The Unbroken Woman blog is hosting The Respect Dare. Starting July 10, participants will be using Nina Roesner’s The Respect Dare: 40 Days to a Deeper Connection with God and Your Husband as a guide, posting about their journey. And I will be doing it with you!
I think I accomplished this Dare several years ago without even knowing it. It included researching poverty and thanking my husband for providing for our family.
My husband’s industry was hit hard by the economy. For a couple years, he had several jobs that lasted only a year before the company had no choice but to lay him off (last hired, first fired). He then began a period of eighteen months of unemployment, which was followed by several years of temporary jobs, some of which were only part-time. It was hard to watch my husband facing the reality that he was not providing for his family.
Our finances tanked. We’ve never been good about how we manage our money, but even if we had been, this period of time would have taken its toll on us anyway. We are still in recovery. In a way, we always will be. I have PTSD related to bill collectors calling. Even now, after three years without the phone calls, when I hear the phone, I begin to experience physiological symptoms of anxiety. If I see someone I don’t know approach the house, I panic because I worry that it is someone serving us with legal paperwork. I don’t know that I will ever stop these reactions.
Throughout this entire time, I did not blame my husband, although it would have been easy to do so. We faced the loss of our house, we had one vehicle repossessed, and we still have a lot of debt. We went to the food pantry a few times. Our church helped us with our mortgage once. It was humbling.
Yet somehow, I always knew that I needed to encourage my husband. Our difficult financial years began during the nadir of our sexual relationship. Our marriage was not in a good state, but I knew my husband needed me. I thanked him for the endless and fruitless labor of searching for jobs. I thanked him for being the one to go seek help to feed our family and make our house payment. I thanked him for cooking. I thanked him for being there to hold me when I struggled. I thanked him for his prayers for our family.
Despite the difficulties, I was always able to see the blessings. I have always had a job outside the home, so although our income was low, it was stable. I have always been the one whose job provided us with health insurance coverage, so in the midst of all that was so hard, we never had to sacrifice our health. We never had to choose between antibiotics for one child and milk for all. All too many families face this choice. In the midst of our stress and struggles, we experienced great blessing.
Our greatest blessing was one that I could not have expected. It was in the middle of his unemployment that I first began to be more sexually generous. (This is chronicled in my first two posts, here and here.) I was desperate. We had no money. My husband was depressed. Our marriage was hanging on by a thread. We were just a few years away from the kids leaving the house, and I could picture us being stuck, just the two of us, facing a lifetime of being broke and miserable with each other. Sex was the only thing I could think of that was absolutely free and had the best chance of cheering my husband up.
I was not thinking of being respectful of my husband during this time, but God laid on my heart the right things to do. I look back now and see that it was during this hard time that my heart began to soften and I began to be more respectful and generous, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
The time of my husband’s extended unemployment was the worst, most difficult time in our lives. Yet God found a way to use this time to bring us closer to Him and closer to each other. Sharing a struggle builds bonds of intimacy that we cannot see. I would never choose to go through those years again, but I can look back and see what a blessing they’ve become to our marriage and family.
I look at our struggles now—my difficulty with the Respect Dare, my husband’s medical challenges, preparing two of our kids to move out of the house within a month of each other—and I know that in these struggles are blessings that we can’t yet see. God will enlighten us in His own time.
Out of the ashes of our financial life rose a phoenix of desire, intimacy, and a closer relationship with God. I’ve done a lot of hard work along the way, and my husband has begun to work on himself as well—but our treasure of intimacy had been buried under all sorts of stuff, to be uncovered only after our security and sense of financial safety had been ripped away.
I invite you to look at your own challenges in life and find the blessings that have grown from them. Even if your marriage is struggling at the moment, how is God using that struggle to bring you closer to Him? How is He using your husband to meet your needs? Can you see it yet?
Read these other bloggers to learn about their experiences with the Respect Dare:
The Respect Dare Blog (author Nina Roesner)