“The strength of a man is first a soulish strength—strength of heart. And yes, as he lives it out, owns it, inhabits his strength, he does become more handsome. More attractive. As the fruit of an inner reality.”
(John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating)
Rear end wearing out the same pew for most of my childhood, I wondered what God’s plan for my life would look like. I assumed it would involve a shiny one-way plane ticket for overseas missions. My twelve-year-old brain was convinced I’d make a hut my home and teach African bush children how to speak English. (Not super sure why African bush children would need to know how to speak English, but that’s beside the point.) Divine direction would come singing my name so clearly—in Swahili!—and I’d dance my way into a glorious kingdom legacy.
And here I am, a church planting wife in New England. No lions or deserts or outside bathrooms to be found (though with an evangelical Christian population of about 3%, I’ve certainly landed on the mission field). God’s plan turned out to be so different from mine, and the weight of grace in that reality lifts my soul.
Last week Riley and I celebrated a whopping ten years of marriage. The boy whose love of language first turned my head knelt down and washed my feet at our wedding. The man who grew up with me during our first few years sharing the same last name unclenched his fists and gave me the space to become who I am, even when who I am performs an awkward river dance all over his preferences. The pastor who wraps up truth into gifts of glory and hands them out like candy each Sunday fights for me.
Sounds pretty, right?
A crucible is defined as “a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.” Despite what Hollywood (and whoever’s behind the commercialism of Valentine’s Day) tries to package as ye average marital bliss, I feel the need to whisper to your heart that this life together can be really messy.
Every marriage is a crucible. It’s one of God’s favorite tools to create—and re-create—us, conforming us to the image of His Son. None of us escape the fire unchanged. We weren’t meant to.
Marriage has been by far the most difficult and redemptive undertaking I’ve known. Because our humanity bumps up against one another on a daily basis, we must choose: barge through it selfishly, elbowing one another to get our own way, or humbling ourselves and serving one another with purpose. We definitely always choose to act like Jesus. Every day. And we never throw pizza at each other.*
In all honesty, Riley and I have both worn out the first option so many times you’d laugh at us. We’ve made a bazillion mistakes and stumbled upon so much more goodness (by accident) than we deserve.
After an embarrassingly long time of trying to fix what was wrong with my husband (insert hard eye roll at me here), a friend slipped a truth bomb into my heart: “Kassie, you need Riley and all of his weaknesses just as much as he needs you and all of your strengths. God is after both of your hearts.”
I couldn’t hear anything after that because the mic had dropped so hard. It’s still reverberating.
God’s plan for my life hadn’t shifted from Project Save Africa to Project Redeem Riley. God’s plan had always been the restoration of my own heart—leading me to learn how to soften, to repent, to need. His very best tool for working those things into the core of who I am was and is my husband. I wanted to save the world. God wanted to save me. (And when I can accept Riley as not my project but my partner in the gospel, I’m free to see how the Lord is growing him into someone who’s inhabiting his own soulish strength.)
So thanks be to God for creating a man I didn’t know I needed to help transform me into who I was created to be. His mercies are new every morning, and most mornings they walk around with a beard on.
Listen, friends, this isn’t just about marriage. If you’re stuck in a ridiculously long season of singleness, that’s the tool God knows you need to bloom into who He has in mind. If you’re waiting (and waiting and waiting) for kids to come along, trust that the Author of your story knows what He’s doing. Work issues you want to run away from? Yes, He uses those to shape us, too.
We don’t serve a mean King who gets His kicks out of watching His people suffer needlessly. It’s all building up beauty. He’s using the heat to expand your heart so you can contain all the joy He has in store for you. Don’t give up.
What does God’s plan for you look like in this season?
*This story—which may or may not have happened—was told with permission.