(Adapted from Jimmy’s newest book, When Life Hurts)
Early in our marriage—when Karen and I were struggling and on the brink of divorce—we were mentored by, Kerm and Lou Ethel Albertson, an older couple at our church. They had the kind of marriage we both longed to have. I was jealous of their relationship and wanted to know their secret.
We went to dinner with them one night when it was clear Karen and I had been fighting. Kerm talked to us about the many fights he and Lou Ethel had gotten into over the years, down to the intimate details of their arguments. He admitted his own stubbornness, disillusionment, times of pride and arrogance and sin.
I was stunned. How could he talk so openly about his struggles? He was unguarded and transparent, with nothing to hide. I could never imagine being that vulnerable, letting others see my flaws and insecurities. (At the time, I had plenty.)
Though God had been working in my life to teach me the importance of opening up to others, I struggled even to be vulnerable with Karen. But through Kerm and Lou Ethel that night, God showed me that their vulnerability with each other was what had kept them together so many years.
That’s what made their relationship so strong and vibrant. It’s also what gave them such a deep and meaningful relationship with God as individuals.
Many of us have experienced conviction and brokenness about our sins and failures. But brokenness alone isn’t enough to heal our hurts. God needs more from us than brokenness: He needs us to come out of hiding.
Karen and I enjoy a much healthier marriage today. It’s because God called us out of hiding, and we obeyed.
It’s impossible to build a relationship with someone when your world is defined by fear, or when you don’t think you can trust them with your pain. It’s impossible to feel close to someone when you spend most of your life pushing them away. A healthy marriage requires honesty and openness.
Once Karen and I learned to open up to each other emotionally, we saw an immediate change in our relationship. Brick by brick, God dismantled the walls we’d built between us. We began seeing things in each other that we hadn’t seen in years.
I realized I could trust Karen with my most painful thoughts and emotions. The deeper I let her in, the closer we became. Eventually we learned to share our struggles with other couples, too. We found freedom and healing…and as we shared our own story, it began to help others find healing, too.
If you’ve never allowed yourself to experience the freedom of letting your spouse see the real you, do so today. Give your spouse access to most wounded, painful parts of yourself. You’ll find healing, and your marriage will thank you.