Step 2: We admit there is a God, that is neither ourselves or our spouse, and that God can restore our marriage to sanity.
Many people believe that an admission of God’s divine presence in this world is the very first step that we need to take in order for change to occur. Certain religious circles, and participants within those circles, will no doubt attempt to rearrange the steps so that God is first, and then our powerlessness is second.
This presents an interesting dilemma for us. Without first coming to the end of self and the self’s vain and naive attempts at controlling life and marriage, we will unknowingly shape God into the image that best fits the thing we are wanting to control.
If we’re honest, most of us pray and relate to God more like a genie in a bottle, than an all-knowing, all-powerful being. We believe that God is as concerned with our pleasure and well being on this earth as we are. In doing so, most of our prayers are simplistic in hopes of God giving us what we want, not in us accepting God for who God is.
Some of the deepest pain I have seen take place in people is the pain in their marriages. Nothing holds the hope of companionship, acceptance, and unyielding love than the idea and story of Marriage. And with great hope comes the possibility of great disappointment and pain. Anyone who gets married has to face the massive limitations of ourselves in our marriages, whether we want these limitations or not.
Before a container can be filled with something new, the old has to be poured out. That is the best picture of the first two steps than I can imagine. In step one, we admit that what we’ve filled our container with is not working. Though we might have thought it was something good, and whole, it has turned out to be too limited in what we’d hoped it would do for us. Before God can come into our marriage, we must first get rid of what we’ve put there in place of him.
The odd thing about this truth is that it never stops happening in our lives. This is not a one-time shot that is done today, this is something that will take place over and over and over again.
There is not a lot that I am 100% convinced about in life (which is in large part a personality temperament of mine), but I am wholly sure of two things: First, there is a God; and second, that God is neither myself or my wife. I’m pretty sure it’s not you either, but I don’t know you as certainly as I do my wife, so I cannot speak with such conviction about that.
The power of this admission for me is that I can neither expect of myself or my wife what it is that only God can do. If I don’t come to the end of myself and simultaneously come to the end of my expectations of perfect love, care, and respect from my wife, then I’ve not yet weeded and prepared my garden for God’s planting. I cannot control and manipulate our relationship into being what I hope for, or what I want it to be. It might be the bigger point for you as it was for me, but I also have to admit that Stephanie, my wife, cannot do that either.
She is no more capable of doing a miracle in our marriage as I am. This is and was huge for me as I took her off the pedestal (and continue to need to do so) of being able to do more than she is able to do in her human abilities.
I’m skeptical of people saying there are “keys to life” that will unlock the mysteries. In part because there is too much mystery to figure out and if we did figure all of the mysteries out, man would somehow find a way to misuse that, too. But, and you know what’s coming next, I will say this has been a very influential key in my life. Accepting both my limitations and my wife’s limitations together has made our lives together so much more fruitful and less burdensome.
I spent the majority of our first 10+ years together thinking and behaving as though she had more of life figured out than me. The problem with this (and it’s the same problem if you believe you have life more figured out than your spouse) is that the onus of responsibility for power and change rests on the one who has more things “together.” The more together you are, the less you need God.
Coming to accept the “end” of my wife was frought with difficulty. I didn’t want to accept that she was limited. Believing that she had more to offer meant that the problems in our marriage were either because of her withholdings or of my not being good enough. If I believe that she is the problem with our relationship, then I am admitting that I am better than she is, and at the same time accepting the lie that she’s got more power and influence in the relationship than I do. It’s an impossible situation to resolve.
When we look at the other as the biggest part of the problem, we get into a power struggle that is all about our ego’s. Imagine the ego exists to “erase god out.” When we take God out, we make our humanness the central theme, and that never ever goes well.
It is only God that can restore our lives, and our marriages, back to sanity. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. By nature, humans are not sane. We are anxious, shame filled, attention seeking, demanding, entitled, and desperate for the next hit of dopamine.
God is sane. Stable. The complete opposite of all our insanity. But, at the core, God is relational and built in us that same relational need a capacity. We just haven’t stewarded that capacity and need very well.
If we truly believe that we don’t contain (more importantly that our spouse doesn’t contain) the powers to change the marriage, then we are ready to take step 2. If we are not yet there, or if you are not yet there, then the foundation of step one is not firm enough for step 2 to be taken.
Only God can restore us, and our marriages, to sanity.
Action step: Admit to ourselves, to God, to our spouse, and a non-family member our relationship to God. Admission of God’s presence does not mean that we’re ready to surrender, or that we’re ready to accept God’s help. We’re admitting that our way isn’t working, my spouses way isn’t working, and that there is a God who does have the way to restore us to sanity.
Journal Reflection Questions:
- What words come to mind when “God” is brought up, mentioned?
- How has my story included or not included God?
- Who is God to me?
- How have I mistakenly believed myself or my spouse to be god-like in their presence in my life?
- What does God want for me?