Tuesday, February 14, 2012

...And I Knew He was the One {Ashlie Oestreich}

I am so excited to be closing out ...And I Knew He was the One, with Ashlie from One Small Town Girl.

Don't Forget that TOMORROW is your last day to link-up your Love Story!

Please Welcome
Ashlie Oestreich
One Small Town Girl
Beautiful Mommy Feet

Why is My Marriage so dry? {On Garden Hoses & True Love}
Mysterious ConnectionI'm one of those hopeless romantics.
Call me cheesy, but I love a happy ending, "twuuue wuvvv" (thank you, Princess Bride) and I love it when the damsel in distress is rescued by the handsome warrior.
The thing is, I've found that I've put a lot of Christian labels on a lot of my fairytale-like expectations just so that I could feel good about them, and honestly, because I really thought I was doing the right thing.
Let me just say that I believe that marriage is a beautiful gift. I do believe that God created us to crave connection, and I believe in seeking the Lord continually regarding our marriages, or relationships in general so that He receives the glory.
But, the fact that we're human often gets in the way of the part where He receives the glory. And intimacy with Him and in our marriages becomes a tad estranged.
Early in my marriage, I became so completely focused on having a Godly relationship that I failed to remain focused God Himself.
Yes, I wanted His will. Yes, I wanted to honor Him. Yes, I wanted us to grow in our walks with Him. (All good things.)
But tucked inside my fairytale ideas and expectations was the idea that a Godly, intimate marriage relationship would facilitate an intimate relationship with God.
I didn't mean for it to be like that, but when I allowed God to examine my heart, that's what was there. It seemed as though when things were harmonious and smooth in my marriage, I was much more consistent with my time in the Word and in prayer. And when things began to unravel, I would still be on my knees, but my mind and heart were all over the place. I was fidgety, begging for answers, confused, discontent, and wondering what in the world was going on.
"And he answered, "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself." - Luke 10:27
I had it backwards, friends. You see, there's a reason why the Bible tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and strength and then to love our neighbor. The first is paramount in order for the second to even become possible. The only way to experience true love and intimacy with our neighbor (like our closest neighbor - our spouses) is to obtain it from the Source of Love. The only Love that can truly fill is Love Himself. Even the most romantic, sweep-you-off-of-your-feet, follow-the-marriage-books-to-a-T relationship will fall painfully short of fulfilling a place that was meant only for Him.
I've tried so many times over the years to take my marriage and make it stretch to fill the corners of my heart (and, who am I kidding - I still fall into this often if I'm not careful!). I would tug, pull at the edges, read books, pray, seek counsel, and no matter what I did - it came up short.
This idea of loving Him first may seem like a no-brainer if you've been in Christian circles for any length of time. But I've found that the ways we get tripped up are often sneaky. I'm sure you've heard the saying, "When Satan tempts you, it won't be to rob a bank." It's true. He will never dangle something crazy in front of our faces - he's too smart for that. He knows that the best way to trip up a Christian is to make them think they're doing God's will. It's often something good, with all of the right intentions (we know where those lead!), but without God at the center of it, it leads down a path of futility and wasted energy.
I'm reminded of a time when I was helping my mom with her garden, and it was my job to water the long rows of plants. I swore I had turned the water on full blast, but alas, when I walked over to pick up the end of the hose, a small trickle of stale, lukewarm water came out of the end and soon came to a sorry halt. I waited, shook the hose to get any kinks out, expecting a gush to arrive. But, clearly, there was no water coming for those thirsty plants.
Muttering under my breath, I walked over to the hydrant and realized there were two hoses. They looked exactly alike, and I had mistakenly grabbed the one that wasn't attached. The one hooked up was trailing into the yard, and a gushing stream of fresh, cold water was creating a huge, needless puddle in the grass. With my unattached hose, however, I would have been waiting quite a long time for water to come considering there was only air at the other end.
Isn't this often like us? Thinking we're doing all of the right things, that we're hooked up to the source, only to be left scratching our heads when things go dry? This reminds me of my futile attempts to revive and strengthen my marriage when it felt like my hose had a trickle at best. Have you ever tried to water a garden with a hose that's not hooked up to the hydrant? There might be leftover water in the hose, and if you shake it, you might be able to spread a few drops over the plants. If I had stood there all day, waiting, shaking the almost-empty hose, those plants would soon shrivel up.
I thought I'd done it all right - I mean, I'd turned on the hydrant, hadn't I?
The hose that wasn't hooked up to the hydrant is like our own expectations, our plans, our understanding, and what seems like the "right way". How many times have I turned on the hydrant and been left frustrated and staring at a shriveled garden? It wasn't because there wasn't water coming out of the Source - I had just chosen the wrong way to get to it.
I became engulfed in finding true love within my marriage, but ignored True Love Himself. After all, wouldn't things be so much smoother if we were having lots of devotionals together? If my husband would just lead the way he was supposed to, and if I would just be the submissive wife of Titus 2? If I would just figure out the respect thing, and he would just figure out the love and dwell with your wife with understanding thing, then God's presence would be made manifest right there in our living room...right?
Not really. Please don't think I'm undermining those important principals of marriage - they are necessary for a healthy relationship. But without God's true love as the source - it becomes exactly what the Apostle Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13:1
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
We can be doing all of the right things with all of the right goals, and still completely miss the point.
I start to really understand that annoying clanging cymbals thing when I'm standing at the end of that empty garden hose wondering where I went wrong.
The cold, fresh water is still there, my friends. Which hose are you using?

"There is a way that seems right to man, but the end of it leads to death." - Proverbs 16:25

More About Ashlie: Ashlie is a wife to her high school sweetheart, mommy of two little girls, dreamer, thinker, thrift store shopper, recovering perfectionist, and sinner saved by grace.
Ashlie’s heart is to encourage fellow sojourners in the midst of her own struggles. Seeing others discover His vast love and grace makes her do a happy dance! She endeavors to seek God’s truth in the journey while finding His grace in the mess, knowing that at the end of the day, it really is all about Him.
She loves winding gravel roads, muddy romps, and country life, yet Starbucks, skinny jeans, and pedicures hold a special place in her heart, too. This creates a bit of a conundrum that she is still trying to figure out. Lovely word pictures, insane amounts of coffee, silly times with her family, and chocolate make her world go ’round.
Visit her at One Small Town Girl, where writing through her journey gives her a place to breathe. She tweets as @AshlieWrites and can be found on Facebook as well.