Ashley Hales continues the series How Do You Make Marriage Beautiful? Regarding marriage, we all need a little help. Having a satisfying, joyful marriage is hard work and sometimes we feel very lonely. I hope that as you read through the posts by these wonderful writers, you will not only feel less alone, you’ll actually feel encouraged.
Making Marriage Beautiful By Choosing to Be For the Other, by Ashley Hales
We were making our sixth home together — after first jobs, graduate school in another country, ministerial internships, and now, after two little babies came whooshing into our life. I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember shouting that echoed off of wood floors, how I didn’t have words for the tail spin of all that I thought life should be and what it clearly was. So instead we screamed. I didn’t have words for all the ways it was easier to blame him than to grow with him— for the many moves, for adventures that took at least two years to feel at home, for our growing family and the demands on me as a young mother.
It was easier to thrust his own issues on him, run and hide from mine, and make him be the scapegoat for all the angst I felt at the hard process of growing up.
No, I didn’t have the words to own up to my own birthright of sin. So we shouted. We slammed doors. We both were so alone.
Now, after more than half our lifetimes together and nearly two years into move number eight, we’ve added two more children, we’re planting a church back home in the suburbs, and I’m writing a book. We’re exhausted. But we’re not exhausted in a way that leads to shouting and door slamming. The change gradually seeped in through lots of prayer, counseling, and going through Sonship, an intensive discipleship program. As we do things we have no more energy to do on our own strength like writing books and church planting and raising four children — I’ve seen the sin patterns in my navel-gazing, my own fear of invisibility if I wasn’t out in the work force being productive, and how it’s easier to blame shift than to see the truth of your own heart.
We make our marriage beautiful because we choose, day by day, to be for each other.
My husband has been quick to forgive, quicker to say “I’m sorry,” quicker to listen and hear me even when I’ve dug my heels in. God has used that to soften my heart, to know ultimately that my husband is a safe place for me — a safe place to admit and own my human brokenness. We’ll mess things up. I’ll continue to assert my rightness and never let things go. He’ll get easily frustrated and I’ll bristle at his tone of voice. But we’re choosing to believe the other is a refuge even still. We practice being on the same team every single day.
Our marriage is being made beautiful as we admit our weakness.
As much as we talk about staying on the same team, each of us will want to bail at some point or blame the other; yet, we know we have a God who perfectly meets us, always tells the truth about us in ways we can hear, always calls us his beloved. When I’m listening to my husband share ways I’ve hurt him, instead of putting up walls and forcing my sin back at him (on the good days), I’m practicing prayer. When I feel weak and insecure, I pray: “I am a child of God. That is where my worth lies.” When I can feel in my bones that I’m loved because I’m God’s child, I can let down my defensive walls. I can see my husband’s hurt instead of my fear of being wrong. I can love my husband instead of only using him to love myself and buttress my own self-image. Love becomes more than happy feelings, or even contentment, or a list of rules to abide by for fear of messing up.
Only as we experience God’s love are we free to love our spouses sacrificially. Without this, I think we would’ve lived in companionable lanes — going the same direction but not connecting for fear of bumping and crashing into the other. Instead, we practice getting out of our own lanes and building something together. We’re building a beautiful marriage. I let him sleep in on his day off and get the children off to school. He watches the kids for me so I can get a day of writing in. We open up our home to neighbors and new families coming to our church. We play soccer in the alleyway with our kids, go on walks, and have family movie nights even when we’re tired and want to withdraw. This is the hard and holy work of making marriage beautiful. We have a God who is our safe place. As we lean into who he says we are, we can be for our spouse a refuge and a haven for all that makes us world-weary. That, my friends, is beautiful.
Ashley Hales is a Ph.D., mother to four, and pastor’s wife in southern California. She’s writing her first book, Finding Holy in the Suburbs, with InterVarsity Press. Connect with Ashley at aahales.com and get her “10 Ways to Chase Beauty and Practice Sustained Attention” when you subscribe.
You can read other posts on this topic by scrolling through my site. If you want to check out the first chapter of Making Marriage Beautiful, you can find it here. Each month, I give away at least one book to someone who subscribes to my site or newsletter. Thanks for stopping by.