Two years ago, when Andrew and I moved to Cambodia, we knew there would be a huge shift in our social circles. In Kansas City, we had multiple groups of friends - from work, small group and church, old school pals, and others. And a good number of our friends were married or dating couples in the same stage of life as us, which meant if we had struggles or questions about our relationship, we had people to hash it out with.
Moving to Poipet really changed that. Although there are obviously countless Cambodians here who are young and recently married, the language barrier made it impossible to have those deep conversations with them. There were a handful of single foreigners and one American family living here; we were the only young married couple.
Having that relational isolation has been challenging, but it has also caused us to grow in maturity in our relationship. Because we really are the primary support for one another, and because we actually spend more time together here than we ever did in Kansas City, we have to deal with issues that come up and learn to communicate better and not just hide behind busy schedules or other relationships.
So, we've realized the need to be intentional in learning how to love each other better. Over the past few months, Andrew and I have been reading through a book called Gospel Centered Marriage by Tim Chester. And it has rocked our marriage. The basic message of the book is that marriage is all about Jesus - not just making me happy. And when we have problems in our marriages, it's because we're responding out of our idolatrous desires for comfort, approval, power, and control instead of a desire to glorify God and love our spouse well.
If we really follow Christ like we claim to, then how does that shape our marriages? Is marriage about making me feel less alone or more desired, or is it about pointing to the reality of Jesus' power over sin and his pursuit of the Church? Those are the kinds of questions Chester (the author) challenges us with through brief yet powerful chapters covering everything from submission and authority, conflict and forgiveness, and sex.
As we've walked through the book together, I have come face to face with a lot of sin hiding in my heart that shows up in my attitude and the words I use with Andrew. Let's face it; it's not easy being married to me. I'm an opinionated, emotional and verbose overachiever with strong OCD tendencies (which Andrew says he recognized in our first month of marriage but I only realized last week). Which is all just another way of saying, I'm a sinner who needs Jesus. And a patient husband.
So if you're married or thinking about it, go read Chester's book. Your spouse will thank me.
p.s. nope, no one paid me to write this; i just like the book and think you should, too.