LEARNING TOOLS FOR A LASTING MARRIAGE
BY Carla Grills
When I was a teenager and a fairly new Christian, my youth group mentor gave me some important advice. Since I did not come from a home that lived by Christian principles, I was concerned about marriage and how to have a Christian home. She suggested that I make a list of the characteristics that I would want in a husband then pray according to that list. I prayed over that list for more than two years before I had peace about it and no longer worried. I no longer have the list and do not remember all that I wrote, but I do know that at the top of my list was a man who loved God. Ultimately that one characteristic has kept us together through 50 years of good years and tough times.
I met Doug the first year in Bible College. I would like to say I was first attracted by his passion to serve God but the truth is he was so good looking! We both loved God and wanted to serve Him with all our hearts. We however didn’t know everything that was in our hearts at the time. We were young when we married, still in college and growing in God. We’d had premarital counseling at the school so we knew we were total opposites in many ways. He is extroverted and I am more introspective. He functioned primarily out of his emotions and I functioned primarily out of my intellect. I grew up with brothers and he grew up with sisters. We certainly didn’t fit the male and female stereotypes the marriage books talk about! We were married September 2, just before Labor Day weekend. Almost all our anniversaries fall over Labor Day weekend. Years later we declared that our date had been truly prophetic. Marriage for us has been a labor of love!
The first ten years I worked so hard to please my husband and be the perfect wife. After all, that is what a good Evangelical Pastor’s wife was supposed to do! But he just couldn’t be pleased. Six years into our marriage we were baptized in the Holy Spirit. For a while, I thought that would be a solution to what was missing. Even though our Christian walk had never been so joyful, Doug continued to grow in his personal frustration and anger. For about another ten years I tried to “help” the Holy Spirit fix him! Well, that didn’t go well. Finally, I told the Lord that Doug was all His. I was just going to work on my own spiritual condition. After 28 years of marriage we discovered the root of Doug’s anger, depression, and unhappiness was the sexual abuse he suffered as a child from his father. It took over ten years of therapy to unravel the years of stuffed wounds and self-hated. It was a lot to work through. Doug gradually healed by therapy and supernatural experiences with Jesus. His testimony is awesome. He has been an overcomer in the truest sense.
I have not always had the responses or the wisdom that I wanted to have through those early years, but I did learn a few tools that have served me well. In the late seventies I heard a message on marriage that included a statement I have never forgotten. The statement was “Give up your expectations. Treat your husband as you would a brother in the Lord.” The example given was a screen door that had long needed fixing. If you neighbor came over and fixed your door for you, you would be so pleased and thank him for being so kind etc. If your husband fixes the door, you might say, “Well it’s about time!” or “I’m glad you finally got that done!” The difference in attitude comes from expectation. When I find myself irritated or discontent with my husband it is just as often because he has not met my expectation rather than some wrong behavior on his part. This exercise helps me bring my own heart in alignment with the Father’s nature. Seeing my husband as a brother in the Lord has given me more patience and grace for how the Lord sees him. It allows me to more easily forgive and give up the vain imaginations I may have been entertaining.
We have now been married over fifty years. Through those years there have been many changes and seasons of life. Becoming parents, leaving Pastoral ministry, going into business, moving to new communities, changing church fellowships, seeing our sons leave home, and the aging of our physical bodies have all been occasions for me to check and readjust my expectations. There are many good memories to share and some of the hardest times now bring laughter.
I heard a quote recently that resonated true to me. It said that the days can seem so long but the years are short. A whole night of a baby crying, or a wait in the hospital while your husband has surgery can seem so long. Yet we endure and get through it. We strengthen ourselves in the Lord and are matured in the process.
I have remembered the vows we spoke those many years ago. They were a covenant before friends, family and God. I take you as my wedded husband to love in sickness and health, for richer or poorer until death parts us. We have the rewards of many years together not because it all went well or we encountered no obstacles, but because we choose to change and grow according to His goodness and mercy. At the top of my list was a man who loved God. I have no regrets.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carla is married to Doug Grills. Their older son Matt lives in South Korea, and a son Chad and daughter-in-law Anna live in Hawaii. They have one grandson, Emmett who also lives in Hawaii. Carla is a licensed Health Insurance Agent and works with Doug in their home. She is a part-time Chaplain for Lexus and Toyota dealership in Carlsbad. She also has ministered in the healing rooms for ten years. In the nineties she taught ten years in a local Bible Institute, she holds a BTH and MA in Pastoral Studies.