Three years ago, I posted "6 Ways to Know if He's Worth It." I posted it just after I had met the man I would eventually marry, even though I had no clue at the time. My future still seemed very single to me.
Now, with almost two years of marriage to Paul, I want to reprise this discussion, because I've learned a few things about healthy marriage--nuances that I wouldn't have even known to pray for in my future husband, that I am now so grateful God knew I needed.
1. He should trust your judgment.
One day, during the time when Paul and I were dating, my car broke down. After using his entire lunch break to try to help me diagnose the problem, we determined that it was beyond his skill to repair. I felt overwhelmed, because I needed that car repaired immediately and I didn't know anything about cars. Paul sent me information on my various options, but finished with these words:
"I trust your judgment."
The whole world stopped for me in that one moment. I burst into tears. Those words affirmed me in ways I didn't know I longed to be affirmed.
"But I don't trust myself!" I blurted out. "What if I make a mistake?"
"Mistakes are human. So what? I'll still trust your judgment."
Years later, as husband and wife, I made a few mistakes in judgment and our subsequent conversation about it reaffirmed that he would continue to trust me and encourage me to make decisions on my own. Since, as keeper of the home, I make many such decisions constantly, his support means the world to me and helps me to be more confident in my role.
One woman described it to me this way: "My former suitor wanted to protect and love me, but he did so as though I were a child who needed to be cared for. My current suitor also wants to protect and love me, but he sees me as an adult woman, an individual to be respected and supported."
2. He should nourish your gifts.
I always thought that, as a wife, I would be an accessory to my husband's vision and life goals. My gifts were to be in support of his. I wouldn't have put it in those words and probably would have said the opposite, but that was my underlying assumption all through my single years.
Paul totally turned my expectation upside down. He didn't just accept my gifts and try to fit them into his own agenda. He was excited about them. He wanted me to grow them, for my own sake, and he offered his time and opinion to help me wrestle through the obstacles.
Today, Paul sees me and my gifts as distinct from himself and his gifts. He sees me as more than the keeper of his home and the bearer and raiser of his children. He sees me as a unique daughter of God whose specific gifts should be nourished in whatever way he can offer. In fact, in an exact reversal of my earlier expectations, he sees himself as the primary supporter of my gifts, as part of his responsibility to nourish and care for his wife, as per Ephesians 5:25-30.
Because of this, I have grown not only in confidence, but in joy. And as my gifts have grown, they have become powerful supporters of his gifts.
3. His vision should align with yours.
"I can't marry just anyone," I overheard Paul comment to his friend. "I am training to be a pastor someday. That is a specific calling with certain hardships and requirements attached to it. It's not enough for me to marry a woman who supports me but sees ministry as 'my thing.' She needs to be just as passionate about ministry as I am. Otherwise, she will see the ministry as competition, instead of as a joyful calling."
When I heard those words, I thought, "Welp, that disqualifies me. I feel so unqualified to be an example for other women in the church."
Oh, how the Lord laughs! The truth is, I love ministry. I always have. People had even told me since I was a teenager that I'd make a great pastor's wife. And even though I am so aware of my faults and failures, it's true that there are few things I love more than having coffee with another woman and talking about life, about God's goodness, about how her gifts can grow within the church.
At the right time in Paul's and my relationship, the Lord showed me that the things I already loved to do--and was already doing on my own--were the very things that Paul also was called to do. It just made sense to do them together, as husband and wife. I can't explain how wonderful it is to compare notes on our separate men's and women's ministries (and the third co-ed ministry we facilitate together), and see the hand of God weaving a pattern through all of it. We love being partners in this adventure!
4. He should be incredibly patient.
A man may suffer through some hardships with determined heroism. But when the same frustrating issues return day after day, when things go wrong at the most inconvenient time, when his own plans and desires are constantly put on the back burner to deal with more immediate needs, he runs out of "hero potion." It is in that moment when his true self is revealed.
Paul never raises his voice to me. He never blames me, even if I am 100% the source of his inconvenience. Most importantly, he is patient with me even when I make stupid judgments that he takes the fall for. Miscommunications on my end have caused him trouble and embarrassment at times. Instead of chaining me to the blame, he talks about it with me. We work it out. We come out of that experience stronger, with renewed respect and trust.
I remember I once made a hurtful comment to Paul. He paused, then asked, "Do you want to try that again? When you say that, it makes me think this." I had had no idea that was how my words had been interpreted--I wasn't intentionally trying to be hurtful--and his patience allowed me to apologize and turn my thoughtlessness into an opportunity to reaffirm my respect and love for him.
"How are you so patient?" I ask sometimes.
He always answers, "Because the Lord has been incredibly gracious with me. How can I not give to others a tiny portion of that same grace?"
5. His example should ignite your passion for Christ.
When Paul and I began to date intentionally, I feared that this would not lead to marriage. What if I had fallen in love with a man that I could never marry? What if he decided I wasn't the woman for him? What if...? I went through a period of several weeks in which every interaction with Paul was overshadowed by the paralyzing fear of What If.
At last, through prayer and meditation on God's Word, I saw the truth. Knowing Paul had made me long for Christ in a way that I had never longed for him before. It wasn't just that I was riding on the coattails of Paul's personal holiness. No, I was genuinely inspired and provoked to greater joy in Christ because of the passion in Paul's life.
If--God forbid!--Paul and I never got married, I would still retain that passion and delight in my Father and Savior. Perhaps Paul was only meant to be in my life for a season, to spur me to greater pursuit of God. Perhaps God meant us to be together for a lifetime and grow together in holiness. Either way, I had only gained through my relationship with Paul.
This is the sort of influence that a man should have on those around him, the influence of greater pursuit, purpose, and passion in relationship with God. This is a man who is worth it.
6. He should give you back to God.
"What are you afraid of?" our pastor asked Paul, the night the elders came to pray for my seizures.
Paul was quiet before answering and when the answer came, it seemed like it had been ripped from his heart. "I'm afraid God will take her home early."
I had not realized that my constant seizures and the round-the-clock care had created this fear in him. We had only been married for a few months and we were facing hardships that made seasoned spouses shake their heads. He was barely a husband and now he faced what it might mean to lose his wife.
Husbands are wired to protect and sometimes, when husbands can't protect, can't control the situation, it drives them into bitterness and anger. They question God's goodness. Sometimes they lash out at the wives and children they want to help. A man who will not trust God with his wife's life and well-being is a man who will drive a wedge between himself and the very wife he wants to protect.
But Paul trusts God. He patiently supports me and affirms me through times when my human frailty frightens both of us. Paul gives me back to God, over and over, praying for wisdom to know how to help me, but accepting that my place as the Lord's daughter takes precedence over my place as Paul's wife. He releases control over the situation, banishes the anger produced by his helplessness, and simply does what he can to affirm me.
Whether we have two years or sixty years together, we are confident in the Lord's goodness. We continually release our claim on one another, reaffirming God's place as King of our lives. We do the same with our children. This past July, we grieved the miscarriage of our son, but there was no sense of being cheated by God or robbed of our rights as parents. We had been loaned this precious child and, when his life was reclaimed by his Maker, we thanked the Lord for the privilege of being his parents. We will have to give our children to God every day, whether they survive to birth or not. They are not ours.
A man who trusts God with his wife is a man who is worth it.
Your turn: What would you add to this list?
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.