the work of marriage


“Study the lines in your face like roads on a map, leading me home.

I’m gonna love you ‘til the stars and their ghosts fade to black,

until time rots our bones, wrinkles our heads.

You will find me doing all I can to love you.”

Joy Oladokun, No Turning Back


Marriage. What bliss. Every day with this man is like this picturesque moment, kissing atop two horses on a sprawling plain of beautiful land, sun shining, birds chirping, all well with the world and my soul.


Not at all, actually.

As we settled in after dinner at the ranch, Clay pulled out my dad’s guitar and began singing the above-written lyrics of a song. And I thought about how true the words are.

I often find myself staring in awe at this man and in wonder that I married Clay Collier, that cute boy at church I had wondered about so many times And in so many ways the sight of him feels like coming home, like somehow this is where I was trying to get to all along, for all those years.

What an unbelievably fun adventure is life with this man. What an incredibly long wait it was for this man. What a wonderful blessing it is to journey through life together with this man. Clay truly is the manifestation of so many years of waiting and praying and wishing and hoping and imagining and dreaming. Being married to him has shown me such bliss. And yet, our marriage has not been void of conflict, difficulties, and trials.


the lie of “if only”

When I was single, I used to think, If only I was married… [insert ridiculous expectation here]. Mostly I think it was—if only subconsciously—If only I was married, my problems would disappear. And while being married to Clay is the absolute greatest source of joy in my life, I can confidently say it has not dissolved my problems.

I think we often romanticize things in life. We look around our social-media-saturated world at everyone’s best they are posting, and we think, If only… [I had a boyfriend/ husband/child, or this job, or that house, or insert your own coveted desire here}. And I think the envy of those who are married by the single person is a big one.

I believe these thoughts of “if only” are straight lies from Satan that lead to the sin of ingratitude for what God has given us, for where He has put us.

We do ourselves no service when we believe the lie of “if only.” In singleness, it leads us to become ungrateful for where we are, romanticizing the “greener grass” of marriage. And once in marriage, we become ungrateful, largely due to those false expectations we had in singleness of marriage!

As with all gifts from God, the gift of marriage does not come easy. The gift of marriage comes with a call to work.


mucking the corral

My parents recently got two horses for our ranch. It’s been a long-time dream of my mom’s, and after lots of waiting, preparation, and behind-the-scenes work on God’s part, she finally got her horses.

She named them Jax and Grace, Jax meaning “God has been gracious.” And branded on each of them? JP. My mom likes to think of it as a symbol that Jesus Provided.

And while these horses are most certainly gifts from God, they are most certainly gifts that require much work.

You know what my mom and dad were out there doing every morning? Mucking the corral. In layman’s terms, that means cleaning up the horses’ poop. Shoveling it, to be exact. Not exactly glamorous work.

My parents’ 37 years of marriage, too, is a gift it is. And yet, it is the product of lots of mucking out of sin in their lives, of lots of endurance and often grueling effort, of lots of work. Long, hard work.

Not exactly the stuff people post on Instagram. Not exactly what Hollywood makes movies about. Not exactly the subject matter of a Taylor Swift song.

Marriage is a gift. But marriage is work.

Singleness is also a gift. And singleness has its own set of work.

Each season of life—each day of life even—is a gift. And each gift requires work.


this work is nothing new

I’m not quite sure why we are surprised when life requires work of us {and I’m just as guilty as any of this} when really it’s always been this way—literally since the beginning of all of time and Creation: God gave Adam the gift of the Garden. And guess what? The Garden was work!

Adam tended to the Garden. He did the work of naming the animals. {And he did much of this work without a helpmate, a spouse, a wife, a companion, a partner by his side.} And when God did give Adam the gift of a “suitable helper” there was still work to be done.

Amidst the abundance that God provided, there was still a restraint required {Genesis 2:17}. There was still trust required of God. There was still the work of obedience to be offered.

This call to work is nothing new. Though Satan would have us believe otherwise.

The horse vet told my mom, “Don’t think these horses love you. All they really care about is eating and pooping.” Funny as that statement may sound, the heart behind it is key: Don’t be deceived…

Don’t think you deserve gifts that comes with no strings attached. Don’t think God’s gifts are merely for your enjoyment and pleasure and sheer bliss. Don’t think you can let your guard down and relax. Scripture tells us that Satan is like a lion, prowling, waiting to pouce on his prey {1 Peter 5:8).

Don’t be deceived to believe that marriage doesn’t require work. It’s lots of fun, but it’s also lots of work.


looks can be deceiving

I look at this photo of me and Clay, sitting atop Grace and Jax respectively, on a beautiful ranch, kissing of all things. I know, right. Barf.

It all looks so peaceful and serene, right? It looks like we had a blissful day of sauntering around the ranch, horseback, under the sun, right?


Mere moments after this photo was taken, I was clinging on for dear life.

I wanted to let Grace trot, so I told her to go, and instead she immediately threw herself into a full gallop while whipping around in a complete 180. My right foot flew out of the stirrup, I teetered about one quarter of an inch from being thrown off, and by God’s grace—oh the irony!—managed to grip those reigns and regain balance.

Heart racing, palms sweating, what a different moment than the one captured in this photo. It was scary, not fun, and most definitely some work to stay on that horse. And yet you didn’t see any of that.

Looks can be deceiving.

No individual, and no marriage, gets to escape the trials that will come and storms that will hit. Scripture lays it out pretty clearly when Jesus Himself tells us, “In this world you will have trouble…” {John 16:33}.

I dont care how glamorous someone’s life or marriage looks, they, too, have their share of chaotic moments of gripping on for dear life, so to speak.


gratitude for the gift

Thanksgiving is just behind us; Christmas is just around the corner. My prayer for this season is that we would bring the spirit of thanksgiving with us into this Christmas season—a season marked by gifts.

We saw what happened when Adam and Eve looked to the thing they couldn’t have, to the thing God hadn’t given them in their gift of the Garden: they gave into sin which led to shame to hiding to blame and ultimately to their banishment from the Garden.

Instead of looking to what you haven’t been given, ask God to fill you with contentment for all He has provided, and to open your eyes to the beauty and goodness of the gift to which He has entrusted you.

Singleness draws us to Jesus, teaching us to rely on Him, and allows us the freedom of time to study His Word, to grow in deeper relationship with Him, and to be shaped into the future husband or wife we long to be. And let’s face it—you get to do what you want, when you want, and how you want!

Marriage extracts selfishness from our hearts, trains us with exercises of patience and love, revealing to us a small fraction of the way God loves us. And what a great blessing it is to have a constant companion and best friend for the journey.

Thank God for the gift of the season you are in. And thank Him for the work required of it. Because y’all! The work is good! The work is producing in us something better. The work is building in us something greater.

We are guaranteed to have troubles in this life, but we are guaranteed a promise that far outweighs them all. Jesus finishes up John 16:33 with this: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

There’s a hymn that is one of my favorites. I walked down the aisle to it at our wedding. It’s lyrics describe a gift we have been so freely and generously given. It’s one that makes all the work of this life more than worth our effort. It’s one that requires of us no work except to believe. And it’s the only one that will truly satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.

See when you meditate on the gift of salvation if you don’t begin to view the other gifts in your life under a different light. See if you don’t—as Clay says—“find fulfillment in the work as God fulfills His work in you.”

Remember, Jesus Christ made a greater sacrifice than any we will ever have to make. He offered up his life through death to save us from our sin and selves. What a gift.

What bliss.

         My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—

         My sin, not in part but the whole,

         Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

         Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

              It Is Well With My Soul, Horatio Spafford, 1873

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