Before and After Pictures of My Soul

I love before and after pictures.  I love to see before and after house renovation pics and also makeover pictures of people.  There is something amazing about being able to witness huge visual/aesthetic improvements in a place or a person.  Here I am going to give you some “before and after” pictures from my own soul.  The transformation has been extremely dramatic- and God is NOT remotely done with the renovations yet!  I am going to answer some of the questions from my last post from my own experience.  I really hate the before pictures, but they do help a body appreciate the after pictures even more!

BEFORE – when I was trying to be in control, or thought I HAD to be in control and when I didn’t realize I was being disrespectful to my husband:

  • I was NOT at peace – not with myself, not with my husband and not with God.
  • The thing that scared me the most was that if I gave my husband the leadership, he might ask me to do things I didn’t think were God’s will for me.   Or, he might not lead and we might just sit in one spot for the rest of our lives.  My biggest fear was that he would insist I would have to work more.  He talked about that a good bit since my hours had been cut a few years ago, and I really believed my calling was to be home with my children.  My job at the time was extremely stressful and I dreaded every minute of it.  I was SURE that if I submitted to my husband he would force me to work several more days per week and that it would be torture.  Not only would I NOT be home where I believed God wanted me to be, but I would be living under extreme pressure and stress without even the time to go to the bathroom or eat in an 8 hour shift.  We were so understaffed at the pharmacy where I worked I also was very afraid that I would accidentally hurt someone by misfilling something because I had to constantly rush and hurry and was still always behind.  If I was forced to work more against my will, I was very afraid I would greatly resent my husband and not sure how I could deal with that.
  •  I felt very lonely many times.  I wanted to be close to my husband.  I tried to be emotionally/spiritually close to him by talking about a lot of my thoughts and feelings, but he seemed closed off and far away.  I didn’t know how to reach him, where he had gone, or why.  Our marriage wasn’t bad (no abuse or major problems), but I knew it could be so much better and that we were missing out on a lot of intimacy.  But I just didn’t know how to make it better.  Giving him more love didn’t seem to help, if anything, I think it made things worse.  I didn’t recognize that I was in control and had left him out of the leadership position in many ways.  He didn’t seem to want to lead.  I would ask him to lead, and wait about 5-10 minutes – then if he didn’t answer or respond, I thought I “had” to take over.  I was IMPATIENT.  I didn’t realize that I was disrespectful and that he was protecting himself from my criticism and verbal attacks.  I didn’t know that he felt like there was no use even trying to lead me since I was “always right.”
  •  I often felt unloved and unappreciated.  I felt invisible.  I felt like I was unnecessary and unimportant in my husband’s life.  Telling him about these feelings didn’t draw him closer to me, it just pushed him farther away.  I didn’t know what I could offer to my husband that would be meaningful to him.  I used to ask him about that a lot.  But he couldn’t verbalize an answer.  I didn’t know what his real needs were and how much I could contribute to his sense of manhood.  And I didn’t understand the power in my own femininity or what made me valuable in our marriage.
  • My husband didn’t seem very happy to me.  And I didn’t seem very happy to him, either.  He kept saying he wanted to see me get my “joy” back.  But I didn’t know how to have joy when I felt so alone and ignored.  I think I was expecting my husband to meet a lot of my needs that really only God could meet.  My expectations were through the roof and extremely unrealistic of a man.  I easily made an idol of my husband – and of being in control myself.
  • I was afraid,  worried a lot, and anxious.  I cried a good bit.  I felt the weight of the family on my shoulders and I couldn’t carry that load – it was SO heavy!   I didn’t have peace.  I was constantly trying to figure out what I thought needed to happen and how I could MAKE things go the way I thought they should.  I was extremely impatient and had a critical spirit towards myself and my husband and probably everyone else.  That just seemed normal.  I held grudges.  I was bitter and resentful and unforgiving and didn’t know how to let go of all of that yuckiness.  I was prideful beyond belief- but I didn’t see it.
  •  I wanted to be close to God.  I prayed a lot.  I prayed mostly for God to change my husband, sadly.  And I didn’t see the dump truck loads of sin in my own heart and the strongholds of Satan.  I didn’t understand why my prayers weren’t being answered.
  •  I didn’t see miracles when I was trying to be in charge (although God did keep us together and brought us to the place where I could change – and I am SO thankful for that!).
  • My husband would do kind things for me and take me out sometimes.  He would always get me nice gifts for my birthday and Christmas.  I wasn’t great at receiving things graciously, but he has always been generous.  Not a lot of romance at that time, but he was still generous and kind.
  • I tended to be negative, critical, pessimistic and stressed.
  • We were NOT working together as a team at that time.
  • Our children were not as respectful as I thought they should be towards either of us.
  • I could see some of my husband’s strengths, but I was much more focused on the negative things that I wanted to change.  I was not very thankful for the man I had.  I didn’t accept and love him for who he was right then.
  • I did NOT like the way I sounded when I talked to my husband.  My voice was often irritated, exasperated, impatient, frustrated, and unpleasant.
  • I didn’t focus much on finding positive things to think and say about my husband.  I did a good bit of complaining, even to other people and my girl friends.  There were some things he did well that I praised him about, but I didn’t have a habit of looking for the positive and ignoring the negative.
  • At the time I didn’t regret my disrespect and control issues because I didn’t even recognize that was what I was doing.  But I knew things were NOT working the way they should have been.  As soon as I saw myself through my husband’s eyes (after reading Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs), I immediately realized I was the problem and regretted my behavior terribly.  THIS WAS A TOTAL SHOCK!  I had thought for 15 years that HE needed to change and HE was the spouse who wasn’t doing a good job loving me.  I could not believe it when I saw that I had been doing a bad job as a wife.  I was devastated.
  • I wanted much better for my children’s marriages than I had.
  • I was not focused on building my husband up.  I was actually tearing him down in many little ways.  The main changes I saw during that time were that he distanced himself from me emotionally/spiritually and he was very quiet a lot.  He watched a lot of tv and loved to work on projects much more than to be with me.
  • I knew things could and should be better, and I prayed a lot.  I did believe God would help us somehow.

AFTER my blinding-light on the road to Damascus experience, I decided that I was going to be the most respectful and submissive wife on the planet- if I could just figure out what exactly that meant!  The changes I have seen since that moment over 3 and a half years ago have been MIRACULOUS!

  • For about the first 10 months or so of deciding to surrender to my husband’s leadership, I kept getting job offers for more hours every month from out of the blue.  My biggest fear in submitting to my husband was that I might have to work more hours as a pharmacist, and that my husband would say I had to do that.  Every month (for at least 8-10 months) there was a week or two where things would be all up in the air for me and I would be waiting anxiously for Greg’s decision.  God made me practice this lesson over and over until I could be at peace either way.  Greg ultimately had mercy and compassion on me and never forced me to work more.  I do work extra now when I can to show him I am on his team and that I am supporting his efforts to provide well for our family.  I told Greg how I felt,  what I wanted, cried a lot and prayed a lot, and left things up to Greg and to God.  Eventually I did get a different job- that is much less stressful.  Now I don’t get stressed about going to work.  That’s a huge blessing!  But I also learned to live with peace in the face of some of my biggest fears and learned to trust that my husband and my God have my best interests and those of our children at heart.
  • Things did not fall apart.  At first it felt very scary – and quiet.  I didn’t know what to do with so much quiet in the beginning.  I felt very out of my element.  I learned to keep things to myself a lot more and not say every little thought and feeling I had constantly like I used to.  I learned to stop thinking and speaking negatively and to focus on the good and use my words to build up my husband.  It felt awkward for a few months as I began to learn the ropes of respect and submission.  At first, I felt so clueless, I didn’t even know what was respectful or disrespectful.  But I began seeing wonderful changes in myself, our marriage and my husband pretty quickly.  I learned not to get too attached to the answers to my questions or too attached to certain plans and learned how to rest in God’s love and my husband’s love and go with the flow and be thankful for the adventure each new day brings. (“The Surrendered Wife” by Laura Doyle and “The Respect Dare” by Nina Roesner gave me a lot of practical steps of giving up control to my husband and respecting him.  Those were kind of my boot camp books to learn the basics).
  • Now I have peace and joy every day.  I don’t get worried about my husband anymore, or his decisions.  Eventually, being a more godly wife became a habit (and living with His Spirit in control did, too!) and once I learned my new habits, things got a lot easier and more certain.  Now I have a long track record of letting my husband be in charge and trusting God, so I see my trust and faith grow in both of them even more.   It gets easier to trust when I know more and more deeply the love that God and my husband have for me.  And I have God’s Spirit continually feeding me and giving me His peace and joy.  Those strongholds Satan had erected in my heart have been thrown down and God’s Spirit is free to speak to me, correct me, convict me, guide me and instruct me as He sees fit.  My ears are much more sensitive to His voice now.
  • I NEVER, EVER, EVER want to go back to trying to be in control again.  I don’t EVER want to go back to being disrespectful again.  I deeply regret that there was even one day (much less many years) in my marriage in which I tried to be in control and was disrespectful to my husband.  I LOVE the way things are now!!  It took a good 2 years to really feel like I began to be fluent in the language of respect and a lot of research on my part.  And I had a lot to learn about being a gracious and supportive follower.  But my husband has been extremely patient and forgiving as I learned and for him, just knowing I wanted to give him what he needed in our marriage went a long way, even when I wasn’t great at it at first.
  • I continue to see more and more that I respect and admire and the more I praise my husband and God for all the wonderful things about my husband, the more great things keep cropping up!  I barely even notice his faults anymore.  They are there.   He isn’t perfect – and that’s ok!  God even uses my husband’s faults to make me more like Christ.  God’s sovereignty is at work in every little detail!  Now I see my faults much more clearly and I keep all of his many strengths in the forefront of my mind .  It is MUCH better this way!
  • I immediately began trying to be respectful and trying to give my husband control when I realized the problem.  Things immediately began to improve.  But it took two years before we really hit our stride.
  • The first few months were the hardest.  I needed a Respect 101 class and How to Be a Follower for Dummies.  And there were no such things to be found!  Thankfully, God brought me a lot of resources and books, and even Greg scoured the internet to find the most helpful books for me.  Now, the submission and respect thing are so deeply ingrained that I don’t have to think much about doing them.  And I have so much joy as a result of obeying God that I want to keep obeying Him, no matter what the consequences may be.
  • Now we both feel like we are working very well together as a team.
  • Now I feel very close to God and to my husband.  I am extremely happy, content, joyful and at peace.  I have a huge sense of purpose in my life for my faith, my marriage and my children.
  • The past 3 .5 years, and especially the past 2 years  have been the best of our 18 years of marriage.  We laugh and talk daily.  I feel adored, loved, cherished, protected and well-provided for.  I can see Greg’s love for me in his eyes.  He smiles at me when I come in the room now.  He and I are both so happy to see each other again when he comes home from work.  Now, I have a long list of my husband’s strengths in my mind all the time, and I don’t think about his faults much at all.
  • Now, I consciously look for positive things to tell others about my husband.  I am careful to build him up in front of others.
  • Our children immediately began speaking more respectfully to both of us when I began speaking respectfully to my husband.
  • I like the way I sound when I talk to my husband now.  I rarely have regrets.  That alone brings a lot of peace to my soul!
  • I do pray that our children will have a marriage as vibrant, intimate, healthy and wonderful as ours now!  And now that they have a better and more Christ-like example, they are in the best possible position to be able to learn to have a healthy marriage themselves.
  • There have been times that my husband made decisions that I wouldn’t have made – and then I have seen God literally do miracles and cause things to fall into place in ways that I could never have imagined.  It’s been amazing!
  • The changes I have seen in my husband since I have become respectful towards him and follow his leadership are incredible. He will bend over backwards to help me now and to do little things to make me happy.  He still loves to do projects and watch tv, but he carves out time for me, too, and we talk a lot more than we used to.  He cares very deeply about my feelings and concerns.   He wants to do things he knows I will enjoy and appreciate.  He is even more generous and kind now.   He plans surprises for me now.  If he finds out he has hurt me, or that I am hurting about something, he immediately does all he can to help me and make things better.  He is tender and romantic now.  And I am extremely appreciative for every little thing he does.  I don’t take my man for granted.  I am thankful for him exactly the way he is.
  • I can’t wait to see all that God has in store!

Last spring, my husband asked me to teach other wives what I have learned.  To me, that was the pinnacle of the changes God has made in me so far.  I cannot fathom a better compliment from my husband.  I  REALLY hate my spiritual “before picture”, but the before picture sure does help me appreciate the “after picture” a whole lot more!  And I pray that my mistakes might help other women learn more quickly than I did.  I don’t want any of us to live with regrets.  I pray we might all find the beauty, the romance, the adventure and the joy and peace that God has in store for us when we follow His incredible design!