“You rarely seem happy. In fact, you seem generally unhappy.”
These are difficult words to hear from your husband of 5 months. What made it more difficult was that this was not the first time I heard these words depart his lips. They were not always stated so blatantly, but they were implied, hovering in the background, whispering in my ear. Not only from him, but from myself as well.
After this particular conversation, I began to think more critically, and process this statement from my beloved. After all, it’s a sad thing to know your spouse is also suffering because of your own apparent, sometimes inapparent, suffering. “Am I unhappy?” Hmm. I realized I was.
“How could I possibly be unhappy? I have a wonderful marriage, a loving husband, our cozy and affordable apartment, our location, income, health, jobs, lives, church, friends, etc.” With all of these generous blessings from the Lord, why am I being so ungrateful, and unhappy?
For a time, I tried to attribute my unhappiness to something more of a general characteristic. I reflected to times in my adolescence which fit the current feeling, and I deemed that I must just be one of those melancholy people. That’s all, and there’s really nothing to be done about it.
A revelation came to me: I am not happy, because I am selfish.
Let me clarify my thinking, and though at first you may feel I’m rambling, stick with me! I have a point. Oftentimes on Facebook, you see wives, especially new ones, posting about their marriage and how #blessed they are to be able to choose Mr. #blessed everyday, and more ridiculous mushy things, that I often thought of as a load of crap. I truly disdained such posts. “Oh yeah?” Jalaena’s bitter mind would say, “What about all the times you don’t post on Facebook? How about those times you feel #cursed, hmmmm?” (On later reflection, I realized my mentality may be slightly cynical.)
But wait! What is this inkling of… Could it be truth?… I feel wriggling into my mind? Choosing… Choices. Basic decision making skills. Hm…
Suddenly, the truth of what these women were saying hit me. Beneath the mushy message, and millennial trends, lay a basic truth. These women are actively choosing their husbands, rather than choosing themselves. That’s what it means! You choose your husband every day, because if you don’t, you are inevitably choosing yourself.
What a beautiful revelation. As I thought about this, I realized I had been constantly choosing myself the past few months, over my husband. There were many times that I felt I was doing all I could, and that Alex wasn’t noticing. I thought he wasn’t trying or giving (which was clearly part of the problem). My mentality was, “How is ‘always serving your spouse’ supposed to help your marriage when the other spouse is never serving?? ”
I grimace while recollecting these thoughts.
This truth suddenly revealed a deeper and more ugly truth; not only was I choosing myself over Alex, but more importantly, I have been, and still do, choose myself over Christ. Instead of praying, I self-deprecate, re-evaluate, and try again, on my own terms. Instead of dwelling on His great love and grace, I dwell and despair at the depth of my sinful heart, believing that He surely cannot love one such as me. I believe that if I just try hard enough, I can and I will, earn His love and attention.
Ultimately, I am choosing despair over joy, because I am too arrogant to see the difference.
Choosing joy does not mean always being happy. It means making a conscious effort to die to your selfish and sinful heart and to instead choose Christ. It means foregoing the, seemingly, easier path of the comfort and familiarity of your old heart, and deliberately taking on the life of Christ, your new heart, for as Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Doing so will give you the ultimate joy of taking on the heart of our Lord and savior, who paid the ultimate price for our salvation, which we in no way deserve, nor can we possibly fully fathom.
I want this to be true for me. I believe the path to this truth lies in choosing joy, choosing Christ. A hymn which, I believe, perfectly illustrates the differing aspects of this mysterious joy, and the conflict in choosing it, is titled “Joy” by Page CXVI. You can listen to it here.