impact on Jan and who she saw herself to be. A lot of subtle things took place over the first thirty-three years of marriage that brought Jan to a critical place.
When I read The Cure, I realized that I wasn’t celebrating her for who she really is. I told her I was so very sorry, and now over the last five years, a new journey with my wife has begun.
But it hasn’t instantly eliminated the thirty-three years of baggage I placed on Jan.
A couple of months ago, we were talking a walk when she told me she felt that she had lost her voice. She hadn’t realized how much it had affected her until recently, but she said that I was a big part of why she felt like she had lost her voice as a person. She didn’t even know who she was in our relationship.
I was hit really hard that day. At first, I felt defensive but I caught myself, realizing that this wasn’t about me, it was about Jan. I was in a receptive place in my own journey and I really wanted to understand what I was doing to affect her in such a way that she didn’t know her identity. I knew that there could be real healing in this.
Jan began to see a Christian counselor, whose first question was, “When did you lose your voice?”
As she thought about it in that moment, she really couldn’t pinpoint it. A few nights later, she awakened and sensed God was explaining it to her. When she returned the following week to the counselor she answered. “It was the day I married Dave.”
When she told me, Jan was afraid of my reaction—in the past, I would have reacted in a very negative and defensive way. When I heard that losing her voice was related to our marriage I was hurt. I hurt for Jan because I was responsible—how could I do this to the woman God gifted me? How could I do this to the woman I love so much? Though the truth hurt, I was wide open to what God could do in our relationship.
Like all married couples, when Jan and I got married we each brought baggage with us. We all hear the beautiful words of wisdom from the Scripture about marriage and how to be a spouse, but what Jan and I had missed was the encouragement to focus first on our individual relationships with God.
It’s hard to come to the knowledge that my wife doesn’t know who she is, feeling like she doesn’t have a voice. Yes, she knows she is a child of God but she doesn’t understand how to live that out. All she knew since marriage was that life was about Dave. But to experience the freedom of being a child of God was something entirely different.
A friend of mine shared with me a conversation he recently had with another friend. His friend said to him, “The purpose behind the suffering you’re going through is to kick you into a new freedom from false definitions of who you are.”
As we mature in Christ, that really is what it’s all about: Being kicked into a new freedom from a false definition of who you really are. We have to die to ourselves before we can come into the new life we have in Christ.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” —Philippians 1:21
The maturing process in being a believer is dying to self and living in the Spirit, who will guide you to the life that you are intended to live.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” —Galatians 2:20
It’s been a hard journey. It’s been painful to watch Jan discover where she lost her voice. It’s been difficult for me to come face to face with how much I’ve hurt my wife. It’s hard to watch the tears that are shed as a result of this journey, but it’s also beautiful to know that she can be healed through these tears.
The only way we’ve been able to grow and heal through this journey is by recognizing who we are.
I’m a new creation; Jan is a new creation. And though we are made new in Christ, we still sin. We can identify the reality of who we are without denying that we have sinned and will again. We desire to move closer to the heart of Jesus, maturing into the man and woman God wants us to be. What motivates us and keeps us moving forward is knowing that God is doing something in each of our lives that’s amazing. And that is simply because He loves us. We remind ourselves daily of who we are in Christ.
By the power of God’s grace in me, I can hear and receive the hurts I’ve caused Jan. By the power of God’s grace in Jan, she can share with me these truths and find healing with me. It’s the power of God’s grace in us both that protects us from reacting in the flesh. Our relationship with Christ and with each other is worth fighting for, but our fight isn’t with each other. It’s me against my flesh, Jan against hers.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” —2 Corinthians 5:17
So where does this place Jan and me? By being honest with each other, the two of us have been humbled by the reality of what God is exposing in our story but we’re two very willing vessels who want, more than anything else, to draw closer to Jesus. And when we do that, we can draw closer to each other.
Our marriage has never been better; we love each other more now than we ever have, but it’s also been really hard to come to grips with the truth of these hurts. This has caused us to dive deeper in who we are and whose we are. We are children of God, made new through the grace and power of Jesus Christ.
To know how to love each other, we need to accept and know the love of God first.
“We love because he first loved us.” —1 John 4:19
This is not about our marriage, and it’s not about our love for one another, because that has always been strong, this is about what God is doing in our hearts as individuals. In the process, our marriage continues to grow stronger.
I am the ultimate people pleaser. Until now, I didn’t realize how co-dependent I am; I always want to make everyone happy. In order to do that, I became whatever they wanted me to be. Dave is a person who places high expectations on himself and others, and I wanted to meet all his expectations.
I never thought that who I was could be enough. So I ended up losing myself.
“I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” —Romans 7:21-23
I’ve been asking God to bring light and truth to me during this time of painful discovery. In doing so, God has been bringing people into my life who are leading me down the right path. One of them pointed out something crucial to me: I had put Dave on the throne of my life instead of God.
This was hard for me to come to grips with, but after accepting this truth I realized that I needed to find who I am in Christ; no one else.
The only way for any of us to find healing is to address what we’re struggling with. As I walk through this healing process, I’m learning to find the voice that God has blessed me with.
I have the Holy Spirit within me; He loves me and understands me. While I know He’s been there all along, I wasn’t allowing myself to experience Him fully. Finally experiencing His love and acceptance has allowed me to love and accept myself as God made me.
I’ve grown so much closer to God during this process. I’m only now experiencing the fullness of God’s grace and love. For the first time in a long time I feel hopeful instead of hopeless. I’m experiencing God rescuing me all over again.
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” —Romans 8:37-38
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