The Secret Service

How the secret service saved my marriage. Fighting for marriage in prayer changes one person every time. Heaven Not Harvard

What do you do when you are so angry you can’t function, so bitter the walls are closing in on you, so empty there are no words? You join the Secret Service.

A few years ago, my marriage was failing. We still really loved each other, but something was very broken. My husband was angry all the time. I was bitter. We could barely talk about anything without bickering, so we didn’t talk much. I did my thing. He did his. We slept in the same bed, but we weren’t any kind of team. And while we didn’t fight often, by the time we did, we’d both been harboring so many hurts and slights, that we were boilers ready to explode.

A year after he returned from his last deployment, I didn’t know if we were going to make it. I was trying to be the “good” wife, be a good person, live morally and he was just such a jerk. He was selfish and mean. He wanted to hunt more than he wanted to be home with us. He didn’t care about how his choices affected me at all. From using the last of the milk, but not putting it on the list, to breaking my favorite dishes with his carelessness, to leaving me home with the stomach flu and toddler to sit in a boat waiting for ducks. If I ever complained, he would shut me out completely or explode with rage.

I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how I was going to be able to live the rest of my life with this awful person who just hurt me at every turn. I guarded my heart from him, went to bed aching with loneliness, wishing he would wake up and start being what I needed. What a selfish creep .  .  .

. . . I was.

When the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my sin, my need for Grace, and true forgiveness. I can’t tell you how it changed my heart. A veil lifted. I was able to see other people as loved creations of God struggling with their own sins and pains.

I realized that I had been expecting my husband to fill my heart in the place God should be. I wrote a post about my running away from God, trying to use the world to fill my emptiness a few months ago. When I keep reading about letting God be my portion, it didn’t make sense, but I kept praying about it. I kept reading the Bible and praying.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

When I pursued God, asked him to fill my heart, to give me what I need, my cup got full. I was able to stop seeing my husband as someone responsible for filling my heart, but as someone whose heart was so empty, he could barely function. As God filled my heart with grace and forgiveness, I began to feel His love, and I started to fill up my husband’s cup out of the overflow of my heart.

And I realized I’d been keeping score for a long time, not literally, but emotionally. I won’t do this for him because he didn’t do that for me. Each check mark against him cemented a brick in the wall we were building between us. Even when I had been doing the right things, I would hold up my pretty list of all the wonderful things I had done for him during the day and wait for his thanks. Most of the time, I got nothing or a mumbled thanks, then I got hurt and more resentful.

I was holding up my heart via the laundry or dishes, and he was smashing it over and over. But God really convicted me, “Are you truly doing this to serve him or to get something from him?”

Ouch! I wanted love, recognition, respect.

Wait, he probably did, too. What if he was being a jerk because I was hurting him or not fulfilling his needs? Ooh, and all of a sudden, I saw my husband weighed down with pain, war, loss, frustration, disrespect, exhaustion. I saw a soul God wants in His kingdom.

And a lesson came to mind about how we serve the needy, but it really resonated with how we serve anyone in need.

Matthew 6:1-34 ESV

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Our Father sees in secret. God will see my serving my husband quietly. Loved people love people, (See 1 John 4) and I finally felt loved enough to be able to love others. I could see his need for me to love him. I started looking for ways to serve him secretly, not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I didn’t need him to.

My heart was more blessed doing quiet, secret things for my him than it ever was by nagging him. Click To Tweet

I started to look for ways to just quietly do things for him without his asking. Like noticing that his toothpaste tube is nearly empty and replacing it, adding it to the grocery list when his shower gel is running low, making his lunch and preparing his coffeepot, and even suggesting he go hunting when his week has been long.How the secret service saved my marriage. Heaven Not Harvard

One of those jobs that I wouldn’t have even thought to do before I let Christ reign in my heart is picking up my husband’s dirty underwear off the floor of the bathroom. Every morning. He literally has to walk past his closet (where his hamper is) in order to leave the house every morning, but it never fails that his underwear are on the floor wadded up under the edge of the vanity. I would have ignored them, kicked them, but picked them up – ugh, no thank you.

Several years ago, I would have nagged him about being so lazy and careless or even selfish for leaving them there. It would have become an infection between us. A couple of years ago, I would have kindly asked him to pick them up, but secretly resented those stupid underwear.

Today, I laugh. I even pray over those underwear.

“Lord, thank you for this opportunity to serve my husband, thank you for a marriage that is working, please remind me that my service to you is about humility and being used by You without drawing attention to myself.” I pray over his day. I pray that his body will be enough to face the challenges of whatever he is called to do. I pray that his heart will be open to see God in his day. I pray for him to know I love him, to bring him home safely.

And I choose everyday to thank God for those stupid, blessed, dirty underwear. I’ve even been disappointed when he remembers to put them in the hamper.

My heart has been filled more in doing quiet, secret things for my husband than it ever was by nagging him into doing things for me.

When my heart got filled with service, I stopped being bitter. I started looking for the next thing I could do for him. I started giving him real attention, listening to his needs. I started giving him some grace when his day at work had been too much for him and he needed some silence before he could be the daddy and husband he wants to be.

If this is so secret, why am I writing about it?

Because nothing changed my marriage more than loving him and expecting nothing in return. Nothing I ever did changed my husband’s heart more than my secret service and how I softened towards him by doing it.

And when I was sharing with a friend who was struggling in her own marriage about how mine got turned around by God, I told her the story of the dirty underwear, how I would pray, “Thank you, Lord, that these underwear remind me my husband isn’t in Iraq.”  Her eyes filled with tears, and she joined the ranks, our Secret Service.

She started to see the same truth that God had pointed out in me. Our culture asks what is in it for me? But I was never emptier than when I was counting the cost and measuring his gratitude, and I’ve never been more full of joy than I’ve been picking up his sweaty, dirty, thrown up under the cobwebby vanity, gross underwear.

badgeBesides, the underwear was just a start. Once you join the Secret Service, you will find so many ways to quietly serve people, and those are my treasures I hold in my hand like sweet pearls, knowing I am seen, I am treasured, I am loved by my Heavenly Father.

Are you in? We’re taking new members everyday.;)

 

 

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47 thoughts on “The Secret Service”

  1. What a great post. In the last couple years I’ve also struggled with the same things. I began to put my focus on myself and God instead of my husband. I realized I had to be happy within myself and have a closer relationship with God to fully love. It’s then that I realized how my husband might feel too. It’s truly amazing What God can do for us. Thank you for sharing and what an inspiration!

  2. Same here my husband was devout born again but is backslidding, I will apply what you said i will no longer have resentment towards him, just do everything onto my husband as I onto the Lord and to give me servant heart with out nothing in return this story touched my I’m sure many other women.Thank you.

      1. If he doesn’t, you can pray over them when you do laundry and put them away!

        Great post and much needed! Thank you!

        1. I definitely find ways to pray over lots of little things – even when he picks up his underwear. Today I prayed over a cup of coffee remembering that I’m sitting down, having quiet time with coffee and God as he has been at work already for 7 hours and won’t be home until tomorrow. And I messaged him right then to tell him I love him.

  3. It is so easy, especially after many years of marriage to get caught up in the business of life and start expecting things from our husbands (or wives) that we never expected in the beginning. We start expecting service and we forget how to serve. Thank you for this humble reminder, Jennifer.

  4. This is a great post! I think a lot of people spend to much energy keeping emotional score with our spouses. It can be detrimental to a marriage and family. Just last year, our marriage went through a time like this. It was a very hurtful time for both of us. We did not communicate at all. I went to bed every night numb to my marriage. One day the Holy Spirit spoke to me and reminded my how much I loved the God in my husband. I began to frame my “actions and reactions” towards my husband as actions and reactions towards God in him. I was led to Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” I do not know if that makes sense the way I wrote it but it changed our marriage. I never thought of it as “Secret Service,” but your post sums it up great. It was “Secret Service.” A few months later, he came to me and apologized profusely for the for everything. He said he was convicted by the Holy Spirit about his “actions and reactions” towards me. From that point on everything has been great.

    Thank you so much for writing this post and sharing your story.

  5. The Lord convicted my heart a couple of years ago about this. I have started noticing how well my husband responds to me when I give him the praise and support he deserves instead of focusing on the bad. Also recommend “5 love languages” by Gary Chapman. It really helps you see what you are contributing to the marriage. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  6. I truly love this. I am working on this very thing of doing things without expecting in return. Sometimes just the blessing of knowing that he felt blessed is blessing enough! If that makes any sense…Good stuff!!

  7. What a beautiful testimony about the power that God can have in our lives. Thank you for your bold honesty and transparency that overflowed all over this post. You have certainly inspired me to be less concerned about recognition and more concerned about serving other because that is what Jesus calls me to do. I’m in with you!

  8. What a lovely and honest post! Love it! I’ve noticed the same thing–anytime my husband seems especially annoying, usually *I’M* the one with something to change!

  9. This was so good. About two years ago I had to go to our little house with my granddaughter because DHR got involved. My husband didn’t come. I was just tired of things and the way things was going on my home. Then God got a hold of me and I went home, It was the best thing I could have done. It was serving him for Christ.
    1

    1. I get tired of how things are going in my home all the time. I’m learning that I have to give it up to God. I have to cry to him and ask Him to intervene in my heart. He always does.

  10. Love, love , love this post! I was a stay-at-home homeschooling mom for 16 years. I wore that as my badge of pride and hard work. I had a tough time when my husband didn’t respect and thank me for my service to our family. Thankfully, God got ahold of my heart in this area and I have been serving in Secret Service for years!

    1. Sounds like you outrank me in time in service, but glad we’re on the same team. Serving others in secret is so powerful. Especially when we stop focusing on earthly thanks!

  11. Jen, have you ever read Love and Respect? I just finished it and it’s fantastic. This post reminded me a lot of it because one of the key elements in it is “Her respect regardless of his love. His love regardless of her respect.” My hubby leaves his underwear in the same spot and before I would roll my eyes and kick them out of my way but now I pick them up and say a prayer of thanks that he is here and I can do this for him. So I guess, I’m joining the Secret Service too. 🙂 Do we get cards? LOL.

    1. We are reading it now. We haven’t gotten very far, but our rule is that if we want to stop and discuss something we do. Just talking and being open has already done wonders.

  12. It’s so easy (too easy) to treat my husband as an idol sometimes. I notice when that happens he does something to “mess up”, and I am left seeing my sin.

  13. This is such a great post! I think we often times we hold our spouses responsible for our happiness, when that is something we must find ourselves. God bless!

  14. This is so good! It reminds me of my situation with my husband. We are at the beginning stages of holding onto that resentment and measuring the gratitude of the other. If we continue, I know things will be pretty bad down the road. We both recognize that we do it and have conversations about it from time to time, but we always need reminders of our own failures and our need for grace. I’m thankful that when we were (and still are) in need of grace that God didn’t give up on us. But instead He loved us so much that He sent His Son to serve us sacrificially. We should have no choice to but to serve Him and others selflessly in return! Thank you for this!

    1. I am glad you see the need for a shift before it gets too far down that road. If I could add one thing to this post, it would be to reach out physically to my husband more often. Hold his hand, hug him, smell his cologne. Touch softens our hearts so much. Praying you keep Christ at the center of your lives and marriage.

  15. I love the ‘secret’ serving of others…since serving is not about glorifying ourselves or getting any sort of attention from others, this is a great way to do it…especially in marriage where it is so easy to nag and start checklists on our minds of how the other is not measuring up….I actually just read a recent post titled ‘Stop Being a Butthole Wife’ (I know the title sounds weird but it was perspective changing…and now I read your post and I think I am in need of this message…thank you! Timely reminder for sure!

  16. Oh, how I love this post. Your testimony is amazing. I have found that we go through mountains and valleys in our marriages- and even if I am on a mountain right now, I can prepare my heart for the darker valleys (and spend much time being thankful for the view up here.).

    1. Right now my husband is serving me as I’m hospitalized and have a long recovery. It is nice to see how years of my service has affected him and his willingness to serve

    1. Humility has proven to be so much more healing and welcoming than false perfection ever was. I am just doing my best to be faithful daily to my God and his purpose for me

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