By Barbara Rainey
First posted on EverThineHome.com
This is the third in a series of posts taken from my book, Letters to My Daughters. The book is based on questions about marriage I gathered from my four daughters, my two "grafted in" daughters who married my sons, and many of their friends, and it's dedicated to all of them by name. It was a very satisfying book to work on, both in the content and in the creative graphics.
This book is now available in paperback, and this week's post is an excerpt. I hope and pray this letter will help your marriage, and if you want more be sure to get the book! It makes a great gift for anyone engaged to be married. Over 60,000 copies of the hardback sold, so I'm immensely grateful to Andy McGuire at Bethany Publishing for giving it more life in the new paperback version.
Dear Mom: I love my man. I’m thankful for him. But Mom, our relationship seems to be so much harder than other people’s. I just don’t understand. It’s like we are on autopilot, just going through the motions.
To my creative girls (all of you, yes, all of you!):
In the years when getting to church on time was a major event every week, I remember a family in our church that seemed to arrive peacefully, happily, and all put together. Never mind that the mother only had three kids to get ready while I had six. My perspective was that the children were adorable and always dressed beautifully, not in hand-me-downs or garage-sale finds like ours. The mom was tall and thin and always dressed attractively. You relate already, don’t you?
From my vantage point across the aisle, it seemed they never struggled with the stuff we dealt with, like learning disabilities, health issues, sibling rivalry, or ordinary marriage struggles. Because we weren’t friends, just acquaintances, I never saw behind the polished Sunday morning exterior. I knew they were as broken as we, but sometimes it was hard not to compare my known reality with what I thought was their reality. Life feels unfair any time we let our eyes view a couple’s canvas from afar.
We women all battle this temptation of comparison. Sadly, it doesn’t stop with age, but I don’t care as much as I used to, and that is a great victory!
Comparison or perspective is a principle I learned in art classes. Creating depth on a flat, one-dimensional surface necessitates mimicking what our eyes see in nature on a horizontal plane. Trees in the distance appear smaller and bluer than they actually are, so they must be painted smaller and in muted greens on the canvas. They aren’t the focal point, but part of the background.
In the same way, the family I saw from afar in our church was simply part of the background of my life. My problem was I wanted my painting, the colors God had given me to work with, to look more like theirs. Sometimes I focused too much on the women in the background around me instead of the focal point of my marriage and my family.
The Master Artist not only has a plan and a purpose for your marriage, but He has a vantage point, a perspective that you simply do not have. His view of our lives is total, knowing from beginning to end. His all-knowing mind chooses to give precisely what is needed at the right time.
Remember, He makes no mistakes. When He is busily adding layers and muted colors that don’t make sense to us, from His perspective He is adding depth and richness. I didn’t appreciate God giving us trials, but instead wanted a smooth ride and thought this other family had that kind of life.
The execution of this work of art called marriage cannot be achieved without surrendering faith, nor can it succeed if our eyes are on others instead of Him. I need to fix my eyes on Jesus.
Gazing at others invites self-criticism and discouragement. We see from afar what appears to be happy, healthy people, strong marriages, and well-behaved children ... and we assume God is not working muted paint in their lives like He is in ours. Just as viewing a small painting in a museum from across the room blurs the detail and nuanced contrasts that are foundational, so does viewing other marriages and other families from a distance give a fuzzy picture.
Comparison is a subtle but debilitating temptation for both men and women, and it can lead to jealousy, anger, resentment, and even rejecting God Himself. I remember a children’s book in which a little monkey was working on a painting. He admired what the other animal artists were painting and asked for their help. Each came with his brush and added a new element to the monkey’s painting. The result was an ugly mess.
The moral of the story is the little monkey needed to paint his own vision and not try to be like everyone. God is saying, “Paint with the colors and vision I give you. Trust me.”
Diligently reject the comparison trap.
Remember God’s design for you and your marriage will be unlike any other.
Give thanks and rejoice in those uniquenesses instead of resenting them.
May you have eyes to see perspective,
This post was adapted with permission from my book, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife, ©2016, Bethany House Publishers. If you enjoyed reading this, you’ll find many more letters in the book about different issues that come up in marriage.
My Heart, Ever His: Prayers for Women (NEW from Barbara Rainey)
As we search for meaning in our world of shallow online relationships and glamorized selfies, many are returning to traditional and liturgical churches. The repeated words, benedictions, and historic hymns connect us to saints who have gone before, giving us a sense of belonging, richness, and transcendence. Written prayers, once cast off as archaic, are now welcomed as guides to tune our hearts to the heart of God.
In My Heart, Ever His Barbara Rainey shares 40 prayers for women. Readers can read and meditate on one prayer throughout the week or read a prayer a day for 40 days as a way to express the longing of our hearts to our Father who loves us even as he sees who we truly are. Like the psalms of David, these prayers are honest, sometimes raw. Barbara uses these transparent expressions of common female experiences to encourage us to surrender to Christ and help us see God as he is, not as we assume him to be. My Heart, Ever His provides a stepping-stone to help you become more transparent with God and discover his welcoming embrace.
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