Recently, I picked up Andy Stanley's iMarriage study from our home library, and thought that it might be nice to study it again. Josh and I have just come out of a refining season, a season where we have allowed "I" to steal our romance, joy, laughter, peace, and wreak havoc on our marriage. I am so thankful that the Lord pursues us even at our worst, knowing that if we surrender to Him, He can make beautiful things out of our messes. I am also thankful that I can write this post today in victory. Marriage is so fun (I am blessed to be married to my Josh), but it does require intentional work and surrender.
This is my second time working through the iMarriage study, and it is so powerful, even 9 years into our marriage. It is nice to take the time to reflect on our marriage and surrender the not-so-pretty parts to God, allowing Him to take the reins and renew our relationship. It has been so refreshing to do so. The other day, the study directed me to read and reflect on 1 Peter 3:1-2: "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives." Then, Andy Stanley posed the question How about when you place expectations on others? What kind of response does this elicit? As I started penning a response to those questions, the Lord's personal revelation to me hit me hard; it was one that was not easy to swallow because I had been blinded to it.
When I place expectations on others--in this case, my husband and children--it elicits a response of frustration, and even bitterness or resentment at times because they weren't created to live up to my expectations. God made them for Himself--to worship Him, to walk in the path He has for them, and to glorify Him with their lives. When I place my expectations on them, I am actually hindering them from walking in God's way. I create distractions by placing expectations on them. He has a plan and good works prepared in advance for them to do in His Name and for His glory, so how well or effectively can they do those things, follow our God, and love Him the way He deserves (with all their hearts, minds, and strength) if they are distracted by the expectations I am placing on them? I have become a hindrance, a stumbling block, and a complete distraction at that point, and I'm actually hindering God's kingdom!
I like this statement that Stanley gives to help us gauge our motives in marriage: One sign that I am placing expectations on my spouse is that I stop serving my spouse." Learning that I've been, at times, a stumbling block and a hindrance in my husband's and children's lives was not a joyful revelation, but one the Lord knew it was time for me to hear and see through His eyes. Now I know, and I refuse to fall back on old habits.