When mutuality turns to selfishness turns to a chance at true love

I’m going to try to write through something that is so very much still in progress so bear with my until the end, agreed?

I’m in the midst of becoming better at marriage, the hard way. Or at least the pinching, uncomfortable way… which describes most life lessons that I’ve gone through.

Kel and I believe in mutuality (definition here) when it comes to marriage, which means that we both submit to each other equally, to each other’s hopes and dreams and work and passion and time.

All of it.


Over the last few years with this concept, I’ve experienced a shift when it comes to what I believe about gender equality and marriage. And it’s set me free, it’s made sense of the gospel in a way that the old teaching never did.

But here’s the sucky part… there is a chance that I took it a step too far. There’s a chance that I’ve tipped the scales of mutual submission in my favor and straight on into selfishness.

Because mutual submission only works when you’re both submitting mutually and I’m beginning to suspect that in my marriage it’s been more Kel than I. I say that with a lump in my throat and fourteen tons of shame.

Yet, there it is.
Some people might use this as ammo for why mutuality doesn’t work, to them I say, read on…

When I look back on my thoughts, words and actions I’m coming to realize that there’s been a lot of blame shifting, finger pointing and “I’m not getting mine-ing.”

And this isn’t love, and it’s not mutual submission. In fact it’s become a power struggle in a way that marriage was never meant to be. It’s hell to be involved in a relationship where you both feel like you’re playing a game of tug of war for time and importance.

It’s exhausting and unsustainable.

A few weeks back I very seriously considered giving up writing, quitting my job with Young Life and no longer pursuing speaking stuff. Simply put it seemed easier to shrink, to give up the ghost that keeps me at this keyboard, to move into other things, simpler things.

It just seemed easier than figuring out what both AND looked like for our marriage in this season.

Kel didn’t want that, he recognized that this is who I am, that it’s one of this biggest ways in which God is redeeming my story, but I did. It seemed easier to stop trying to make it work to stop seeking out the balance and just give up.

But that’s not God’s plan for me, for our family.

It takes me back to the days in which Kel and I were falling in love over the phone, I had every intention of going to seminary alongside him and we’d regularly joke and dream about tag team preaching and doing ministry together.

Wherever God leads us, together side by side. That was the dream.

And you know what? It still is. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you quit. That flies in the face of every inspirational poster ever sold at Staples so it can’t be true.

No, it’s not about my giving up writing, but it is about me giving more. Putting others before myself and getting out of the rhythm where I’m constantly griping about not having enough time for myself.

It’s about getting back to gratitude, because gratitude is everything

It is about prayer, I need God to lead me to a better place of love and encouragement.

It is about asking for a heaping portion of gentleness and bravery.

It is about putting Kel before me and trusting that he’ll do the same.

It is about scheduling, because when time is on your side… you win.

It is about an inner paradigm shift.

But it’s not about my becoming smaller
It’s not about giving up
It’s not about throwing away the dream
It’s not about putting my marriage farther down the list

It’s about being a part of something in which you both say: “I want you to go through this life free, called and fully alive in a way that only Christ can invite you to.”

Some people say faith is a childish game
Play on, children, like it’s Christmas day
Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, Live Forever (go, listen, love)

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  • Sarahsiders

    Oh my my my I relate to this on so many levels. I regularly want to pack up the blog and hide under the table. I don’t want to finish the book or commit to anything cause it feels too hard and I just don’t want to work that hard at balance. I hear you, girl. I have been selfish way more than Josh and learned the hard way. I know the balance can be done but we have to create our own brand of it. It’s not a formula. I hate that.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Yes! Marriages are not cookie cutter and we run into issues when we try to suggest that they are, don’t we? It’s encouraging and challenging and exhausting… ultimately beautiful I think, I hope.

  • Mark Allman

    I think this deep love that two people have for each other is not so much submission but a building up of the other person and they in turn build you up. You look for ways to support them; to love them when they need it most and sometimes that’s when they are not very lovable. I think when you extend that love and are looking for what can I do for you then in turn you are loving yourself because they will respond in kind. It is so wonderful to be all in for a person and know they are all in for you. Loving each other into the best that person they can be and always being their biggest cheerleader and biggest defender. We should love their flaws for it is part of who they are. Beauty is found here in this love for it is here in the hard times, the flaws, the heartaches. It hopes with an anticipation that love is truly boundless and even if you think you could love no greater tomorrow shows you can and you can be loved like that in turn. What greater opportunity do with have than to love someone like this… all in; forever.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Yes Mark. I love that, although I read something really interesting on Huffington post the other day about although we love each other no matter what we can’t personally have the attitude “love me as I am even when I’m awful and just deal with it.”

      Not that I’m saying you were suggesting we should but it’s an interesting read

      • Mark Allman

        That was a great article. I do think part of the building up we do is challenging the person you love to become the best they can be. Thanks for sharing that article.