Reflecting on marriage

Jason and I mark 19 years of marriage tomorrow (July 12). I remember poring through so many books and articles on marriage that first year and trying to do everything exactly right to have the perfect marriage. What I didn’t understand early on, what actually took years to understand, was that I couldn’t manufacture enough of the tips and how-to suggestions to develop a marriage like what was in my head. It wasn’t something I could control. It would take total sacrifice for Jason and seeking God above all else (and vice versa on Jason’s part). While I finally understand marriage in itself is a lifelong learning journey, I would like to share some of what I have discovered along the way. More about sacrifice can be found below and a little on forgiveness can be found by clicking hereJ and J 2-14-16

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When my nephew, Jared, was a little bitty thing, he would get all over his brother with a consistent reminder, “It’s not all about you, Jacob!”

The boldness of his approach and the intensity behind his words always made me smile, but the clear truth behind his appeal has stuck with me since the first time it rolled out of his mouth.

The key to strength in any relationship points back to whether the two parties are going to be self-centered or other-centered. This is true with friends, co-workers, all formulas of family relationships and especially in marriage.

“It’s not all about you” was the focus of a recent article in Relevant magazine, “Marriage Isn’t About Your Happiness.”

An excerpt from the article by Debra K. Fileta says:

“Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you. It’s about love — which is something we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving — and then doing it all over again. … Often, we’re choosing ‘personal happiness’ over real commitment, over real love.

“They say marriage teaches you more about selflessness than you ever wanted to know. … Because at the heart of it, real love is all about sacrifice. About the giving of yourself, in ways big and small.”

It’s about sacrifice

I agree with Fileta. Real love truly is all about sacrifice.

The seasons where my husband, Jason, and I focus sacrificially on each other at the same time bring such great blessings and richness to our relationship.

When one or the other decides to be less other-centered and more self-centered, frustrations mount and life is more strained.

And the times we decided to focus on ourselves rather than the other — simultaneously — it basically led to confusion, insecurity, disappointment and pain.

Being married long enough to have a variety of seasons (19 years tomorrow) also has given us the opportunity to truly start learning and growing in the process. And we both agree we prefer the sacrificial model hands down.

I do know that putting Jason’s needs before my own and sacrificing for him in big ways and small ways brings tremendous fulfillment and allows me to demonstrate real love, true love.

And I learned through the precious five and a half years we fought alongside our niece, Belle, in her cancer journey that the purity of the love received in return is worth all the pouring of yourself into another.

Ultimate model

It seems so obvious to me now but it took years for me to get to this point. I’m not sure why because we were given the ultimate model of sacrificial love to follow — Jesus Christ.

It seems silly to not figure it out sooner. The example is so powerful.

But if you, like me, struggle to focus entirely on Jesus in everyday life, then how much more will we struggle with giving of ourselves to ordinary humans?

My friend and colleague, Grace Thornton, reminds me often that we are to desire God first, before ourselves and anyone or anything else. And from that place we are to let our lives flow outward.

“His heart is for us to know Him,” Grace says, “making that the entire goal of our life and then trusting Him no matter what happens.”

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Shockingly speechless

Yes, the rumors are true. I can confirm I was indeed left speechless earlier this month — not only once but twice. Many were shocked to witness the historic events.

Editor Bob Terry and The Alabama Baptist staff get all the credit as they found a way to surprise me with a feature article and a party celebrating my 20th anniversary with Alabama’s state Baptist newspaper. And if that weren’t special enough, I also received calls, emails, letters, texts, Facebook posts, tweets, video messages, gifts and personal appearances by friends and family from various parts of the state, across the nation and around the world.

It is still hard for me to believe all of that was done for me. I remain speechless and thank all of you for honoring me the way you did.

I know that finding me speechless once, much less several times, is hard to believe, especially for the number of you who referred to my “gift of gab” in the notes you wrote. And you know me well, I do like to talk — a lot.

But 2016 has discovered a more contemplative version of me so far. Along with the celebratory moments, another anniversary struck other emotions.

Marking the date

January 17 marked one year since my young niece and goddaughter Belle Mitchell left us for heaven (to read more about her cancer journey, visit the “Snapshots of Belle” category here on rashionalthoughts.com).Belle with Aunt Jen

It is true what the grief experts say — you do adapt and learn to live without the person you are missing — but the ache of missing him or her lives on. I’m not sure I realized the degree of how much I missed Belle would actually increase with time but it is happening. I find myself continually needing a hug from her, wanting desperately to hear her laugh and/or wishing for one more silly moment with her.

Still I hold on to what others have shared with me — each day we live is one day closer to being with her again. And each day we have an opportunity to do great things for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can choose to tackle each day and make a difference for the Kingdom or we can fall into a pit and let the enemy convince us we are not able to keep moving.

Believe me, I’ve fallen into the pit a few times and some days I might have been easily convinced to stay there, but every time a friend or family member came along and pulled me out, reminding me to keep my eyes on Jesus.

Again, I am overwhelmed with the love surrounding me, and I am convicted to not take it for granted nor overlook others who might slip past our gaze and be falling further and further into their own pit.

The lyrics in Sidewalk Prophets’ “Save My Life” touch on this point:

“… You come here every Friday night; I take your order and try to be polite; And hide what I’ve been going through;

“If you looked me right in the eye; Would you see the pain deep inside; Would you take the time to;

“Tell me what I need to hear; Tell me that I’m not forgotten; Show me there’s a God. …

Belle taught me how to love unconditionally (consistently showing grace, mercy and forgiveness while also showing others there is a God), live life to its fullest (despite the obstacles that undoubtedly will appear in your path) and laugh as much as possible (even amid the pain and fear). She knew how to celebrate life — and I want to be like Belle when I grow up.

—Jennifer Davis Rash (aka Aunt Jen Jen)