elisabeth, faith, marriage, mental illness, meta, quotes, stephen

A Dozen Years

As man and wife. As lovers, best friends, partners, teammates. United in covenant.

I’m coming to realize how profoundly similar Stephen and I were when we entered marriage. We were both raised in conservative Christian families with habits of learning, frugality, sacrifice, and commitment to each other and to Christ woven into the fabric of who we are. While I knew this on some level, I’m growing more thankful for the ease in which we move throughout these facets of marriage. Of course, a marriage between two vastly different individuals is beautiful precisely because of the varied viewpoints and experiences each spouse brings, but there’s also beauty in shared strengths and commonalities.

And while Stephen and I began as very similar people, we’ve also matured in parallel fashion–by God’s grace. I unwittingly hadn’t considered that one of us might become so stunted in our growth that spiritual unity would be nearly impossible, but I can now see God’s loving-kindness in leading Stephen and me towards greater maturity in Christ while strengthening our unity with one another.

Stephen and I have our differences too–for which I am grateful. He’s always the learner, trying new things, and pushing me to spread my wings. I’m the feeler, the seeker of beauty and emotions, drawing him out of himself to an emotional intimacy.

For a woman who likes to ask deep questions {which can be both a strength and a weakness} and who isn’t satisfied with simplistic pat answers meant to hush the questioner, I’m thankful God blessed me with a man who jumps into the complexities of life, takes my hand, and seeks out the answers with me.  We cling to Christ, knowing that He has the answers we seek–maybe not all the answers we wish, but all that we need.

Now that we’ve faced mental illness and walked through the dark tunnel to the other side, {I was diagnosed with OCD in June after years of intense struggling, slow and still-in-the-process-of recovering, and finally working up my courage to go see a therapist} we’re living in “the second naivete.”

The first naivete happens when we see things in quite uncomplicated terms—they strike us as simple and straightforward. But then something forces us into a questioning mood, and we subject those ideas to critical examination. Some folks get stuck at this stage—they suspend belief and get caught up in a mood of endless questioning. This isn’t healthy, Ricoeur [the French philosopher] argued. We need to embrace again the beliefs that have held up well under critical scrutiny. However, we can’t just forget all the questions we asked and go back to the earlier simplicity. Instead we must move ahead to the second naivete.

~The Smell of Sawdust, p. 152, by Richard Mouw.

Wrestling through OCD–specifically religious scrupulosity, my particular flavor of OCD–means that I’ve faced the complexities and nuances of my faith in Christ, the Bible, my heart and mind, and have come to rest my soul on Jesus in the child-like trust He’s asking of me. Not because all of my questions and doubts were answered, and not because of any strength or righteousness I possess. But because Jesus is strong enough to handle intense scrutiny, and He holds me fast. Psalm 131 pictures this as a child weaned from fervently seeking out his mother for milk, and simply contenting himself with treasuring his mother for who she is.

Lord, my heart is not lifted up;my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
~Psalm 131:1-2, ESV

Stephen is a husband uniquely equipped to shepherd me through mental illness. His compassionate insight and stubborn tenacity meant that he said in effect, “I’ll sail with you through troubled seas until we find a gentler breeze.” {In Everything You Do, Jenny & Tyler}

And now we stand here together–after a dozen years of marriage–singing,

Grace came down anew to feed the fallows
Love came showing us our deeper need
We grew wiser from the storms
Built our home on better shores
Found the fire burned more faithful than before

~Of This I’m Sure, Jenny & Tyler

Today we celebrate God’s grace to us. Though my man and I are spending the day apart, here’s to another dozen years and to the rest of our lives!

For resources on OCD and mental illness:

International OCD Foundation
Christian Counseling and Education Foundation on OCD
listen here and here for an excellent Christian perspective on OCD/scrupulosity
God used this booklet and resources from Mike Emlet to give me my life back!
Towards a Christian Perspective on Mental Illness by Brad Hambrick


3 thoughts on “A Dozen Years

  1. I already had great respect and admiration for both you and Stephen but your writing has only increased my feelings for you. You are awesome parents and obviously perfect soul mates. Thanks for opening your heart in such a beautiful way. Love you all very much.

  2. And we love you, Alice! I always brag about what a great neighbor you are to all my friends. So thankful for you and Whit!

  3. Love you dear cousin. You shared your heart so beautifully. Happy Anniversary to you and Stephen, and praise the Lord for His sustaining grace!

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