One morning early on in our marriage, I woke up and thought, “BLAH. This marriage is not at all what I want.”
There was nothing “wrong.” Dr wasn’t a “bad” husband and I don’t think I was a “bad” wife. It just felt…off. Not even a “we” felt off but an “it.” Marriage. It felt like a scratchy sweater about half a size too small, fitting but uncomfortable.
At the time, I spent my days planning weddings and social events at a resort off the coast of Georgia. Most of my weekends, both day and night, I was running hither and yon doing anything and everything a wedding requires. Moving chairs, putting on tablecloths, scrubbing labels off of wine bottles because Martha Stewart Weddings featured an event with wine bottles as candle holders and a bride was determined to recreate it exactly regardless that her reception was held in an open room with the wind coming in straight off the beach. Those candles didn’t stand a chance.
Oh how much I disliked Martha Stewart.
So it’s not really all that surprising that after working all day and all night to create the most romantic, elaborate, exclusive weddings, my real life at home with my sweet band director husband, our ADHD dog who was very much NOT the lap dog I had dreamed of, and our 1,1,00 square foot starter home looking nothing remotely Martha Stewart approved began to feel a little…underwhelming.
We had been married two years, together four. We lived eight hours away from family. Our precious church was amazing but not exactly overflowing with newlywed couples for us to form relationships. We were both working full-time jobs with multiple side hustles (look at us! side hustling before that was even a thing!) trying to save every dime for Dr to attend graduate school.
I’m not sure I was expecting a Disney Happily Ever After but I was for sure expecting the butterflies and snuggles on the couch to last much longer. What we got instead was two overly exhausted people working like crazy living a very typical daily grind life.
And on that morning, I woke up aware our regular, typical daily grind life was not what I wanted.
To Dr’s credit, once I said this wasn’t what I expected and wasn’t happy, he immediately suggested we get ourselves to a counselor. Which we did. A nice, average guy, Christian counselor who let us talk and helped give us some tools to navigate marriage. To this day, it is the best thing we’ve ever done for ourselves.
At the end of all that, we renewed our wedding vows. Just the two of us and a sweet, local minister I knew thanks to all those fancy ceremonies at work. It was lovely.
We all have a story. Something we did or have been through and we just don’t tell people about it. Something we feel shame over, something we believe disqualified us from Kingdom work, something we keep hidden because, in our hearts, we are saying, “If you only knew.”
If you only knew the lie I told, the sexual sin I got trapped in, the gossip I spread causing incredible pain, the baby I gave up, money I stole, the way I scream at my kids, the miscarriage I never told a single person about…if you only knew THAT, you wouldn’t be my friend. Doesn’t matter the circumstances or where we were on our walk with Christ or even if it was before we met Jesus at our own well in the middle of our hot, messy lives, we carry That Thing around with us.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way?
What if we took those “If You Only Knew” stories and brought them out into the light?
Jamie Ivey hosts a podcast, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, which was my very first podcast. She was my gateway podcast, so to speak, because now I am completely addicted. I love them all. But Jamie remains one of my absolute favorites. Her guests are encouraging and challenging and, Y’all, they tell the greatest stories.
Jamie says, “Every person has a story and some parts of those stories feel too hard to tell.”
Those are the “If You Only Knew” stories. The ones we keep hidden, in the dark of our insides.
But Jamie also says, “I believe that stories change the world. I believe they tear down walls, open gates of conversation, and allow us to experience freedom in a new way. Your story matters.”
This is what we’ve been walking through this month. Thinking through our trials and victories to find our unique gifts we can offer others walking similar paths. Our Bag of Quarters we bring to the waiting rooms of life.
We’ve looked at the lie we might be believing, that we are not enough, and then looked at Paul’s words in Romans where he says, in Christ, we are predestined, called, justified, and glorified. All past tense. It is finished. This Is Me and This is You, glorified in Christ.
And that walk has led us here. To our “If You Only Knew” Stories.
It’s time to share them. It’s time to believe sharing our insides, building community, growing authentic, raw relationships aren’t about us at all.
Our stories are about Jesus.
And to help us learn how to share, Jamie goes first. In her new book, obviously titled, If You Only Knew, Jamie tells us her story and in doing so encourages us to do the same. Because God is bigger and Jesus is better.
I have read the book, soaked up her story, cried through her victories, sung Jesus is Better right along with her. Stories DO change the world.
We can be the Samaritan woman at the well who met Jesus, accepted His offer of Living Water, and then ran to tell the people in her city, Y’all, He told me He knew every one of my “If You Only Knew” stories. This man, I believe He is the Messiah!
And because of her testimony, because she shared, Scripture says, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him…”
The Message tells of her testimony like this, “He knew me inside and out!”
It’s time we started letting the people in our lives know us inside and out.
The climate of our culture has shifted a bit since 2002 when Dr and I went to counseling. And if you don’t like math, well, you’ll hate me pointing out that was 16 years ago.
Counseling, in general, is encouraged and looked at as a good, even holy, thing now. I hear amazing Christian women, including Jamie Ivey, speak of their counseling experiences often, encouraging others to go as well.
But back then, in the dark ages, counseling felt like a thing people did as a last resort. Something they tried when just putting on your big girl pants and dealing with it didn’t work out. Something to be embarrassed about, ashamed of, never shared openly. Because that meant admitting what we looked like on the outside did not match what we looked like on this inside.
What I couldn’t have known then was how God would use that time in our lives. Thanks to our infertility journey, we ended up spending almost ten years in “newlywed” Sunday School classes. We were sitting next to couples who graduated from high school the year we got married. Oy vey.
But we got to share with them.
Books and tools and fears and frustrations and victories and redemption. Our story of how it’s okay for things to not be okay. God used all of that because, thankfully, we told the people to our left and the people to our right our “If You Only Knew” story.
Go, buy Jamie’s book, read her story, reflect on the absolute truth that Jesus is better and God is bigger than any of our “If You Only Knew” stories. Trust God to use them to point people to Jesus.
Week 2 of music! Jesus is Better by Austin Stone Worship, written by Jamie’s husband, Aaron. This is the goods, y’all. May this be your anthem as you process your “If You Only Knew” stories with your loving, merciful, gracious Savior. Jesus is better.