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

Playing the game of life

The Game of LIFEBy Jennifer Davis Rash

Executive editor, The Alabama Baptist

The one-inch long, plastic automobile holds up to six miniature pegs roughly shaped like people. It exists solely to move along the path marked out from high school graduation to retirement. What happens on the journey in between those two events depends on the result of each spin.

It’s The Game of LIFE, and I became an expert player over the Christmas holidays. My 10-year-old niece, Taylor, unwrapped the game Christmas morning and well before New Year’s, we had played the game several times.

She and her 8-year-old sister, Emily, both took to the game quickly and enjoyed the major life events they experienced as we all jockeyed to retire with the most money.

And while Taylor and Emily had to learn loans must be paid back with interest, day care costs money and houses are expensive, one of the two of them managed to win every game we played. Turns out, they are both pretty good at playing LIFE.

Maybe in some ways we all are good at “playing” life. We know how to check the right boxes and show up where we need to show up. We are programmed to move methodically from one phase to the next, participating in all the expected activities and throwing a little of ourselves in a lot of directions.

Even when the difficult and unexpected parts of life come our way, we eventually adjust and find our new point on the path.

But is there a chance we are missing some of the richness of life because of our robotic movements?

Sure, as believers in and followers of Christ, we would all say there is more to life than the hustle and bustle of the worldly routines. After all, there is Jesus, right? Life is all about Him because without Him there is no real life, only death.

At some point during Christmas, I am confident that Christian believers everywhere acknowledged Christ’s birth as the true meaning of the holiday. And in a few weeks, we will remember His death on the cross and celebrate His resurrection.

But what about the days in between these two holiday celebrations?

How does Jesus fit into our daily lives? Are we becoming more and more like Him each day or is He just one of the many categories in our lives into which we toss a little of ourselves?

Is Jesus truly the focus of our life’s journey or are we living for retirement and ourselves?

As I played The Game of LIFE with Taylor and Emily, I noticed how quickly we moved through the various seasons of our pretend lives to retirement and “game over.”

In all reality, the board game might not be far off the real thing. Some of us went to college; some didn’t. Some moved quickly into successful careers; some didn’t. Some bought lake houses and sail boats; some didn’t. Some gave generously to charities; some didn’t. Some had children; some didn’t.

Where I couldn’t compare real life with The Game of LIFE was in the area of faith. Or could I?

While the board game offers no reflection of the spiritual side of life, the decision is ours whether the game truly falls short. Life has a funny way of complicating the minutes, hours and days. One minute we are in college, the next we are turning 40. Before we know it, retirement is no longer the state of life in which our grandparents live. We are setting the date, downsizing for the final phase and asking where the time went.

When we are celebrating retirement one day, will a peek back over our shoulders show a reflection of Jesus Christ? Or will we just see ourselves?