Something that’s become somewhat of a budding concern of mine (passion doesn’t seem like quite the right word at this point) is wondering how to provide more support for marriages within the local church setting. In the past year, just in our nearby Lutheran school/church community, there have been five divorces. Those are just the ones that we’ve heard of. Another marriage closer to our personal inner circle is in currently in critical condition.
Because I think education is important in building and sustaining healthy marriages, something I’ve been wanting to do is identify and begin to articulate the beliefs I had going into marriage, as well as ones I adopted along the way earlier on, that proved to be unhelpful and even damaging to myself, my husband, and/or our relationship. It is important for our beliefs to be based on what is true, as our beliefs will influence our thoughts and behaviors.
Much of the information I sought out that shaped my own beliefs, thoughts, and actions in marriage came from books sold by Christian resource ministries. Over the years, women have begun to speak up about the relational damage caused by the teachings in these at one-time popular marriage books, most of which I have read. As more and more time passes, and I’ve had time to reflect on how the application of these teachings played out in my life, I have been able to see how many of my personal and marital relationship struggles can be traced back to false things I believed to be true.
Yesterday the boys and I spent the morning at a friend’s house. For nearly two hours the kids played with Legos and ran around outside while the mothers sat in our rocking chairs keeping warm by the space heater. One of the things we talked about was wondering if life would’ve been easier had we known or been better at certain things while we were younger. Examples included conflict resolution, emotional regulation, recognizing true and untrue thoughts, and awareness of our bodies and how its cyclical nature affects us personally. The biggest thing for both of us was self-acceptance.
One of the things I remember my 2017-2019 counselor saying to me was that he noticed I had a tendency to search for and analyze negative characteristics about myself. “I know this was probably my pride…” or “Maybe I’m just blind here”. I said, “Well isn’t that normal?” He said it wasn’t. I said, “Well isn’t that what we as Christians are supposed to do? Isn’t being able to admit our own faults the way we show we’re humble and open?” He also was Lutheran so he understood what I meant when I asked how we’re supposed to say or believe good things about ourselves when every week in church we’re forced to repeat what poor, miserable, sinners we are? Yes, I’m a sinner, but not so much of a sinner that I constantly need to be bringing it up week after week.
But the whole thing is kind of a radical thought. What would it be like to be okay with myself? To not be assessing and trying to identify what it is I need to change, where I could be or could’ve been better at something, what foods might help me achieve the results I am wanting, where my attitude needs an adjustment, where I am needing to give myself some grace and others too, where I need to swallow my pride and walk in humility. Self-acceptance is for the pagans, the ones who don’t believe they are sinners. Any term with the word “self” involved isn’t fitting for the vocabulary of a godly woman. Self is selfish. There is no self. Who I am as myself is not important and doesn’t matter.