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I am BEYOND excited to have a special guest contribution from the magnificent Danielle Paxton. Having been married for over 19 wonderful years, this amazing couple has been making history and raising three beautiful daughters. Cory shared some powerful thoughts of his own which I captured in a prior blog. Here is Danielle’s answer the following question when we took these family portraits: If I could travel back in time, knowing what I know now, what would I tell my younger self before I was married?
I actually sat down to write this same article about 6 months ago, but in that time my answer has changed dramatically. No doubt that change has come as a result of the many unexpected twists and turns this year has brought, as well as from the time we have spent in counseling this year. We’ve been married almost 16 years now and have learned a lot of helpful skills, but the underlying issues that pressed in on me have corrupted all of these wonderful skills.
My story is not one of needing to simply communicate better, or make intentional time together, or use appropriate “I” statements. It’s a story of the bigger issues, the deeper ones that bubble up into everything. In my 39 years I’ve come to the bottom of my barrel and looked up, unable to save myself and ready to face all the truth I’ve never wanted to.
Josiah asked me to write an article on marriage, and I secretly wish I had some nice, well-packaged advice. But I just don’t. For me, making marriage successful has been learning to trust, learning to stop pretending, and learning to speak the truth in love.
If I could go back and tell my sweet, scared-to-death, about-to-be-married 23-year-old self, I would say this: Let go of all the perfect you think you have to be and trust God to give you all the things you really need.
You think you have to always be pretty. But you don’t. It’s okay that you look really different without your makeup on. You can still go to the store clean-faced. God will teach you that people don’t like you for your mascara and eyeliner – they like you for you.
You think you have to make gourmet meals for your husband every single night. Except you don’t actually know how to cook a gourmet meal and that’s okay. You guys will figure out how to get food even if it means you have to go to Wendy’s. Or worse – your husband can cook the food! God will teach you to enjoy how your husband takes care of you even if it involves a Foreman Grill.
You think you have to have it all together – and have all of HIS stuff together, too. You think you have to be the All-Stuff-Haver and make sure it’s all in order and everyone is happy with how together you have all the stuff. Except you don’t. Your husband can keep his own stuff together. He’s a big boy now. God will help you enjoy your husband’s flaws and, eventually, your own.
You think people will find you disgusting if they get to know you, so you hang on the fringes of life. Let go of that lie and go towards people when you feel that sick panic rise up in you. God will cover you in His grace and He will use His people to speak life over these dark places in you. You really can trust Him; He made you to be a wonderful part of His world.
Younger Me, pretending begets more pretending until you run out of space. Trust is scary but pretending is even worse. Trust God, trust your husband, and you will say true things with love because you’re not full of resentful pretending. Trust me, the future You – it’s the better way.