Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Deeper, More Christ-Centered Marriage

I know it’s no secret I’m crazy about this man. I brag on him A LOT, and well, that’s because he deserves it. (Trust me when I tell you he is definitely the better half.) I am forever thankful the Lord allowed my path to cross with his and for me to walk through this life as Mrs. Jonathan Butler. The longer we’ve been together, the more I have come to appreciate the man that he is and the marriage we have.

But, that doesn’t mean it has always been easy. And we still have our struggles sometimes.

We went on our first date back in August of 2006. We dated for four years, broke up for two short periods of time during that stretch, & even dated different people during our “breaks.” In January of 2010, Jonathan was baptized and I saw the Lord REALLY begin to work in his life.

I saw a NEW man, I saw fruits, and although I had always seen his incredible potential, THIS is when I became confident that was going to be the spiritual leader in our home. I knew then I was ready to be his wife & start our life together. (He told me he already knew we were supposed to get married.) He asked me to be his wife on March 6th of 2010

…And we got married in October of that year, so this October will be 6 years of marriage & 10 years together.

We have absolutely been blessed beyond measure & we are so thankful for the Lord’s favor & blessings even when we do not deserve it. That is such a great reflection of the merciful and gracious God that we serve! We’ve got a home that we love and great friends & family. We have started two businesses that have taught us so much & brought some of the best people into our lives. We have traveled to some really cool places & made memories we will cherish forever. We have served together in ministry. And our favorite- the Lord has blessed us with our two precious boys (so far!) that are the absolute light & JOY of our lives!!

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But you betta believe we have been through a few really difficult times together during our almost 10 years. Like Big Jon says, “it’s not all grapes and lollipops.” Unexpectedly losing his very best friend in the whole wide world, my big brother, and his mom (when I was 38 weeks pregnant) were definitely some of the most heartwrenching expereinves of our lives. Those were the three worst phone calls we have ever received. I’m so thankful we were able to cling to Jesus and each other during those times. I can’t imagine not having that as an anchor during those storms of life. (I am also thankful for how Jonathan handles grief. He is a rock and has taught me so much about faith and trusting the Lord’s plans, even when we don’t understand.)

We’ve dealt with some family members battling addictions. Our house has flooded. Sometimes we get in disagreements over silly little things. We’ve struggled through my pride & his critical spirit.  (We’ve had a couple of knockdown drag-outs over that actually.) We aren’t perfect and never will be. I am learning to let go of expectations of perfection.

One thing we have learned from going through the valleys, the mountain tops, and through the growing pains…you have to keep your eyes on Jesus.

That is the answer, folks. Even when marriage isn’t easy. When you have to ‘choose love’ because you just don’t feel like it.

I remember a while back thinking about #marriagegoals and whose marriage I would like ours to look like in 5, 10, 30, and 50 years down the road. It was so sad to me that so very few marriages popped in my head. I can think of some of great moms/parents, but very few marriages worth emulating. (FYI: I truly believe that if you want to be a GREAT mom, you have to be a great WIFE first.) So I decided right then and there that I wanted OUR marriage to be THAT marriage. Genuinely. I want me and Jonathan to be an example to others…to show that you can have a “heavenly marriage.” Not perfect. But heavenly. Joyful. Rewarding. Enriching. Fulfilling. FUN!

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And I knew that meant I was going to have to do some “pruning.” (Because I was not joking when I said Jon is definitely the better half of the Butlers. I’m pretty sure all the people who know us really well would agree.) I knew the Lord was going to have to “undo” some thinking, some habits, & some reactions. Aren’t you thankful we serve a mighty God who can and wants to do that in us?

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To us, marriage is about two imperfect people that God pairs together to be “heirs together of the grace of life.” Our job is to help each other prepare for eternity while drawing others to Christ because of our relationship. “Godly marriages magnify God’s ingenious creation, but few marriages radiate the glory.” (You & Me Forever, Chans)

I feel like we are just now getting into a deeper, more Christ-centered marriage, so I wanted to share a little about how the Lord’s been working in our marriage.

Outside of my walk with the Lord, this is the most IMPORTANT relationship in my life (for so many reasons), so it is so important to me to invest in it and allow the Lord to refine me. Shew, I wish refining was fun…don’t you? My prayer is that He will make me the kind of wife Jonathan needs- a true help meet for him that I was created to be. I want to be a crown to him. I want him to be more respected because of the wife that I am. I want him to rise and call me blessed and consider me worth more than rubies. I want him to cherish me because I am truly a wife worth cherishing. I want to help him live out his high calling by supporting him, loving and respecting him, and taking care of our home. I want to help meet the needs I was designed to meet for him (so he never has to look elsewhere to get them met, if ya catch my drift). I want my boys to grow up to be men like their daddy, so that means I need to be the kind of wife I want my sons to marry. And that means I’ve got work to do because I’m just not there yet.

I make a conscious effort to grow as wife and we are both intentional about protecting and investing in our marriage. We go to marriage conferences, read lots of books, communicate about our marriage goals and needs, observe things other couples do well, and we pray for each other all the time. We have some boundaries also, but more than focusing on that, we just focus on what we can do to be a better spouse to one another. Just the other day I asked Jonathan what I can do to make him feel more respected, and I try to ask him “deep” questions occasionally. (His first answer was hilarious!)

A little over a year ago, I was mentored by a wise woman from our church. I specifically seeked her out and asked for her mentorship because I wanted to grow deeper in my marriage and become a better wife to Jonathan. She is definitely a woman worth following and has the fruits in her marriage and children to back it up. She and I went through Created to Be His Help Meet together & she helped me work through what I feel are some of my “weak spots.”  The whole mentoring session was really more about my relationship with the Lord and I knew growing in that would in turn benefit our marriage. There may or may not have been LOTS of tears during that year of “pruning,” but the Lord did a major work in my heart. Jonathan has told me he has seen a difference in me too and I am thankful for the growth, for her prayers, and for her speaking the truth to me (in love, of course). She helped me change my perspective on some things and taught me what the Word has to say. I still have my moments, but I feel like I have more self-control with my tongue, I am not so easily offended, I catch myself when I am being disrespectful, and I try to think ahead of ways I can serve Jonathan. I also have become more of a prayer warrior for him and work to show him love in HIS love languages. Titus 2, y’all….it’s good stuff. I highly encourage you to find a godly mentor because that was a game changer for me.

(P.S. I first heard about the book Created to Be His Help Meet from Lori’s blog, and she is doing a series on it that is worth checking out. It was one of the most challenging books I have personally ever read because it is so countercultural, but it was so, so good. I am actually rereading it again right now and going through it with an awesome group of young ladies in Bible study. I continue to learn so much from it every time I read it! Anyway, Lori has a lot of wisdom to share and her blog is one of the only ones I read anymore. She offers sound Biblical teaching that is definitely NOT popular with the world, I’m sure…but I do NOT want a life like “the world” so that’s fine by me.)

Another friend recently suggested that I read You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan, and I feel like it very eloquently reiterated some of the most important aspects of a Christ-centered marriage. I needed the reminders & wanted to pass them along.

The goal of marriage is to emulate a picture of Christ and the church. Can you imagine the light Christians would be in a dark world if our marriages were actually different from the world? If the divorce rate for Christians was zero instead of the same as non-believers? If we fulfilled our God-given roles and had JOYFUL marriages? If we took our wedding vows seriously and realized the magnitude of that commitment? If we viewed children as the blessings they are and had homes full of godly children who love and serve the Lord? People would be flocking to us! They would be desperate for what we have. But we don’t. Selfishness, pride, insecurities, discontentment, jealousy, and unfaithfulness tarnish the picture of Christ and his bride, and people don’t want any part of that. I have no doubt the enemy wants to attack marriages because he knows it’s the fastest way to destroy families. But if you’re serious about winning people to the Lord, you first have to model the beauty of the Gospel in your marriage. I truly believe one of the main reasons so many Christian marriages are struggling is because they are not Christ-centered. We think they are. We claim they are. But we don’t live it out.

Husband, wife, or both spouses are entering into marriage with unrealistic expectations of their spouse to meet their needs. Hear me on this, friends. Your needs can be met in Christ alone. Can you imagine how fulfilling your marriage would be if both you and your husband were SO FULL with Christ, allowing Him to meet every need and fill every void, that your spouse and family receive the overflow from that? (FYI- there is a HUGE difference between overflow and leftovers. Do not mistake that difference.) I get excited just picturing your cup spilling over with joy, contentment, love, peace, kindness, and everyone around you getting to enjoy that.

Another great takeaway from the book was about emulating the humility of Christ. One of the number one struggles in our marriage is that I insist on being right. God has truly done a work in my heart in this area. (Partially because Jonathan is actually right most of the time, and when I lay my pride down, I can see that. But THIS powerful truth has helped me change my perspective.)

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I also highly recommend watching The War Room if you haven’t already seen it. I think it’s out at RedBox now, or maybe you can download it or get it on Netflix? (I am so not tech savvy, but it’s available. I do know that!) It was  so encouraging and such a great reminder about the power of prayer. It reminded me of what I learned in The Circle Maker. Ladies, we should be covering our husbands and our families DAILY in prayer! If there is something you would like to be different in your marriage, pray that the Lord will either change your husband or change your perspective. (Whatever you do, don’t nag him to death over it.) If all is going smoothly, thank the Lord for that and “fix the roof while it’s not raining” with your prayers. (I wrote a post a couple of years ago about Praying for Your Husband.) Pray God’s Word. Write out prayers and Scriptures. Keep a prayer journal. Have a specific place in your house where you go for quiet time and become a prayer warrior. Your marriage, your family, your future, and your legacy are worth it.

Of course, the ULTIMATE place to learn about your high calling in your marriage is in the Word of God. There are so many Scriptures that clearly lay out God’s plan for marriage and our role as wives. He tells us what a godly wife looks like, and the more you study his Word, the more it will change you. Don’t believe the lie that you can get by and have a rewarding, fulfilling, Christ-centered marriage without knowing and studying the Word.

So, there ya have it. Some real, raw insight into our marriage. And hopefully some tangible resources and actions to help you grow into a deeper, more Christ-centered marriage.

5 comments:

Lori Alexander said...

This was beautiful, Danielle! It's so wonderful that you are becoming the godly wife that God has told you to be at such a young age. Your husband and children are so blessed by this example of Christ in their home. Keep clinging to Jesus and then you can't help but act and speak like Him!

Samantha Harris said...

I just want to thank you for your blog. I get so much encouragment from reading your words. I love that you are authentic and don't always say the popular thing. It is so obvious how much you love Jesus and your desire to share that with others.Thank you!!

Emily J said...

Thank you for sharing this, very real and encouraging! And how cool you are going through that book with a group of ladies I would love to do that.

bexjohn said...

I've followed your blog since Jase was a newborn but have never commented. I enjoyed this post and especially loved the line, "FYI- there is a HUGE difference between overflow and leftovers. Do not mistake that difference."

Diane said...

Danielle, do you have any suggestions for a good Bible study or book to go through with a mentor? I know you mentioned "Created to be His Help Meet" in this blog, but I am not married. I know God is leading me to be taught by an older, Godly, and wise woman, and I want to be as prepared and ready to be a wife and mother when He calls me to that time. I'm just wondering if I should go ahead and focus on marriage as preparation and study or if I should do more of a general, Godly, virtuous woman study? Do you know of a good Proverbs 31 or Titus 2 study?