How A Marriage Fail Helped Me Stop Lying To Myself
By: Ted Harro
My Newlywed Marriage Fail
During our first few months of marriage, Gretchen and I decided to take a long weekend with another young couple. It was President’s Day weekend and we headed to a cabin in the northwoods of Wisconsin for some winter fun.
The conference center where we stayed had groomed cross-country ski trails and equipment we could borrow, so we decided to go out skiing in the woods. It was a perfect ski day, with snow gently falling through the frosted forest.
I had grown up cross-country skiing since I was able to walk. Gretchen grew up in Kansas City where snow was less common. This was her first time on skis.
If you’ve never cross-country skied before, you may not know how deceptively challenging it is. It looks like you’re just walking/jogging in the snow. But the skis are long, traction can be tricky, and balancing as you move through the snow is a challenge. Gretchen was very game, but sometimes our progress was slowed as she worked out how to manage the unfamiliar conditions.
At the end of the weekend, my buddy and I decided to make a video commemorating the highlights of our getaway. It was intended to be light-hearted. I came from a family of five boys where teasing was an art form honed over decades.
You’re probably cringing because you can see what’s coming. On the video, I highlighted several memorable things from the weekend. Then I went for the tease.
“And Gretchen,” I said with a smirk on my face, “could you go any slower than you did when we went skiing?”
I didn’t think much of it until my friend and I showed the video to our wives. Gretchen’s face went from happy to hurt in an instant. I don’t remember well, but I probably defended the comment. “I was only kidding!” In fact, that kind of thoughtlessness is indefensible. It’s never OK to humiliate someone for fun.
A Lie Exposed
Thankfully, social media wasn’t a thing yet, so that video never saw the light of day. But the incident provides me to this day with a tangible reminder that while I’m an image-bearer, I’m a bent image-bearer. Left to my devices, I’m not going to love well.
Sometimes marriage helps us re-shape our picture of God from being a Cosmic Killjoy to being a Joyful Giver. Other times like when I made my ill-fated comedy video, marriage simply keeps our feet squarely on the ground about how busted we are.
One of the primary lies sold to us in our world today is that we can make it on our own, that we don’t really need God that much. We see that lie rampant in the self-help movement and we see it in our churches. Too many of us are convinced that if we have enough tools and tips, we can run our own lives, have a little Jesus on the side, and it will all be OK.
The truth about me and the truth about you is that while we were made as beautiful creatures, we are curved in on ourselves. If we try to run our own lives, we’ll actually ruin them. Only the work of the Joyful Giver himself will make us able to love well.
To this day, my marriage reminds me of my bent-ness on a regular basis. That’s a good thing. It sends me back to the Joyful Giver as we work together to refurbish my inner person. It reminds me that, by his power, I can actually be kind and gentle and honest. In other words, to be the person I was created to be and deeply want to be instead of being a jerk.
I’ll bet your marriage reminds you of that, too.
We can all be grateful that joy is present in our marriages, even in the midst of relational misses. This week, think about these questions:
- In what ways has your marriage shown you that God’s extreme makeover work still isn’t finished?
- What lies have the hard times in your marriage exposed in you? What would have happened in your life if those lies had gone undetected?
- How has God used the difficult moments in your marriage to shape you into a more loving person?