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I have always taken a lot of pride in how I was created and the special gifts God seemed to have given me from a young age. I give a lot to my people and love hard. I love being the one who everyone knows they can count on to be there for them, that will always forgive and do anything for anyone. But just like any good thing in life, there can be a negative side to it.
Fast forward to 2018, the year I got married. I felt so ready to be married. I was prepared. We had gone through premarital counseling, talked with so many close friends and married couples, and had lots of discussions around what marriage would be like. I knew God was going to be the third person in our marriage. I thought I knew what love was.
I was smart enough at that point to know that love was an action, not a feeling. The feelings I had towards my fiancé would someday be fleeting, but it would be my choice to continue loving him each day. My idea of love seemed to look a lot like doing chores for the other when they were tired, listening to them tell that story I’ve already heard before, or doing something special to let them know I was thinking of them. I never felt more ready to be married because this thing called “love” seemed to be something I had down! I had been loving others fiercely my whole life, even when I didn’t always receive it in return. I could do this!
Well, was I in for a lesson!
A short five months into our marriage, it seemed like things were falling apart. My husband had been going through a difficult season of depression and it manifested itself in many ways. The enemy was hard at work on him, and our marriage soon began to suffer.
I remember thinking during that time how I should treat this season just like any other difficult time I had gone through in the past. Just love and give and try everything in my power to show that person it will be okay. So, that’s what I chose to do. I gave and I gave and I gave. Without realizing it, I slowly stopped taking care of myself. I had put all my focus onto our marriage and my husband. But to my amazement, my tactics were not working. If anything, it was making matters worse. I was exhausted. I was suffering through the worst anxiety I had ever experienced in my life. I was praying to God to just get me through each day because I didn’t know how to live on empty anymore. I was completely drained. And so was my “love.”
One of my favorite verses reads “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
This was where I was at. Every day was me coming to Jesus being fully aware of my extreme weariness and heavy burdens. Each morning brought another prayer and yearning for rest. And in His way, He carried me day by day and never let go of my hand.
A couple weeks later, something happened that I will never forget. I can recall this moment like it was yesterday. It was an exceptionally hard day and I could hardly breathe, I was so anxious. As I sat in our living room looking at my husband in anger and hurt, the scariest thought had come to my mind, “I don’t think I love him anymore.”
Yes, I said it. Now before you jump to any thoughts, let me explain.
How I made people feel and what I could do for them. If I couldn’t do that, then I had failed.
For me to not know how to love someone felt like the end of my identity.
For a minute I let myself go down a bad path. I thought “If I don’t love my husband anymore, then how can we be married?” “How will we make it?” “We haven’t even been married a year and this might be the end!”
My anxiety got worse. Everything was spiraling out of my control.
It was in that moment that I felt God call me to be with Him. I can still hear the words He put on my heart so heavily. “This isn’t the way it was meant to be, Mariah. You were never designed to love him through you alone. You have forgotten my place in this marriage. Let go and let me love him instead. Trust me.”
So, I let my “love” for him go. This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I then asked God to love through me from here on out. I didn’t want to love him with my own love anymore because that love has an expiration date to it. It’s weary. It’s conditional, but God’s love… that never expires. It never grows weary. It never has conditions. God can always fully love because He is love.
When I finished my prayer, I looked back at my husband. He looked different this time. It was as if my eyes had truly been opened and I was now seeing him through God’s eyes. I felt compassion like I had never felt. I know I was seeing him as God looks at him every day, with so much joy, excitement, compassion, tenderness and radiance. I felt a leap in my heart for this man again. I could breathe. I felt hope.
“But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” – 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
There was an exchange that day, one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I released what I had made to be my full identity, my love for others, and exchanged it for God’s love, which is far greater than anything I could muster up on my own. Now don’t get me wrong, it is good to give and love others well, but not when it comes only from yourself. This “love” I brought to the table had become something I put all of my energy, hope, and safety in. It had become my idol. A Proverbs 31 Ministries study through the book of Daniel said it best:
As hard as it is to admit, I started to realize my love was never really about others. It was about how secure it made me feel. As long as I was doing something to show others that I am worth keeping around, then I was safe.
It was always about me.
Soon after this exchange, God brought me to the story of Hosea and Gomer. I had read through the book of Hosea before, but there was a part that really stood out to me this time around. If you are not familiar with the story, I suggest you take some time to read it today (Hosea 1-3). But for now, I will give you the shortened version. Gomer was a prostitute that God told Hosea to marry. I know, why would God have Hosea marry someone who ran to others instead? Time and time again, Gomer betrays Hosea and goes back into prostitution. Yet as difficult as this must have been on Hosea, God tells him to buy his wife back. The story is God’s way of showing Hosea His unconditional love for His people. No matter how many times we go against and hurt God, He is ready every time to take us back whatever the cost may be. And as God was wrestling with His decision to save us or not because of our immense unworthiness and pain we brought Him, He says these beautiful words:
“Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zebolim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.” – Hosea 11:8
Ladies, this is not the kind of love fairytale stories have been talking about. This love is supernatural. If you don’t believe me, just take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
This might be a “cliche” verse that you have heard countless times if you have been around a Church community, but if you sit with these words, they are extremely profound!
And think, have you ever met someone who has fully embodied this type of love? For me, only one person comes to my mind… Jesus. And because we are called to this type of love, we clearly cannot do this on our own. God doesn’t ask us to love this way because He thinks we can do it on our own. He asks us to love this way because He is the only way we can! We need God in our marriages, friendships and relationships, because trust me, there will be a time when you have come to the end of your love.
This is when God’s work can actually begin.
Let’s play out how this earlier scene would have gone if I hadn’t reached out to God. What if all my striving to fix our marriage and my husband through my own strength and love actually worked? What if our marriage was amazing because of my doing? Where is God in that story? And an even better question, where is God now in my story? He wouldn’t be a necessity to me anymore, would He? God loves seeing our marriages thrive. And because of that, He knew the absolute best for us would be for Him to be our Savior. We were never meant to be our own saviors. We are fragile. We make mistakes. We let each other down. Marriage is supposed to be a reflection of God and His love for the Church. And if it’s supposed to be a reflection of Him and His love, then how can we be living our best married life if we are not relying on Him and His love? The answer is we can’t. We will always fall short.
It has been two years since this exchange and I am still seeing my husband in this new way. Now, I’m not saying every moment in our marriage is easy or without disagreement. But I am saying that each time we are going through difficulties or I am not understanding his side of things, God quickly fixes my heart and my eyes to see my husband as He sees him in that moment.
There is an abundance of hope and assurance for your marriage, ladies. I am fully convinced that if both of you are putting your walks with the Lord first and choosing to love the other through the Spirit, then you can be assured your marriage will succeed. And this doesn’t even stop with marriage. This is true of any of your relationships. This ability to love through the Holy Spirit can completely change everything. Praise God!
Mariah is 25 years old and lives in Cincinnati with her husband, Michael. They have been married for 2.5 years and are learning more about the beauty of marriage every day. She would describe herself as an old soul. You may catch her reading a historical fiction from time to time wishing she was in a different era. She also loves spending time outside, hiking with her husband, and being near the water. She received her bachelor’s degree in Hospitality from Ball State University and has had a desire to help others in all capacities since. She now works at a real estate firm as their Client Care Manager and loves the impact she can make on their clients!
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THIS WAS SO ENCOURAGING!!!! I have the joy and privilege of knowing Mariah and this radiates of her love for Jesus. She is the real deal and I’m so encouraged and humbled by her story. I hope to see more articles from Mariah! Such a gift from the Lord