By Barry Rager

Amy and I got married on May 14, 2005.  She was 21. I was 23.  At that age, you feel like you have a pretty good understanding of life.  To prepare for marriage, we read all of the books we were supposed to read, went through all of the premarital counseling, and discussed all of the questions we had with some of our older friends.  We were prepared, right?  

Nearly twelve years later I can say for a fact that we had no idea what was going on. Today, we are both very different people from what we were in 2005.  We think differently on many issues, our theology has been challenged and refined, and when you throw four kids into the mix, things are always crazy.

And as I am sure you have stereotypically heard, there are good times and there are bad times.  The same is true for us.  The good times have been great and impactful.  While I would not say that all the hard times have been great I know that they have been just as impactful- possibly even more so- than the good. 

God’s love is what has led Amy and I to still be devoted to one another and crazy about each other after twelve years.  Amy is not the same lady I married, she is so much more now!  I know her more and she knows me more, we have grown together.  The binding force for all of this is not some secret that we possess or me knowing that I could not do any better (which is true of course) but the love of God.

Through our faith in Christ, God put his love into our hearts (Romans 5:5).  This love has been on display in a multitude of ways in our marriage.  But one of the ways I have seen it on display the most is not a way I would have anticipated in 2005, it has been through hard conversations. 

Now you may be thinking, how in the world are hard conversations and God’s love related?  

What God desires for us is better than what we desire for ourselves.  As Christians, when we come to God in the brokenness of our sin and ask him to save us by faith he does!  But he does not leave us as we are.  God shapes us and molds us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29-30).  While the outcome is always good, sometimes the means by which God uses the Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus can be hard.  God loves us enough that he does not pass over the hard conversations. God has used my marriage to Amy to shape and mold me more than I ever could have imagined. 

It is an act of love to have hard conversations with your spouse.  I cannot even number the times God has used Amy to show me sin, sometimes hidden from my view, in my life.  Was it easy for her to have those conversations with me?  No, but she loves me.  Her love moved her to action because she desired better for me.  In the moment none of these conversations were enjoyable. Looking back though, I am so glad Amy had the love to speak the truth to me.  

Is it easy to have hard conversations?  No.  Both of us in our marriage have had hard conversations with the other with the wrong attitude and approach.  That usually ends bad.  But when we come to dialogue by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) the situation usually ends in one of us or both of us looking more like Jesus.

Amy and I both look more like Jesus today than we did twelve years ago because God’s love has been the foundation for all of this.  I look forward to seeing what he will do - through the good and the bad - in and through our lives and how he will bind our hearts together more and more.