Molded by Marriage: Reflections One Year After the Altar

I clearly recall at least two times in my life where I was doubtlessly certain that I would be the single, fun auntie forever. In fact, I vowed to be the best power single around. I went as far as to create multiple versions of my “life plan”, beading arrows and bubbles of geographic moves and loan repayment and travel goals, with or without a man. One of my sisters gifted me so many books on singleness and dating that I had to designate a whole portion of my bookshelf to the topic.  I confidently crafted Halloween costume ideas that were anything but cliché (I could rock a ketchup costume without a mustard counterpart because ketchup needs nothing else, okay!?). Though I have always been a hopeful romantic, at some point I was over the rollercoaster of dating apps and situationships and vowed that I would be more than content to do life alone, submitting my singleness and every desire (yes, even for daily cuddles) to the Lord. 

And then along came Mr. Zacchaeus Gaivon Carouthers.  That Chaco-wearing, Dallas Mavericks-cheering, 100-watt-smile-flashing young man walked into my life, and changed it for the better, forever. 

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her! - Luke 1:45 NIV 

Making a long story short, suffice it to say that life has changed significantly since my vow of singleness all those years ago.  Last month, we celebrated one year of marriage and the day I made some different vows than the ones from the first paragraph.  As is expected with milestones, our anniversary provided me space to reflect on what I’ve learned in my new role as wife(y). There are countless lessons I have learned, and I know I’ll be learning for the rest of my life, but  I thought I’d share some of the pearls I’ve ruminated on most from the first 365 days as Mrs. Ravey C. 

We are two participants on a team of 3. 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. - Ecclesiastes 4:12 

I think one of the most beautiful aspects of wedding ceremonies is when the officiant challenges the loved ones gathered to watch. The officiant often inquires and implores them to support the couple on their new journey as spouses. Christian marriage is unique in that in addition to all the wonderful family and friends I can lean on and learn from to love my husband better, I have the ultimate source of wisdom – from God! The Lord created us uniquely, and thus He knows my spouse  better than anyone else, even me. This has been a very helpful reminder as I try to remain a student of my spouse. To know and love my husband better, I must know and love God. At our wedding, we tied a unity cord to signify that our love is held together not by our best efforts and might, but by the surpassing knowledge and lovingkindness of the Lord. I reflect on that cord often in good times and trying times, as a reminder that the source of our unity, our strength, and our love is bigger than either of us. 

Though public braiding provoked more anxiety than I anticipated, I’m so thankful we made space to do a unity cord at our wedding. A 3 strand cord is not easily broken. 🙂

Marriage is a Mirror

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. - Matthew 7:4-5

I have a feeling I’m not the only one who stays ready to lovingly correct a list of flaws or mistakes in others, while maintaining a pride-sized blind spot of my own sins and shortcomings. I do this imperfectly every single day, but I’ve been asking the Lord to show me my own heart and the areas that need a deep cleaning. And y’all, there are some nasty cobwebs . When I’m ready to judge my husband and I’m confronted with my own hypocrisy, I have no choice but to stop and swallow my words. This leads me to pause and wait on the Lord. I have full faith that He is working things out in both of us, and He can do it infinitely better than either one of us. In just a short year, I can recall at least five times where Zacch has come to me with something I had just prayed about, and vice versa. Marriage has been a loving but stern mirror to my pride, insecurities, fears, and faithlessness. When I think of the beautiful mess I can bring into my marriage, I can’t help but worship the God who gave me a kind, patient, gracious husband, and I also can’t help but work (imperfectly)  everyday to extend that same grace to him. 

Sometimes I think marriage is just a never-ending selfie of the heart ..

Dying to self is a daily practice. 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.-Philippians 2:3-4

Some people say it’s in your thirties when you truly know who you are and walk confidently in that person. I would argue that for me, it’s been my late twenties. Just before meeting Zacch, I had finally begun living as if I would be the only character in my love story for the foreseeable future. In many ways, that was quite healthy for me. There was something so sweet about learning who Raven, just Raven was – what she liked to wear, eat, listen to, talk about, and fill her time with with minimal external influence. I grew comfortable in becoming the queen of my castle, doing what I want, when I want. In some ways, it felt like I was on vacation in regular life (I still had school and a job though, don’t get it twisted). As much as I enjoyed the independence of singleness, I have found the unity of marriage even sweeter. Having a solid partner to do life with has brought me endless laughter, joy, and adventures (both literal and figurative). I can’t , however, say that marriage feels like vacation. Instead, I consider marriage the most beautiful, sanctifying, fruitful hard work I’ve ever done. It is not instinctive for most people to put the needs of others above our own, yet that is what we’re asked to do daily in marriage. Now, even if I have a whole schedule planned for myself,  I’ve trained myself to ask what my husband wants to wear, eat, listen to, talk about, and fill his time with. Lucky for me, Zacch and I share some similar interests!   Neither of us, however, are clones, mindreaders, or Jesus, so it requires some practice to constantly seek his wellbeing before my own. This can be challenging, especially on days when I’m sick, tired, upset, or otherwise inclined to focus on taking care of myself. But the truth is, although Jesus gave His life for us on the cross willingly, it didn’t happen easily. He endured everything because His love for us was bigger than his personal desires. I am regularly inspired by my compassionate husband, who is always selfless even when I’m feeling selfish, and in a beautiful spiral of love, I am provoked to love him selflessly.  John 15:13 reminds us that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (NIV). My husband is my very best friend, and although it takes prayer and patience, I am thankful to be developing a rhythm of sacrificial love for him daily. 

Prayer > prolonged debate. 

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer - Romans 12:12 

Looking at my family members and then to myself, I am fully convinced that stubbornness is genetic. I don’t love to debate and argue for the sake of arguing, but when I feel strongly convicted about something, I am prepared to go to trial for my opinion, listing facts and counterpoints to no end. This may make for a good attorney, but a crummy spouse. It has taken quite some time for me to remember that for Christians, our main purpose in marriage is not to be right, but to be righteous, with the primary goal of growing with our spouses to look more like Jesus Christ. How can we do this if we don’t mimic His behavior? In times of conflict, Jesus was not found bickering and going back and forth with his accusers. We see him first praying constantly to the Father. Jesus listened patiently, asking questions not to accuse and convict, but to spark inward thought. He didn’t need to waste every breath convincing his audience; He knew the Father was always working on His behalf. Finally, Jesus always stated the truth in love. When I feel strongly about a subject, it’s tempting for me to end my longwinded rebuttals and monologues by exclaiming, “BOOM! Got ‘em!”. I’m consistently realizing, however, that when I feel like I “win”, I’ve still lost because I’ve pitted myself against my partner on a team of three (see first point). It  has been difficult and humbling  but also incredibly affirming to realize that in conflict (which is inevitable ), it will always be us, Raven-Deneice and Zacchaeus steered by the perfect, powerful, interceding Holy Spirit, versus whatever we face. With that perspective, we have already conquered anything life can throw at our marriage. And that’s a really great feeling. 

Almost every day in dental school, a professor would remind us that we must become lifelong learners in order to remain phenomenal dentists for our patients. If we fail to keep reading academic journals, networking with experienced clinicians, and completing continuing education courses, we risk becoming obsolete and tone deaf to the evolving needs of patients and the various technologies and resources in the profession. Marriage is quite different from dentistry, but there are some similarities. Like dentistry, marriage takes practice. It has taken routine work and discipline to stay attentive to my husband’s needs. Without being a creep (though that’s subjective), I’ve observed him super closely so I can be the first to interpret his mood and anticipate how I can serve him on any given day. He does the same for me. It’s also taken discipline to not compare ourselves to each other, and to learn to love how our differences make us a stronger unit. In just a year of marriage, I have learned more about Zacch than I have in all our time together (and quite a bit about myself as well). Through all the scenes of our first year, we have both gained so much wisdom, and we also know it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not every lesson we’ve learned along the way has been fun, but each one has been refining. So yes, I am a lifelong learner as a dentist. But my favorite role is these days is as a proud lifelong learner and a student of my spouse. I’m praising God that I get to do life with my best friend, and we get to spend the rest of our lives learning in love. 

As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. - Isaiah 62:5

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