Spread the Fragrance

My husband and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary this year (get out the cake and streamers!) And we’ve managed to decipher some highly secretive “marital bliss” codes along the way.  It took a great deal of perseverance, persistence and emotional intelligence.  But we’ve done it! We are still together. (Pop the champagne bottle- it is time to celebrate!)

Although this year has been full of unexpected storms, we’ve learned a lot. We grew in our ability to map out each other’s feelings and pin-point some hidden insecurities.  We’ve worked night and day to overcome life’s curve-balls and to conquer challenges. Surprisingly, in the midst of battles and crisis events, we’ve succeeded in receiving the “still happily married” T-shirt and mug; now we are aiming for the medal of braveryJ.

Why celebrate 5 years, you might ask? Because, although marriage is a rich tapestry of love and growth that makes life colourful and that fills your heart with wonder, you can never take it for granted. Every victory should be celebrated, especially if you are aware of its fragility.

I started this blog a few years ago to inspire myself (and maybe others) to daily endeavour to become a woman of wisdom. But in all my years of being married I’ve never been challenged as much as I have been the past year to seek wisdom above all things. I had to allow God to chisel away foolishness in my heart as a wife.  Our 4 year anniversary marked a turning point in my life, where God started uprooting a wrong value system that occupied the spaces in my heart where love was intended to reign. Initially I thought God would work in both my husband and I. But surprisingly, the whole process had nothing to do with my husband’s actions, although it was sometimes tempting to use it as an excuse for foolishness. No, it was about who I wanted to be as a wife, and I wanted to be a good wife.
Although I had to daily make a choice to walk in wisdom, it wasn’t always easy, especially when I didn’t see results immediately. But I’ve realised this year that it’s not always about results; sometimes it’s about being changed by the choices we make.
So this month I’m writing about married life again. (yes!) I’m not dishing out marriage advice.  Instead I’m sharing a few wisdom gems that might be beneficial for someone.  I know that every marriage differs, and it might not work for everyone, but these are a few things that I had to incorporate in my marriage to continue living a life filled with love for my husband.

Get off the pedestal!

I was shocked when God first started speaking to me about changing my daily routine. God wanted to deepen my love for my husband and He was very specific in what He wanted me to do.  He wasn’t interested in how my marriage made me feel, or in my daily prayers to fulfil my career ambitions. No, contrary to all my beliefs he wanted me to exchange my business suit for an apron. I had to ensure my husband’s favourite food was in the fridge and that when he arrived home from work that the garage light was switched on, music was playing, the table was set and the food was ready to serve. Afterwards I had to make him tea, pack the dishwasher and allow him to unwind.  God also wanted to actively listen to my husband, and to allow his day to take priority over mine.

Not only that, but I also had to pray for him the mornings and send words of encouragement whenever I felt stirred in the spirit. The instructions were clear – I had to make space in my schedule for these things because it was important to God.  Not that I didn’t do it in the past, but God introduced a process that would change my heart attitude forever and build a lasting foundation of love in our marriage.
Initially I was very excited that God spoke to me about my marriage and approached the whole exercise as an experiment to become a better wife, which I thought would soon end, because there were obviously more important things to do in life. But after a few months of walking down the supermarket aisles, unpacking bags of groceries, being surrounded with dirty dishes and always smiling when my husband arrived  home (even when I had a bad day),  my flesh started to rebel.  “God,” I murmured begrudgingly in my heart, “I am also important. Can’t you see the potential in me?  I also have gifts; my day is also worth the spotlight! I’m spending a lot of hours on this experiment – hours that I could have used more effectively to improve my business. Why should I do these mundane things every day– I am also worth Your attention.  And I hate going to the grocery store! This can’t be it! I am marginalised to a ghost in the house – a quiet, gentle, serving ghost without any interests or passions. There’s nothing dynamic about my life. I have nothing useful to give to my family.”

It wasn’t as if I wasn’t busy. On the contrary, I needed more time. Things were spinning out of control and I felt overwhelmed. But I knew better than to neglect the priorities God outlined for me.  Some days I succumbed to fleshly outbursts, which often times resulted in me resenting my husband for doing well, not realising that my choices created a platform for him to flourish. Feministic views ruled my heart and prideful thoughts surrounded me, ready to poison me whenever I allowed them to. I wanted to be independent and strong.  And I was ready to fight tooth and nail to not lose myself in the process.

The irony is that when you as a wife are scared to lose yourself in your marriage, insecurities arise that you didn’t know existed. Suddenly you feel the urge to grab onto anything that makes you feel good – a compliment, a project, even studies or a job promotion.  My default was to react out of a place of self-doubt. I knew that I didn’t fully trust my husband or God to let go of things that were taking up the space of love in my marriage. It was a tough revelation to swallow, and even tougher to walk out with God.  My heart was selfish. Our marriage to some extent was built on my terms and not on God’s terms for my life

Surprisingly, through me being changed by obedience to God, our marriage became stronger – strong enough to survive a very stormy year. The experiment ended up to be one of the greatest gifts God could ever give me.  God restored trust in the areas where I felt insecure. And our marriage culture has become a lifestyle of serving, esteeming each other higher than ourselves.  Many dead branches that didn’t bear the fruit of love were cut off, to make space for new growth and for peace and life to fill our home.

It was time to get off the pedestal!

Make a U-turn

When you get married, you have to get into the habit of saying the MAGIC 5-letter word “ sorry”. There are no two ways about it. If you don’t, it will have a huge effect on your relationship. Throughout the years I had to learn to genuinely say sorry. Sometimes I said it to keep the peace, other times to put out fires and most times to change the subject.

I am not good with apologies – it is usually a mumbling of words with a sour face and crossed arms. More often than not my apologies are half-hearted with some form of self-justification in my tone of voice. So imagine my surprise the one morning when my husband and I had a disagreement (yes, it does happen), and God told me I had to repent. I was not a happy camper! It was one of those rare occasions where I wasn’t the only one in the wrong. To be honest – in that specific situation, if we had to keep score, I would have been less guilty than my husband (which is usually the other way around ), and God wanted ME to REPENT.

I knew the word repent wasn’t the same as saying sorry – it meant I had to make a complete U-turn in my actions and emotions, and I wasn’t ready to do that. My boxing gloves were on, and I was in a mood for a fight. But God gently spoke to my heart, “Laetitia, look at your husband’s face. Can you see he is upset? Listen to what he is saying, because somewhere in the conversation something affected him negatively. Own up to your words, to the contribution you made for your husband to feel the way he did. Do not just think about the argument, the rights you have to voice your opinion. You broke him down, and it’s not fitting for a woman of wisdom. Let that realisation change your heart towards him and start operating in the opposite spirit.”

I had to think about the way I spoke to him; I had to listen to him and understand his point of view. God wanted me to acknowledge the consequences of my actions, whether justified or not, and feel remorse. He wanted me to repent.  It was a huge mind-set change to make. I had to declare war on pride in my heart and humble myself to be able to live out love in a more tangible way. Surprisingly, after that experience, I found myself repenting more freely, because my heart was softened and I wasn't afraid to be rejected or wrong.   God placed a deep regret in my heart every time I made a mistake and I became dependent on His unmerited grace and favour to conquer bad habits.  He wanted me to clean my heart from all wrongdoing, and for that to happen sincere repentance was needed.
Since that pivotal moment, the way I approach conflict has changed dramatically. I am now more interested to walk in unity with my husband, and to change the dynamics in our relationship to reflect joy and peace, than to get a point across. It is definitely still a work in progress, but I am grateful for the breakthrough I've received from God and that He helped me to mature in my emotions.

It was time to make a U-turn!

I sincerely hope that we will seek wisdom for our marriage, that we will be women that will allow love to take root, grow and mature in our hearts so that we can live in the blessing that God intended marriage to be.

Cheers on many more anniversaries to come!

1 Cor 13: 3-7 (Msg)
No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love
Love never gives up
Love cares more for others than for self,
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have

Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head
Doesn’t force itself on others
Isn’t always “me first”
Doesn’t fly off the handle
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth
Puts up with anything
Trusts God always
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end