I have a problem with people who think all issues and previous life baggage should be worked out pre-marriage. It just isn’t realistic. Most of the time, a lot of issues actually remain dormant in our lives UNTIL marriage. Marriage is the impetus that shakes a lot of them loose.
God knows this and actually leverages marriage to heal us.
I remember my own premarital counseling experience. My husband and I were counseled by a wonderful couple about a variety of topics. We answered questions and even completed a manual that covered various topics regarding compatibility, marriage beliefs, and parenting modalities, etc.
I emerged from pre-marital counseling feeling like a total ROCK STAR. The ministry couple told us that they’d never had a couple rate so similarly in their intake-form scores before. We were this amazing anomaly. I knew our marriage was going to be flawless. How could it not?
Aww, such sweet naïveté.
God’s grace was all over my dating experience. I met my husband right before I jetted off across the country to attend grad school. We actually started our dating relationship through emails, a landline phone and AOL instant messenger (Remember those days?). I didn’t know it at the time, but my long-distance relationship was the BEST thing that possibly could have happened for me. But God knew.
God knew that my buried issues would have been a ticking time bomb if I had dated someone who actually lived nearby.
I had a few clues prior to this relationship that dormant trauma lay in my past, but nothing really loud enough to grab my attention. Feeling suffocated by attentive boyfriends was my main one. This theme repeated itself over and over. A guy would pursue me. He would be what I perceived as needy—calling me, writing me notes, buying me things, playing with my hair, holding my hands. You know—weird stuff like that. And I’d bail.
“See ya. I don’t need any more parasites in my life.”
So dating my husband long-distance was completely God’s grace. He knew that I needed the stability that marriage would bring. He knew I needed to go a completely different route from my original enmeshed family system. So he nudged me along and coaxed me to marry a truly wonderful, Boaz-hearted man.
It’s still a bit surreal when I look back.
I did have one freak-out moment though in the midst of the relationship. I don’t remember the exact trigger, but it was my same ole issue popping up yet again: I feel suffocated. I don’t think I can do this.
So I didn’t take his calls for a couple days. But somehow—by the grace of God, that feeling passed. I snapped out of it and continued to pursue the marriage. The thousands of miles between us helped me to not feel trapped. We were able to get to know each other without all the physical triggers sabotaging our relationship.
I’m not sure I would have gotten married to an emotionally-healthy person otherwise. I tended to be drawn to guys who needed rescue. I could have easily become a codependent rescuer. Emotionally healthy guys from stable homes didn’t always appeal to me.
God steered me away from all the duds and into the arms of safety instead.
I got lucky. I married a Boaz. He became my Kinsman-Redeemer, like Jesus. It wasn’t all God’s intervention though. My choices to pursue both God and an emotionally-healthy relationship were also huge factors. I had to partner with what God wanted to do.
We always have a choice—broken or not.
So I married a man who was from a loving, functional, and God-serving home. He was wise in considering the ramifications of the brokenness we both knew about—my parents’ broken marriages and my childhood shuffle. But neither one of us could have predicted the hidden brokenness that lay dormant. Only the safety of the marriage relationship would bring that out.
Known areas of brokenness “should” be weighed, just like any other variable, when choosing a spouse. But they “shouldn’t” be the criteria for an automatic disqualification.
GOD GETS THE FINAL REDEMPTIVE SAY. HE TELLS US WHEN TO EMBRACE BROKENNESS.
Previous brokenness does not necessarily determine the future of a marriage. I know friends from stable families who married but later got divorced. I know friends from dysfunctional homes that married young and are still going strong. And I know multiple friends where one spouse comes from a broken family and the other does not—whose marriages are also thriving. There is no predictive formula for a healthy marriage. No pre-marriage guaranty.
The REDEMPTIVE God factor always plays a role in those marriages that overcome the odds.
*I use the words “broken” and “healthy” very lightly, because every person has their own issues and baggage that they bring into a relationship—no matter how “whole” their childhood experience. Some issues are just more reactive in a marriage than others.
And it’s often the combination of both sets of baggage that results in the explosive marriage combustions.
But even those who are raised in loving, safe, and functional family systems have their issues. Every person has areas of their life where they still need to heal, mature, and grow. Each of us lives in this fractured, hurting world. No one is exempted from pain and dysfunction altogether.
No one’s heart will be completely whole until eternity.
But I wonder whether people think they are dodging a bullet by avoiding certain types of brokenness in relationships? Are broken people someone else’s problem? Wasn’t Jesus’ whole game plan to save and deliver broken people—to bring them redemption in every area of their lives?
He embraced the broken. It was His EMBRACE that made them whole.
People often have no problem embracing brokenness in church and ministry settings. But embracing it in their marriages? I don’t think we need to be so gun shy in this area. God gives every person as much strategy and wisdom as they need to minister to the broken—even if it is with their own spouse. They need only ask Him for it.
Seriously though, if each one of us had to wait until we had all of our shit together before we got married, no one would ever marry. So we heal and grow together within the marriage. We grow up to fuller maturity together.
Some of us just have more work to do than others.
God unites safe people with the broken to fulfill His purposes. Think Hosea and Gomer. Boaz and Ruth.
The reality is that broken people crave safety. And healing can only be accomplished in a safe environment—otherwise the hurting just continue to live in survival mode. The safety of the marriage relationship is like sunshine.
Healing grows within its embrace.
This has totally been the case in my own life. When I look back on a couple of the guys I dated, I just heave a HUGE sigh of relief. Pheeewwww…I would never have felt safe enough with some of those guys to actually unpack and heal my past trauma. I could have been stuck in a triggery, revolving marriage that just made my issues worse.
But I didn’t.
Instead I found a husband who was willing to embrace my brokenness and walk alongside of me as I began the process of healing. He embraced my quirky family too. And He has become the family problem solver—as my family members often consult with him on various decisions. He takes care of a lot of loose ends for all of us—just like Boaz did for Ruth’s family.
My husband is definitely ONE of God’s Boazes. He’s redeemed my past for me in so many ways.
Boaz was a symbol of Christ. He was a shadow of things to come. It’s Jesus that is our real Kinsman-Redeemer. He takes care of our loose ends. He provides. He protects. He embraces us in all of our brokenness to bring us to wholeness. And marriage is a symbol of the intimate relationship that God desires to have with us.
So my question is: Where are all the Boazes?
Because God still calls people to represent His heart in this same way today.
And the healthier a person’s foundational root system, the greater the breadth of shade under which the broken can find rest.
“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
“God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy…” (Psalm 68:6)
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).