Mike & Julia's Wedding

My husband and I celebrated our 15th anniversary in May.  The next day I read an article posted on Facebook that talked about what the person we deserve should be like.

The author (I don’t know if she’s single or married) started with the awesome truth that we should look for someone who “wants to be there and won’t run away when times get tough.”  She also hints at important things like faithfulness, service, compassion, forgiveness, trust, security, inspiration, and love for a lifetime.

The trouble I have is her predominant focus on things we deserve, like butterflies in your stomach when you see his/her smile, laughter at your jokes, just-because flowers, hugs that “feel like home,” moments where they have hurt you, yet hold you until you are ready to forgive, tingly skin at the touch of their hand, eyes that only see you in the room, unconditional attendance on all your adventures, kisses while you vomit, responses to all texts… and the list goes on.

Maybe I’m jaded, but life just doesn’t look like that.

I am so glad my husband doesn’t hold me to this impossible, romantic standard when he decides to come home at the end of every day.

As awesome as it is for your skin to tingle at the touch of that special someone – there will be days as a mommy when you are all touched out and it is a choice to grow together which inspires intimacy more than the brush of the hand.  And when it comes down to it, I find it far more romantic (and helpful) when Mike presses a cold cloth to my forehead when I am losing my lunch than kisses.

There are still moments when his smile causes butterflies in my stomach, but not every smile.  Sometimes butterflies come when his back is turned to me as he cooks breakfast.

There are still some mornings when I don’t want to let go of the hug goodbye, but other mornings I am preoccupied with the child smearing I-don’t-know-what-and-I’m-not-sure-I-want-to on the wall down the hall.

Mostly I object to her idea of “deserving” something from someone.  What I really deserve is Hell.  Plain and simple:  I sinned, I deserve hell and nothing more or less.

Deserve undermines the desire to serve – and isn’t that the life to which we were called (Mark 10:42-45; 1 Peter 2:21, 1 Peter 4:10; Galatians 5:13; Romans 12:10, John 13:14; Ephesians 5:25, and the list goes on…)?  If I base my commitment on getting what I deserve, I leave open the option to leave if my spouse doesn’t deliver.  There is simply no biblical precedent for leaving a marriage because I am not getting what I deserve – to the contrary, 1 Corinthians asks, “Why not rather be wronged?” before taking our troubles into the courtroom.

Does that mean I should marry someone who treats me poorly?  Absolutely not!  But it’s not because I deserve more, it’s because I was created for more.

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

That image of God in me (and every other human being who has ever walked the face of the earth) requires respect, awe, and special care.  Not because I deserve it, but because God does.

All the tingly-skin moments, the security and faithfulness, the flowers-for-no-reason, and the hold-me-while-I-cry-even-though-it’s-your-fault moments are grace – in essence, undeserved.

And while I want to serve my husband in so many of the ways this article suggests he “deserves” (because if I deserve it, consistency demands he does too, right?), I sure don’t want to be measured by my performance.  Which means I can’t measure him, or our relationship, by these standards either.

Fifteen years ago we vowed to do life together before God, to raise any children God gave us in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and to fight to stay together.

In God’s providence in the intervening years we have born the heartbreak of losing parents, babies, and dear friends.  We have had our hearts broken by the betrayal of others, grieved in ministry together, and wearied in parenting side by side. We have hurt each other a gazillion times and sometimes my heart burned in anger rather than with passion for this amazing man with whom I still choose to do life.

In God’s providence and with great intentionality we have also grown into private jokes, silly traditions, sweet affection, looks, and a richness we would never experienced if we gave up when we weren’t getting what we “deserved.” And after 15 years, Mike knows I’d trade fleeting butterflies in my stomach for a nice, juicy steak any day.  (The great part is Mike + steak often generates butterflies.)

I know I’ve *only* been married for 15 years and I have a lot to learn in the years to come.  I’m looking forward to it!

One thing I do know, we didn’t make it to 15 years by focussing on what we deserve.  Most of our fights have arisen from that focus.  And though focusing on getting what we deserve promises joy, it lies.  But when I focus on where I can serve more than on what I deserve, I stumble on joy.  It’s right there – impossible to pursue – but easy to find.