Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore
“Don’t scratch anymore! Once you stop scratching, you will be as beautiful as other girls!” My mum would tell me repeatedly as I was growing up.
I suffer from eczema, a skin condition which would leave my skin red, cracked, itchy, and full of blisters. My mother was concerned that unless my condition cleared up some day, my chances at getting married would be slim.
Although my skin condition improved as I grew up, it was still dry and blemished compared to other girls, and my mother’s fear became mine. I became conscious of how I looked. My insecurities about myself led me to this conclusion: the solution to my problems was to get married.
I fantasized about the idea of marriage, believing it would change me completely. After all, true love was supposed to be able to overcome all things. I would stop having such a low self-esteem. I would stop being so short-tempered. I would be loved and accepted for who I was.
In my mid-20s, I met someone special. He accepted my blemished and dry skin, and he soon became my husband. I was so proud to finally be married. I felt security in my new relationship status and in knowing that I was no longer left on the shelf.
However, the comfort didn’t last long; marriage only gave me a false sense of security.
Early into the marriage, I started to see how my husband and I actually did not share much in common. While we were dating, I was trying so hard to make things work out that I often gave in to him without voicing what I really wanted.
We were two vastly different individuals. He loved watching movies while I often fell asleep in the cinemas. He preferred western food while I preferred Asian food. Whenever we went on dates, we would often get into conflicts whenever a decision was required. Back at home, he would watch television till late while I preferred to sleep at 10:00 p.m. He didn’t seem to bother to keep things neat while tidiness was important to me.
The both of us were too stubborn to give in and our quarrels were endless. With the birth of our child, we quarreled even more and my temper worsened. Even the slightest irritation made me flare up. Banging doors at home became a habit of mine and once, I even threw an iPad on the floor. Our regular conflicts left me emotionally drained.
Previously, I thought that marriage would complete me and provide me with a sense of security. I thought I would be more patient and loving after marriage. I was completely wrong. My marriage left me feeling unloved, and I even regretted getting married. Though I was very hurt and I feared for the future—especially since I had a child whom I was responsible for— thoughts of divorce lingered in my head and I wondered if I could cope as a single mum.
This went on for months until my mentor reached out to me in love and directed me to the Gospel. I came across this verse from my bible study reading material, “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) True love first comes from God and both of us desperately needed God in our lives first. We needed to understand the extent of God’s love for us and receive it before we could give the same love to others. Only the love of God could heal us and release the tension that we faced in our marriage.
As I continued to study the Bible, another verse that convicted me was James 4:1, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” I realized that the root cause of our quarrels was the fact that I was focusing too much on what I wanted. I had placed my own desires and interests above my husband’s. Instead of putting God at the center of my marriage, I had put myself. And that was hindering me from demonstrating to my husband the love that God had showed me.
That was the turning point. I turned to God and asked the Holy Spirit to help me see my worth in God’s sight and for the strength to exercise self-control in the moments leading up to a conflict. Slowly, I began to be able to control my temper better and we quarreled less.
Today, my relationship with my husband has improved because of God’s presence and intervention. Through my experience, I realized that a marriage without God as the center can never transform an individual. A marriage built on human strength trying to work things out will never work because we are sinful humans who fall prey to our own sinful desires.
We need someone stronger than we are to make things work.
We need God.