How My Marriage is Changing Me

Sharon Marriage, Sanctification 5 Comments

When Ike and I first got married, our personalities landed on very different ends of the spectrum between justice and mercy. While I have always been a “truth speaker”–meaning I see things in black and white, tend to be dogmatic, and speak my mind before pausing to listen–Ike is a peacemaker. He is very intuitive, has a great grasp on the complexities of a situation, and he understands people. Whereas I am quick to cast judgment, Ike is slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Early on in our relationship, this difference created problems. I accused Ike of failing to speak on matters of truth. I pushed him when I thought he needed to be pushed, and I became even angrier when he didn’t share my sentiments. “How does this not upset you?” I would ask. Of course, my criticism only provoked defensiveness in him, and the conversations unraveled from there.

This difference in our personalities has resulted in more arguments than any other issue in our marriage. My criticism of Ike’s graciousness betrayed a lack of trust in his judgment, and that was hurtful to him. My criticism was also ineffective. No matter how firmly I stated my case,  no matter how crystal clear I believed the truth to be, Ike was not to be moved by force. Rather than convince him, my strong-arm method neither changed his mind nor endeared me to him. In fact, it did just the opposite.

Which is why I slowly began to change. Because conviction and argumentation had proven to be fruitless methods of persuasion, I adjusted. I noticed the strengths in Ike’s personality, and how it won him the respect of everyone he knows. I noticed the manner in which Ike’s humility and gentleness draw humility and gentleness out of me, even when we’re arguing. I realized that, through his patience and his willingness to listen, Ike’s words have a kind of weight and authority that cannot be won with superior skills of reasoning or numerous educational degrees. He has all of those things, but it’s not the reason people respect and love him.

Meanwhile, I recognized the weaknesses in my justice-oriented thinking. It’s not that justice doesn’t have its place–Ike would tell you that God has used me to make him a bolder man–but truth without mercy is only a hammer.

I therefore worked to change my ways, and my personality eventually followed. If you ask anyone in my family today, they will tell you that I have changed. Because of the way God uses Ike, I am a different person now than when I got married.

This change has had repercussions outside our marriage as well. As I have changed, the way I do ministry has changed also. In the same way that I assaulted Ike with truth, I am tempted to do the same with Scripture. When someone’s life is out of line, my instinct is to call it like it is–SIN. I can get pretty judgmental pretty fast.

Fortunately my marriage to Ike has resulted in pastoral growth. I am learning to listen and to meet people where they’re at. I’m learning to be patient with others and journey with them as they grow, occasionally screw up, and grow some more. I am learning to be more humble, and to get out of the way to make room for God.

Before I met Ike, I desired a marriage in which my husband and I could serve God better together than apart. Years later, God has answered that prayer beyond what I could have imagined. I truly am a better disciple because of Ike. Working through our every day interactions in the privacy of our home, God is making us into better servants of the world outside.

How has your marriage changed you?

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Comments 5

  1. KT

    I love this! It’s exactly like the subtitle (or is it a tagline) of the book Sacred Marriage, “What if God designed marriage more to make you holy than to make you happy?” My marriage has made me a much better steward who is more careful with my money as I seek to honor my husband’s careful use of what God has given us. I am in a continual process to refine my harsh ways of communicating when my own will is crossed (but I’m nowhere near where I ought to be in that area and need lots and lots more grace). There’s so much to be learned in marriage, as in all of life, for our whole lives!

  2. Judy Blackburn

    Sharon,
    Anger has been referred to as the “moral emotion”.
    I have recently discovered that anger (always) comes from judgement. Your writing fits right into that “theory”.
    Thanks for encouraging me to “think” this morning.
    Judy

  3. Becca

    Compassion. My husband is quick to see the hurting, broken, afraid, and alone. He can do it within minutes of walking into a room. I am usually so focused on process and what needs to be done that I often don’t even see them. I’ve learned from him over the years though. More and more, I find myself stopping and looking beyond my own agenda to see the hurt and listen where I can. I also love that I see my young daughters (ages 7 and 3) doing the same. Both of them are very “in-tune” to the emotions of the people around them, and they will go to a person to offer comfort or ask if we can pray for them later.

  4. Jennifer Hanson

    Thank you for this – your first paragraph is my husband and I to a ‘t’! We’ve been married almost two years and are still learning how to better handle these differences in our personalities. I’m learning to focus on this things I need to change (not on what I wish he would change) and it is slowly, slowly making a difference. But man it is hard some days when I feel like I’m “losing” my personality or that I’m “changing for him”. Really though, I’m changing because I want to be a more godly wife and I’m “losing” the parts of my personality that do not bring glory to God. Having a better marriage because of it is only an secondary benefit.

  5. Tim

    What a great line you’ve got here, Sharon: “… truth without mercy is only a hammer.”* This is a lesson I would have liked to learn early on but, like you, the lesson came over time and partly through my spouse.

    My experience is slightly different from yours, but I think related closely enough to be somewhat comparable. Early on in our marriage (we just celebrated our 24th anniversary) I would watch my wife dealing with difficult people, toddlers to adults, and wonder how she could not only recognize their needs but also proceed to minister to them despite the fact that the person was being wilfully unpleasant, sometimes downright mean. At first I would say something about how the person did not deserve her help or that there were others who would appreciate it more, but she would reply that she was just doing what needed to be done.

    I wondered why she didn’t see the same problems in those people that I did. The more this happened and we would talk about it the more I realized that rather than have on a pair of blinders, my wife was quite aware – and sometimes painfully so – of the person’s shortcomings. But hers is a life of helps and compassion, and I found that I was sorely lacking in the same. You ask how my marriage has changed me? The characteristics of Christ that I have seen in my wife have been slowly developing in me as well. I’m nowhere near at her level, but I’m much better at it now than I was 24 years ago.

    Cheers,
    Tim

    *Mind if I borrow it sometime? I write Bible studies and use pithily cogent quotes to bring focus on a given point.

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