What Anxiety Teaches Me about Marriage

I rolled over in bed and saw my husband pulling on his shirt. He leaned over to kiss me goodbye and I wished him luck at his ball tournament. We normally go with him but since he was leaving early, traveling several hours, and coming back after bedtime, I opted to stay home with the boys. As I heard the door shut behind him, I was overcome with fear that something would happen to him as he was traveling.

My overactive imagination is sometimes a blessing but more often a curse. Dan Zadra said, “Worry is a misuse of the imagination” and that misuse has colored my life. Justin was traveling with his assistant coach, a parent, and four of his athletes and I didn’t just imagine a car wreck. I could see the headlines: “Homeschool Athletes and Coaches Die on Trip to Tournament.” I pictured myself having to tell our boys that their daddy was dead. I imagined myself having to give birth to this fourth baby that would never know his father without Justin’s steadying presence. I saw myself trying to figure out all the things in our life that Justin takes care of.

This fear has been present my whole life. I remember being terrified that our house would burn down while we were away when I was growing up. I remember thinking, “But if I leave and go to this event, something might happen.” Once a pastor said that the story of Job comforted him in the worst of life’s problem.  My reaction to Job? He just makes me afraid that my whole family will die.

My anxiety has come and gone in stages and I know that it’s worse when I’m pregnant, when there are so many things that could go wrong. At least I’ve learned I have to reign it in. Otherwise I might huddle under the covers in the bed every day afraid of my worst fears coming true.  I’ve also learned that I can’t make decisions out of fear. I can’t make decisions to protect myself from possible loss because that is not how I want to live.

justin and boys

As I laid there in the bed I prayed for my husband’s safety and my sanity and started to remember some truth.

I serve a loving God. Even when things don’t turn out the way I would like, even when my deepest fears are realized, even when I am overcome with fear, I am deeply loved by the God who created the universe. Nothing in life is karma or a cosmic twister or an unfortunate happenstance. Every detail of my life has been planned and seen by God and He holds me through all of it. Remember Job? We can’t see the whole story.

This loving God is also my portion. As much as I love Justin, he’s not my portion and he’s not my happiness. Those belong to God alone. I’ve faced this experience before, except in real time instead of my imagined fears. I’ve stood in the hallway outside a NICU, fully believing that my firstborn was going to die and I told God that was ok if that was what He wanted. I would surrender my desires to His. As heartbroken as I was, I wasn’t panicked. God’s grace is real in our real lives. But as Corrie ten Boom says, “There’s no grace for imagination.” That’s why it’s so much easier for me to panic over my fears.

I don’t live to be a wife or a mama. They are beautiful roles in my life and I’m so grateful for them but they aren’t all of me. I am a woman, a believer. If something were to happen to my family I still have a purpose for existing. I am to glorify God. Hopefully the way I carry out my roles as a wife and a mama glorify the Father but I would glorify Him in other ways if those roles were taken away.

As I laid there and thought about the things I’d suddenly have to start dealing with I found myself deeply appreciative of the work Justin does for our family. There are things that never cross my mind because he takes care of them. Because we are a good team there are things that never cross his mind because I take care of them. We work well together as we both make sacrifices and do the work to grow our family. My appreciation for him blossomed and therefore so did my love.

I would marry that man again if I knew I would only get one day with him. I would marry him again if I knew that we wouldn’t reach our ten year anniversary because God would call him home. I would be heartbroken but it wouldn’t be worth losing the priceless times and memories that we have shared. I’ve fought hard over the past nine of our marriage to love him well. Not perfectly but well. As long as God grants us more time to be together I want to continue to love him well.

We live a few hours from where we grew up and sometimes I wonder if people don’t think we live here because Justin has a job here. Of course that has a lot to do with it but we have a life here. We are involved; we have a good support system; we have good friends; we have good places for the boys. It’s not a place I would leave quickly even if I were on my own. On our anniverary Justin gave me a card that said, “This is the life that love built.” And it truly is. It’s not always simple or easy but it is full of love.

The anxiety of that morning has helped change my perspective on my marriage. I roll over at night grateful for that other warm body in my bed. When we discuss problems with the boys instead of just seeing problems I see that I don’t have to carry those things on my own. Every day I get to choose to love him well because really, we aren’t promised tomorrow.

love