Of Marriage and Uprooting Our Idols: Three Pieces of Advice for Newlywed Women
Today’s guest blog is from Shauna Hernandez, a vital and beloved member of our team at EPM. What she has to share here is wise, insightful, and transparent. I think it’s helpful not only for newlyweds, but also those who’ve been married for many years. And I believe husbands of all ages should read it to help better understand, honor, and serve their wives, in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:7. Thanks so much for these insights, Shauna! —Randy Alcorn
On October 21, 2017, I walked down the aisle and married Ryan Hernandez, a man so good for me and yet quite different from me. We were a bit older when we got married; I was 29 and he had just turned 34. Starting marriage a little further along in life compared to other friends has its benefits. We know who we are, what we like, and how we do life.
We both had been international missionaries and had each lived several years in three different countries: six countries total! We’d both lived on our own, with and without roommates. We had great relationships with our families. We loved the Lord and attended church regularly. We loved each other and were committed and faithful to one another. We went through pre-marital counseling, and had wise people speaking into our relationship. Ryan walked me through (and continually does) the grief of losing my mom just a year before we got married. So why did marriage seem so hard? Why did I feel like I was crying over every little hardship? Hadn’t we done the hard work before so that we’d sail smoothly into the horizon of marital bliss?
Don’t get me wrong—I love Ryan and would do anything for him. But those first couple of months I felt like I was failing as a wife. I didn’t have a perfect dinner schedule figured out. Our precious little apartment wasn’t ever fully clean (even though I felt like we were constantly cleaning!). I just couldn’t seem to happily balance working two jobs, cooking, cleaning, and spending time with my husband. And my emotions were all over the place.
I looked at my wifely “accomplishments” as a way of increasing Ryan’s love for me. If I did better at being a wife, in my mind he loved me more. This is when I realized that I view my relationship with God similarly.
The Lord gave me insight this spring when we took our church’s high school youth group on our annual retreat. Our topic was modern-day idols, and I talked about identifying, uprooting, and replacing our idols with the Lord. In the process of planning these talks, I came face-to-face with my idol of security. But this isn’t just an issue between Ryan and me. It affects my relationship with the Lord and causes me to strive to be secure by doing better, having a full schedule, and being a “good” Christian to somehow earn His love.
I began to understand that I haven’t fully accepted that my security rests in the fact that God loves me regardless of what I do. Yes, of course He wants me close to Him, keeping His commands and remaining in His love (John 15:10), but the love God has for me isn’t based on what I’ve done for Him. First John 4:19 says that we love because He first loved us. He extended His love to us first, and my love for Him is a response.
As I’m choosing to let the truth of God’s unconditional love—and my husband’s—wash over me, I’ve thought of three things I’ve been learning in these early stages of marriage. I’ve been married just six months, so I don’t pretend to know everything, but these insights have helped me:
1. Choose the better thing. This little phrase has been bouncing around in my head for several weeks. Sometimes I’m so stressed to have a phenomenal dinner ready that I choose anxiety about preparing a meal for my husband over spending time with him. He kindly suggested that our meals don’t always need a wow-factor (no thanks to you, Pinterest!), but can sometimes just be spaghetti. Wives, don’t worry about always making fantastic meals that take hours to prepare. Sometimes a bag of noodles and a jar of Ragu will do the trick. Choose the better thing: spending time with your husband and less time in the kitchen.
2. Don’t compare. Let me say this loudly: DON’T COMPARE. Just don’t. Don’t compare your skills to your friends’. Don’t compare yourself to your mother-in-law. Don’t compare your husband to other men. Don’t compare your husband to your dad. And how’s this one? Don’t compare yourself to your husband. Ryan is an excellent cook. He learned from the best, my dear mother-in-law and her mother, and for this I’m grateful! However, Ryan’s abilities in cooking tend to cause me to second guess mine and I need to remember that I’m learning and that’s OK.
3. Have a heart of grace. The other morning, Ryan prayed over us that we’d have hearts of grace for each other. In the first precious and challenging months of marriage, choose to show grace to your husband. That could mean choosing to not bring up something hard before bed (when one person is worried and the other is sleepy). It definitely means thinking the best of each other. It’s very likely (though of course there are terrible situations where this could be true) that your spouse isn’t out to get you or make you feel dumb. Trust that they’re in process too.
Marriage is a beautiful and challenging thing. Keep the Lord first, continually going to Him and His Word for counsel and leaning into His unconditional love. Throughout the seasons of life and marriage, He is our unchanging security. And finally, know that you don’t have to have it all figured out. We’re always going to be in process, but what a beautiful thing it is if we choose to walk the road humbly together!
Shauna Hernandez previously worked as the Marketing and Communications Specialist at EPM.