My wife, Dalia and I have a wonderful praise report. Just this week, we placed our primary house for sale on the real estate market. In the first day that it was shown, we received multiple offers—two of them actually above our asking price.
We are immensely grateful to God. If that was the entirety of the story, it would be a pleasant one. But, the true story is much richer because it is much dirtier (sounds odd, right?). The dirty truth requires that we go back a couple of years in time.
Two years ago, we placed this same house on the market. In preparation for this sale, we spent ten of thousands of dollars to to get it ready—remodeling the master bathroom, putting a fresh coat of paint throughout the house, and installing new carpet. We did everything our realtor instructed us to make our beautiful home attractive to its next owner. Then, with much anticipation we listed our house. For the next six months we waited and waited—increasingly frustrated with the lack of interest after each passing month. After six months on the market, we stopped trying to sell it. We felt defeated.
Unfortunately, at that time, the sale of our house wasn’t the only thing we had going on. In that same year, we hired a contractor to rehab another property. Working with that contractor was an absolute nightmare and caused a tremendous amount of strain on our home and finances. Ultimately, the contractor failed to complete his contract and left us in a lurch to get the project completed--though we eventually did using a litany of other contractors.
As if the real estate woes weren’t enough, Dalia and I were in our first year of hosting a marriage conference (called Eusebeia 1000) in Hershey, PA where the goal is to inspire one thousand Christian couples to a spiritual revival for marriage. However, our inexperience hosting such large events led us to sign an overly ambitious contract with the hotel. While the event was a tremendous blessing and inspiration, it left us owing the hotel many tens of thousands dollars.
If all of this wasn’t enough, I was simultaneously experiencing persistent headaches and muscle tightening in my neck and shoulders due to a disc problem in my spine. So, I was regularly going to a neurologist, physical therapy, and a chiropractor to get some relief.
What I am saying is that was one dirty year. And, it seemed like the mess was coming from everywhere. There are times when we cried out to the Lord, ‘What is going on?’
In general, it takes a lot to overwhelm Dalia and me as a couple. But, the financial and emotional toll pushed us to our breaking point. It was literally only the prayers of family and friends that sustained us through one of the most difficult years of our marriage.
Fast forward back to present day...
After receiving the call this week from our realtor that our house had sold on the first day, I couldn’t help but give God thanks for it. My wife and I had maintained our unity through a long and difficult season. This real estate success feels like a gift from above—an affirmation of God’s faithfulness through dark and dirty days.
As the magnitude of this gift sinks deeply into my spirit, the Lord took me to a passage in Proverbs (14:4) that reads, Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
Most couples want a great marriage. They want to regularly feel the love and companionship that great marriages feel. They dream about the nice trips and adventures that great marriages take. They romanticize the beautiful families and homes that great marriages build. They believe that the love, leisure, and legacy are what makes a great marriage. But, this is wrong.
Great marriages are not built in clean mangers. Some couples are so focused on having things look and feel neat, tidy, and devoid of conflict that they have lost their ability to experience God’s abundance. Instead, Proverbs (14:4) shows us that abundance requires strength. Strength, however, requires dirtiness. Strength is forged not bequeathed. Strength is earned not requested. Great marriages are earned because they have been forged through the fire. You have to go through some difficulties to test your mettle. You have to face the dirty situations together to discover the creativity you have as a couple. You have to face dark days to see the kind of true faith and friends that you have.
In reality, only messy marriages can experience the full abundance God offers. You simply cannot really know God if your manger stays clean.
I encourage you to let go of the desire for a ‘clean’ marriage and open your mind to what God’s abundance makes possible in the dirtiness of marriage—where redemption and grace must abound. Maybe this is exactly what God is telling Peter in Acts 10:15 when he repeatedly admonishes him to not to call unclean that which God calls clean. God longs to call those adversities clean when you give them to him. The dirty manger is the place of deliverance for your marriage.
Here is an insightful talk about the key to thriving through your own dirty situations in marriage. WARNING: There are a couple of uses of profanity. So, do not watch this video if that would be offensive to you.