“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
My limited experience with puzzles is that it’s best to start by putting the border in place. That’s the easy part; fitting in all of the irregular shapes (the best kind) with no flat sides is more of a challenge. My last 1,000 piece puzzle became a winter project because of the tedious subject and background and because at times, my brain didn’t want to go there.
The apostle Paul called marriage, as it reflects on Jesus’ relationship with His Bride the Church, a mystery. I think it would be fair to say that we could also call it a puzzle. There are the borders – the biblical framework, for marriage: the husband whom He has designated as head, bearing the responsibility for leadership and enrichment of his family, the wife as his helper, bringing him strength, protection, and encouragement, and the two together being charged to be fruitful and multiply.
In Paradise, God said of Adam, “It’s not good that man should be alone; I’ll make a helper fit for him.” For God, making a helper fit for Adam would not have been difficult. He joined two perfect specimens in the perfect environment of Paradise. And He is God! However, today, this side of Paradise – post-Eden – we’ve come to realize that in marriage, one size doesn’t fit all. And much of the tailoring is a matter of retro-fitting – after the wedding.
Like a puzzle, there is then all the space in between, (after the I do’s and before we place our beloved at the feet of Jesus), into which husband and wife learn to find the fit for their giftedness, personalities, and their life circumstances.
Our friend, Shannon, recalled the effects her childhood years and family history had on her attitudes about marriage. Shannon’s story with Christ began at an early age. In 8th grade, she began to journal letters to God. Facing some severe health challenges as a young adult (including a brain tumor, adrenal gland failure and severe reaction to the treatment), she experienced the love, comfort and support of Christ in profound ways. As God captured her heart, Shannon persisted in finding a place of worship where the Gospel was preached, and with the support of praying friends, began immersing herself in Bible study.
Marriage brought new challenges for Shannon, as she had to learn how intimacy with Christ fit with intimacy in marriage. Shannon recalled, “I was so filled with God at that point that I didn’t think I needed my husband. God showed my husband’s need to be needed, and there was a sweetness in that I hadn’t considered.”
Another piece of their puzzle was finding the right fit for their giftedness; both were working her family’s design and build company. While Shannon’s giftedness made her an obvious heir apparent for the family business, her husband was not feeling fulfilled in his work there and that dynamic was having a negative effect on their marriage. Shannon became increasingly discontent with her role as the major bread-winner and the demands of her job. Meanwhile, her husband sought employment elsewhere and began to flourish in his new position. While she contemplated stepping down from her role in the business, Shannon had lots of question about the family’s future and at the same time wondered if her husband would have the same regard for her in what, in her mind, could seem to be a diminished role. It became clearer to Shannon that her sense of worth had become all wrapped up in her company job.
Shannon recalled, “God was really working on me! I heard Him say, ‘You take care of your husband. I’ll take care of your finances’.” While easing out of the family business has taken some doing, Shannon sensed God’s hand in continuing to fit her for her role as a wife by quickening in her more awareness of her husband’s well-being. While expressing some remorse for her failures, Shannon said, “I’ve learned that I have the potential to bring out the best in him; I am excited about what God is doing and for the future He has for my husband.”
As she is transitioning out of her role with the company, God has inspired her to use her entrepreneurial gifts to start a new business. Drawing on her previous experience with health and fitness and the life lessons learned through her walk with Christ (including some aspects of The Cry of the Hidden Heart) Shannon works out of her home to provide services as a life and health coach. No longer a lynch pin for the family income, Shannon can schedule her work within certain time blocks that fit well with the family’s activities. As with most puzzles, finding the right fit has been a matter of trial and error. But ultimately, the Holy Spirit has been putting the pieces in place. Shannon said, “I’ve come to realize you don’t need to do it all. And God doesn’t have just one way for a family to bring glory to Him.”
We would love to hear your story.
How is God fitting the two of you together in your marriage?