There are moments within the bonds of marriage that one begins to wish the ropes weren’t so tight. You look at your spouse and all you can imagine is how much better your life might be without him. At the very same moment he may be wishing the same. Emotionally drained and too tired to see beyond whatever the injustice was that caused your heart to change, you have a decision to make… to stay or not to stay.
We encountered this scene our first year of marriage a number of times, but it was generally caused by the tension that comes from the initial shock of discovering that your life is not your own anymore. That was to be expected. To tell you the truth, once we got through the first year of marriage, we both gave each other a hearty pat on the back and said, “That wasn’t so bad.” After hearing the ominous cries of “Beware the ides of the first year,” we assumed if that was as bad as it would get, the rest should be fairly smooth sailing.
The devil is a lie.
Moving out to western where we had to start over financially, make new friends, and be together literally 24/7 proved to be much more difficult than we thought. I don’t know if anyone’s done research on this, but when two people are cooped up in the same house day after day with nowhere to go and no one else to see BUT your spouse, it’s like the air becomes stagnant and there are times you could almost swear you’re suffocating. Some of you know the feeling, so you also know what inevitably follows… *ding ding* it’s time to fight.
And fight we did. All … the … time. There were a number of times that we would just sit and look at each other wondering, “What happened? Why is it that year two suddenly became so hard?” Well, we forgot to take into account that all of the things that helped keep us stable in Nairobi, an amazing church, great friends, separate working spaces, and designated date nights were gone now. We had to start over. New church, new friends, new everything.
I make fun of my husband for being a creature of habit, but apparently I become a creature from hell when I’m pulled from the routines I’ve pacified myself with for some time. The first month we lived in Kitale, everything Ray would or would not do would tick me off, and I would pick fights over anything just because. Sometimes I was very much aware that my argument was irrational, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to fight. In the midst of those moments, I often found myself wondering, “Are you going to let it go or are you going to let it fester?”
There are times that everything within me wants to hold on to my anger, but when I choose to dwell in that moment and let those thoughts fester into bitterness, it’s bad news for everyone. The moment I say yes to bitterness, the nastiest comments from the pit of hell coming dripping off my tongue or this urge to leave the house and run to God knows where comes up and the next thing I know I’m standing by the gate. I would probably actually leave the house more often if I wasn’t afraid of the wild dogs and men outside, but there are times when it almost doesn’t matter. When bitterness is in control, I am totally out of control, and I hate that feeling.
We’ve been reading through Paul’s letters to the churches lately and I’ve been reading the book of James in my personal devotions and they’re totally tag-teaming on ripping me a new one. The greatest challenge that has been surfacing from those books for me is to live by the Spirit. I have the very essence of the living God dwelling inside of me prompting me to travel the path away from the cancer of bitterness, and yet my flesh compels me to live in the moment and get everything out so I’ll feel better. Funny thing is, I often believe the proclamations of my flesh over those of the Spirit, but not once have I actually felt better once I’ve torn my husband down or tried to run away.
Why can’t I remember in that moment the last time I yielded to the Spirit instead and discovered that Ray and I were able to quickly reconcile and restore peace in our marriage? When did my emotions dethrone Christ and become king?
Wake up calls like this are happening for me much more often now and I thank God for each and every one. I’ve seen what happens to marriages when unforgiveness and bitterness take root, and I refuse to allow that to even be an option for this marriage. As much as I may feel in that moment of tension that this is it and I’m done, I’m learning to breathe deep of the Holy Spirit as I breathe out my anger and to give it another day.
Though Ray and I have committed to love and stay married to one another until death do us part, all we can really do is take it day by day and continually submit ourselves and our relationship into God’s hands. If my anger wants to convince me to do otherwise, my response must be to give it another day, and as long as I incline my ear to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, the next day is always much brighter than the last.