hat is it about the DIY movement? There’s something about doing things ourselves that is looked so fondly upon by so many in our daily lives. It’s a great thing, but it can be dangerous or even toxic if you apply it to your life or your marriage.
The other day while on the phone with a good friend several states away, he told me about a deck he’s working on adding to the back of his house and how much he had struggled with one of the foundational pieces. There was one very large board that he had to attach to the house. Everything else connects to this board. Being a foundational piece of the deck, it had to be perfectly in place, level, and very strongly fastened. If it wasn’t, the whole deck would be crooked, or it could even fall away from the house and hurt somebody. My friend is an engineer, and he knows that anything worth doing is worth doing well, so he had the biggest, strongest piece of lumber he could find for this important role. For the size deck he was building, it was probably close to 200 pounds and 30 feet long. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to lift and balance a 200-pound object 30-feet long, or tried to hold that object perfectly in place and fasten it securely, but to say that it can be difficult is an understatement. It’s not the easiest with two people, but he was trying to do it alone, and no matter what he did, he just couldn’t get it quite right. He was understandably frustrated.
Many of us are doing the same thing every day without even realizing it. I know that I’ve done it many times. Let me explain. When Jess and I were first married, we set off on the path of building a marriage. Having never built a marriage before, we didn’t know where to start, so we could only guess at how to get the results others seem to have. We knew we wanted to build a strong foundation, and I was ready to hit the ground running. I’m one of the biggest do-it-yourselfer types you’ll ever meet. There isn’t a tool I’m afraid of and there aren’t many things I haven’t fixed or built–I can’t remember the last time I hired anyone to do anything.
You Can’t Always DIY Your Marriage
I took that confident (arrogant, really) mentality and applied it to our marriage. When we were first married, we fought a lot. There was so much that was new and felt out of control that it was easy to see there was a problem, and I set off to fix it. I tried and tried, and somehow I kept making things worse instead of better. This was a problem I didn’t know how to fix. I didn’t know which tools to use. I didn’t even know if the right tools existed. But I was determined to figure it out on my own. Jess and I were lifting the 200-pound board by ourselves, trying to get our marriage foundation secured, but it was throwing us around. We were weak with exhaustion, but I insisted that we couldn’t give up.
Jess had suggested we talk to the pastor that had married us and ask for help–at times she even pleaded–but I wouldn’t listen. I didn’t want to ask for help, and I thought she was weak for wanting it. If I’m being quite honest, I was ignoring God’s leading in our lives, and Jess was trying to follow it.
Ask For Help
My friend will tell you that he isn’t one to ask for help, but when he was struggling with building his deck, he admitted he was stuck and picked up the phone. A few hours and a couple extra hands later the board was in place.
But we tell ourselves that marriage is different. If I were to admit that I needed help in my marriage, I’d be weak. People would think less of me. I’d be a failure and make myself and my wife look bad. Everybody else has it together, why can’t we?
I didn’t need anybody. I thought that we could fix our marriage if we only tried harder. We could do it. We could fix us.
If you’ve read our story, you know that I was very wrong. When Jess had given it everything she had, and she had nothing left to give, she left and I collapsed. The board pinned me to the ground. There was no more denying it. I was stuck and needed help.
The day she left, my first step was to call the pastor who had married us. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and he was gracious enough to take time away from his family to talk to me. I broke down like I had never broken before. I remember sitting on his couch trying not to cry and failing miserably. I poured my heart out as the tears flowed, telling him every last detail. When I was done, he encouraged me. He prayed with me. He gave me the biggest hug. And he connected me to the counselor who helped us save our marriage. He lifted the board just enough that I could breathe and rest a bit. In that moment, I wasn’t doing it on my own. I had someone helping me, cheering me on, and wanting me to succeed. I hadn’t just let him in, but I also let God back in. There was still a big mess to clean up, with a seemingly impossible mountain to climb ahead, but for the first time, I didn’t feel alone in the journey.
We are not designed to go through life alone. Ecclesiastes 4:12 tells us that “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
In most situations in a Christ-centered marriage, we can consider our spouse to be our second strand and Christ to be the very strong third strand that holds us together. But sometimes the obstacles we have to conquer aren’t ones our spouses can help us with.
4 Tips to Get Started
No matter what you’re going through, know that you don’t have to do it alone.
You may not want to ask for help because you feel that everyone else has it together and you don’t. Do it anyway.
Recognize where your spouse isn’t equipped to help you through a situation.
It takes three strands.
The best thing I ever did for our marriage was to ask for help. I took the initiative to call my pastor. I took the initiative to call the counselor and schedule an appointment. And I’m so glad I did. If you’re struggling, reach out to a trusted friend, family member, pastor, or counselor and try to open up just a little bit. Sometimes that’s all it takes for the walls you’ve put around yourself to start falling.
I’ll tell you right now that nobody and no marriage has it all together. No matter what it seems like, every person and couple has their struggles and quarrels. You might be surprised who would be genuinely blessed to help.
If it isn’t something they can help you with, reach out to someone who can.
My friend wasn’t about to ask his wife or toddlers to help him wrestle the board into place, so he called a friend of his and they got it squared away.
The single reason we were able to save our marriage, is the ever-present third strand in the cord of our relationship–Jesus Christ.
Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
That day in our pastor’s living room, I embraced those words. I was the weariest I had ever been from trying to carry the heaviest burden I had ever shouldered. I found rest. Everything wasn’t suddenly better, but as I aligned myself with Christ over the following days and weeks, the load became bearable and my soul continually found just enough rest to continue pushing forward.
Do you have a burden in life that you could reach out to someone for help? Tell us about it in the comments below…