Not Settling


Not long ago, I had a dream which I woke up trying to forget. It wasn’t a bad dream. In fact, it was a good one, in the sense that it made me feel wonderfully fulfilled. But it was a wrong dream.  Or at least I thought it was.

I dreamt that I was married, only not to the man I have made covenant with. In the dream, my husband was a different man. I could not see his face or physical body, but I could tell by his heart, by the way he treated me. And by the way I responded to him, and how I felt when I was with him. They were all good feelings, but with the wrong man. Bad dream, right?

I tried to shake it off and focused my efforts instead on plunging myself into my day, and into the marriage I do have. I’ve been married for almost 16 years, which seems unfathomable to me. I have found marriage to be the deepest challenge to my selfish nature, and have often wondered if I would survive the death of my basest self, that I might see the beauty which God intended in it. I have struggled with fears, stubbornness, a very real lack of example, and with an innate tendency to give up and live alone for the rest of my life.

These are honest confessions. Because we live in a day and age where marriages are failing at record speed. And my heart carries a grief about that which is not my own. Not only do I fight for my own marriage, daily, but I pray and fight for other marriages as well. And I believe the answer, in part, to the restoration and healing of marriages, begins with honesty. About ourselves, our expectations and our struggles and our disappointments. Not necessarily with our spouses, because we are all human and prone to weaknesses and failures. But within ourselves, and within our expectations of the marriage relationship itself, I believe there are things we need to dig up and take a real, honest look at, if we want to see anything change.

Like most people I know who have been married, my husband and I have seen our share of ups and downs. We’ve had wonderful times, and we’ve had crushing times. We’ve come to the end of ourselves more than once. And we’ve come to the end of our marriage, as well, reaching the limit of what we knew to do to keep it going. That was a scary place to come to, but it forced us to lay down what we built in our own strength and by our own wisdom, and to rebuild according to the wisdom and strength of God.

Although we chose to rebuild rather than dissolve our marriage, we still do not have a perfect marriage. I don’t know many people who do. I am not a perfect wife, and daily seek to grow in this area – sometimes with grace, and sometimes failing miserably. My husband is not a perfect husband, but he is also seeking to grow as such, and has made incredibly healing changes with God’s help. Because we are broken people with broken pasts, we have hurt each other. And because we have hurt each other, we have hurt our marriage, and the trust and willingness it takes to get up and try again each day is often difficult to desire. But this is the choice we have made. This is the life we have decided to settle for.

We see others whose marriages haven’t made it. We see others who have not settled, and who have gone on to seek love and marital satisfaction with other people, in other places. Although we can’t say we agree with their choice, we understand why it happens. The human heart does not like to sit long in painful places. We do not like to settle for less than we feel we deserve.

You will understand my surprise, then, when I discovered that God feels the same way! When I woke from that dream and tried to push it out of my consciousness, far away from the desires of my heart, God wouldn’t let me. In fact, the dream I had that night was from him. And the man in my dream wasn’t my the husband I have now, but he was the man God intends to make my husband into. The responses I had to my husband in the dream are not the responses I have toward my husband today, but those are the kind of responses God is working to create in me, as a wife.

As I wrestled with embracing a dream that felt wrong, but which God showed me was not only right, but a reality which He intended for me to know, it came with a strangely familiar pain: grief. I have been determined, all these years, to settle for the marriage I have, and simply endure here to the best of my ability, asking God for strength and grace to do so. I have sought to embrace joy and happiness and to push away the grief and pain of what I thought marriage would be like.

In fact, God was asking me to do the opposite: to push away my attempt at joy and happiness, my determination to settle for what I know and have known of marriage, and to embrace the grief over what marriage should have and could have been – what He has always intended for it to be.

It sounds strange, I know – and uncomfortable, to put it mildly. Entertaining grief is not something we choose to do for fun. Most of us, in fact, do our best to avoid it, because it’s messy and it’s capsizing at times.

But God gave me that dream because His own heart is grieving for the reality that has not yet been realized – and in fact has often been aborted – in many marriages today, including my own. He gave me that dream because He has not given up hope in what He has promised for us, and He is asking me to not give it up either – in fact to grieve for it, until that grief becomes a desperation, and that desperation becomes a prayer, and the prayer becomes an answer and a promise realized.

So settling, it turns out, is not something God wants us to do. Tarrying with hope, however, is. Standing in the middle of shattered hopes, with arms stretched wide to embrace the restoration of those hopes, is the desire of God’s heart today.

I understand the fear, the skepticism, and even the refusal to go there. It is not the easy road. Shutting down grief and looking for a substitute or distraction to help us get through, would be easier. But Jesus didn’t.

Jesus stepped into our world, broken by sin, devastated by the selfishness of mankind, and stretched out His arms in order to embrace the desire of God’s heart: a world full of people, a bride that He could call His own. And because Jesus embraced the grief of what had been lost, because He sat in grief and wept for what was and what could have been,  and what should be, His grief gave birth to what was lost. His willingness revived and redeemed the dream of God’s heart.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, I don’t know what God is stirring up in you today. But I do know that He has dreams and plans that are not yet fulfilled for you. Whether it be in your marriage or elsewhere, God intends to bring forth a reality which maybe you have pushed away and attempted to trade for something so much less. Don’t leave the promises God has given you in the grave. Entertain hope today! Embrace the grief of God’s heart for your life today, and carry that grief until it gives birth to the resurrection of all God has intended for you from the beginning.

It is time to dance upon our graves! Revival is here! Breakthrough is near!

{Photo images courtesy of}


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