Grace, Life, Marriage
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7th wedding anniversary – 8 lessons learnt

© September 2, 2018 | Schulter Etyang 

Here we are 8 years later. Jenny and I are celebrating 8 years of marriage.

Here are 8 lessons learnt from 8 years of marriage.

Life is complex and we are complex human beings.

In our few years of marriage, we have discovered that marriage is not as simple as 1+1 = 2. In marriage, 1+1 can mean anything. Human beings are complex. On top of our complexities, we are sinners. This just becomes a whole different ball game, when the sinning dynamic is added to our complexities as human beings.

We have discovered that it is actually God’s grace, and leaning hard on God’s grace, that helps us live with our complexities and sins, and the complexities and sins of others. Without grace, marriage is impossible.

Marriage is for weak people who know they are weak.

Marriage is really for weak people. Weak in the sense of being aware that you are a broken and flawed sinner. Jenny and I perfectly fit this description. We are broken and flawed sinners. It is from this viewpoint that we have been able to invite and enjoy God’s grace because God’s grace is for broken and flawed sinners. Has it been easy to admit that we are broken and flawed? Not at all. Jenny and I, initially, embraced the idea that we were the power couple – the good people. But as we have lived together for 8 years, that idea has been binned.

Understanding we are broken and flawed has helped us become receivers and givers of grace. Because I am weak, I receive God’s grace for me, and then give Jenny the same grace that God has given to me. Jenny and I are receivers and givers of grace to each other.

Headship and helping are postures of serving.

Schulter is head and Jenny is helper, the gospel’s description of roles in marriage. My idea of headship was this; I lead from the front. I make all the decisions. I am served by those under me. Consequently, my idea of helper was, Jenny you serve me. 

Eight years later, I’ve discovered that headship is actually leading from the floor. From the floor? You kneel and serve just like Jesus knelt and washed his disciple’s feet. You serve your spouse. Helping is also servanthood. You only help people who are in need of your help, who ask you for help, right? Jenny helps me because I am always in need of her help. She serves by helping me. She lowers herself to help me.

The idea of headship and helping as servanthood came about when we saw how Jesus laid down his life for us, and were impacted by that act, which then empowered us to be able to serve each other.

Growth comes with time.

I have to admit that I was in a hurry to make things happen in our first years of marriage. Being a bibliophile, I read many books on marriage and assumed if I just applied what I learnt, then things would work out, quick. Coupled with the fact that I live in an age where everything is instant, at the fingertips, I had the same mind when it came to marriage. I, wanted Jenny and I, to quickly gel and flow. I did not anticipate that growth takes time. I got really frustrated at times because Jenny didn’t change as fast as I wanted her to change. I also got frustrated with myself for not changing as fast as I should.

Eight years later I have received the wisdom to know that growth takes time and a long time for that matter. Time may even mean a lifetime. Good things take time. Great things take even much more time. 

We are on the same team.

Early on in our marriage, we discovered that we were highly competitive. And, not just competition but the kind that tore down the other. We started playing squash together and sometimes the games got so competitive, that after the game, we wouldn’t want to talk to each other. I started sensing in my heart that if we continued on this path, we would destroy each other. We called each other out and had a talk about this competitive streak. We were aware that we were not going to build anything substantial in the future if we competed as we did.

We had to remind ourselves that, we are in it to win it with each other, and for each other, and that Jesus has won it all for us. We did not need to compete because we have everything we need in Christ.

Wisdom is knowing that you know less and less.

This lesson has been brutal to me. I love sourcing out for new information. I am on the lookout for new fields of knowledge. I hate not knowing. I have to know. I have to be informed. 

As I grow older in life and in marriage, I am beginning to realize that I actually know less and less, and wisdom is borne out of the humility to admit that I know less and less. My favourite phrase has now become, “I don’t know”.

The gift of childlessness.

Jenny and I do not have any kids because of a biological issue. Jenny suffered a terrible disease, endometriosis, just before we got married, and the doctors had to remove her uterus. That’s why we don’t have kids. In some strange way, this has been a blessing to us. We have had to live our lives before each other – with nowhere to run or hide.

We live in full view of each other. We don’t have kids that we could use to play emotional games with each other. When I am critical, self-righteous, angry, bitter, afraid, doubtful, and proud, Jenny has a front-row view of the circus of my life. The same with her.

Praying together.

This is an area where we have really struggled through the years. Our praying together has been a rollercoaster ride. We go through seasons where we pray and pray, and then there are seasons we are just like, “do we really have to pray?”

We have noticed, however, that whenever we have neglected to pray together, we have succumbed to anger, strife, competition, chaos, and everything in our lives seems stale and old. It’s during these times we have felt strong, invisible and proud. During these seasons, I usually notice that Jenny is tense, fearful, worried about our bank balance, tired and irritable. I become harsh and demanding. 

Prayer and praying for us has become an avenue through which we receive God’s grace for our lives. It is what we use to draw from the unsearchable riches of grace. It is through prayer that we receive all the grace we need to live and enjoy our marriage.

So these are the 8 lessons we have learnt. 

Jenny and I, as broken and flawed sinners, delight in the fact that we are also blessed, highly favoured and deeply loved. This is what we plan to keep as the main thing in our marriage – broken and flawed sinners who are blessed, highly favoured and deeply loved by the God of heaven.

To many more grace-filled years

That’s what grace looks like

This entry was posted in: Grace, Life, Marriage

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Schulter Etyang leads The Life Place in Johannesburg, South Africa. Schulter is one whom Jesus loves. He loves his wife, Jenny, and enjoys reading, travelling, cooking, running and playing squash. He also enjoys conversations with friends about Jesus and about life.

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