Thursday, March 21, 2019

Change Me, by Rick Thomas (My Marriage Testimony)

Change Me: The Ultimate Life-Change Handbook
Rick Thomas
Published 2018

I was reluctant to share a review of this because it is a personal, self-examination-type book. I was at my wits end when I purchased it from RickThomas.net. I knew if I wrote a review, I would have to share my marriage story, which is not easy, but I feel like the message is urgent.

So, here it goes:

Marriage is hard. I thought I knew everything, but I was wrong. I also thought I was the only one who had problems, but the more I read, the more I learned that marriages are the same everywhere. 

I thought if my husband and I read a book or listened to podcasts on marriage, it would fix us. Wrong. My husband was not interested. He shared not my concerns or desires. If you asked him today, he may say everything is fine. He is perfectly happy, and all his needs are met. 

Nonetheless, it is frustrating when one spouse recognizes that something is not right and needs to be addressed, while the other disagrees. What then? I tried to get help. I sought validation from friends, my church, and even marriage counseling. I met with a therapist who told me she could not help me if my husband was unwilling to come; she "did not have fairy dust." 

Last December was my final option. I found biblical counseling in my area, and I thought for sure they would validate my feelings. But on the day of my appointment, when I arrived at the office, no one was there. Everyone was sick, but they had failed to call their clients to cancel. I sat in my car, feeling pitiful...like God was telling me, "NO! Now put on your big girl pants, go home, and stop searching for validation." 

I bet my husband would be glad that my little plan to seek recognition failed...again. He asked, "So now what?" I did not know. Except I remembered that Rick Thomas offered online counseling, and since I could not get adequate counseling through my church or appropriate friends, or other means, I would give it a try. 

The first thing Thomas suggests before going through his online counseling is to read his book Change Me. So I purchased it and started reading, not knowing what to expect. Originally my husband willingly agreed to read it with me, even though he did not think we needed to change anything, and as Thomas says: the person who seeks change in the marriage is usually the person who needs to do the changing. 

To speed this up, I read the entire book by myself because I could not wait to read one chapter a week. I desired answers quickly. Reading with my husband sometimes caused arguments when we talked about our marriage, which totally defeated the purpose. So I quit reading with him.


Now, let me back track: the first seventeen years of marriage I was distracted by children -- babies, toddlers, and preteens. Homeschooling five kids took up the bulk of my day. I was aware of existing marital issues, but I did not have time, energy, or knowledge to wage war on them. I was too busy.

As the kids grew older and more independent, my time was freed up, but about the same time, my husband was promoted to general manager, and work took up more of his time. He brought work home, or he came home late. He began to travel internationally. A lot! Plus, he went back to school to finish his degree. 

And then there was the invention of private entertainment...so where the TV was the center of his life, in the living room, occupying his free time, he was now able to be alone in the bedroom with his iPad and headphones, completely disconnected from the kids and me; I was feeling very neglected. This was not my idea of marriage and family. (Nor is it God's, but that's His battle with my husband; not mine.)

Hence, for the last six years, I waged war on my marriage. But I kept losing.

Eventually...it was over. And thankfully, God had won. That was the day I walked into the house from my non-existent biblical counseling appointment, totally defeated. 

Even though I thought I would try that on-line counseling, this book proved to be enough. It caused me to examine my heart and change my thinking.

Although this is a book about changing yourself under any circumstance, here is how I applied it specifically to my marriage: 
  • I will NEVER be able to change my spouse. Only God can do that. 
  • My spouse may NEVER EVER change!!! 
  • The only person I can change is me, and if I want my circumstance to change, I am probably the person who needs to do the changing.
  • I have to hand over all of my desires to God. That includes: desires for a godly husband, a godly father for my kids, and a Christ-centered marriage. This is what it means to "die to self." Even though the Bible encourages godly marriages, God does not guarantee I will ever have one.
  • I may have an "unchanging problem" and it may NEVER be God's will to change my spouse. "It is easier to get over the disappointment of something that is final than it is to get over the disappointment of something that could change." I must discard my expectations.
  • I cannot have a true communal relationship with my spouse unless we are sharing a transparent, transcendent relationship with God and each other. This is what every married couple should be pursuing with each other; but my partner may not agree, in which case, it is impossible to experience this, unless God changes him.
  • God is the ONLY person I can truly trust because "He is for me." 
  • If I am able to trust my spouse with the vulnerabilities of my heart and soul, then that is a blessing. It means my spouse demonstrates that he is for me, "not throwing me under the bus." (Sadly, I know how that feels.)
  • Some ways to kill my marriage: have the last word, cheap shots, twist words, disconnect, be unaccountable, withhold encouragement, complain, be over sensitive, overcommit, punish for past sins.
  • Some ways to heal my relationship: listen more, encourage, give grace, make time, confess sin, be kind, be content, seek God's strength, be transparent.
There's a whole lot more!!

To change my situation, I ask God to change my heart and help me to be content in my circumstance. My joy and contentment must be in Christ, not my marriage or my husband, which were idols. Warning: do not idolize your husband or marriage! It will cause great disappointment.

The good thing is that God prepared my heart for this change long before this book. When I began to declare war on my husband's sin (which was not my place), I was rejected. My husband did not understand my bitterness and resentment, and it only pushed him away. So in my disappointment, I continued to turn to God by reading my Bible and praying more; in turn, I developed a deeper relationship with Him. I began to desire the things of the Lord. And I was beginning to see all of the sin in my life.

When I read Change Me, I was ready to receive the hard truth: I have to sacrifice my expectations for a perfect marriage and  husband; give God all of my desires, including my life, my marriage, my husband, my children, my future, and my pleasures. I also learned to repent of the sin in my heart. In the process, I found more freedom from the burdens I placed on myself as a wife.

Again, marriage is really hard. Before you commit, prepare yourself for the truth. Marriage is not a Jane Austen novel. There is no fairytale, and romance is short-lived. Marriage does not exist for your happiness. 

Marriage takes work and requires the same effort from both people; make sure you and your future spouse agree on what that is. If you are already married, both of you should pursue joy and contentment in Christ together, but if the other is not willing, be prepared to do it separately.  Yet, be encouraged because your relationship with Christ is the most important one you will ever have; it's forever...marriages are not. 

If you have a spouse who is willing...a good resource for a Christ-centered marriage is Married for God.

Newlyweds: figuring out marriage since 1996

Heads up: If you do not have or are not interested in a relationship with Christ, this book won't help you. But if you do want a relationship with Christ, this book does show you how to do that. Also, if you are already a Christian, but not ready for the hard truth or self-examination, this book may not be helpful either.  

7 comments:

  1. Wow!!!!! Ruth, what a brave testimony. I am going to forward this to a family member who will completely relate. I'm glad you were so transparent. I will be praying for you and your husband and your family. God bless!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sharon!!!! We sure need that.

      If your family member doesn't know about Rick Thomas, he was a great help to me. Also the Peaceful Wife (on YouTube, and she has a blog) also spoke hard truth to me. The key, though, is being ready to hear it and apply it. For a long time, I wasn't ready and I rejected it.

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello Ruth,
    What a lovely witness you and your life journey are for Christ's grace! John 6:35 says, And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. I love that. It says that Jesus is the end of our quest for satisfaction and our soul thirst. Isn't it wonderful to know that faith in Jesus nullifies the power of sin and enables obedience. Have a rewarding week, and thank you for this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Anchors...sorry, I meant to get back to you sooner. Thank you for the encouragement. That is what I am learning and trying to apply. It's going to be a long journey since I only just learned it. Sadly, I think too many people find this out too late, and many of them just give up and get divorced. But if people can learn this ahead of marriage, then maybe more marriages (at least Christian marriages) wouldn't end in divorce.

      Delete
  4. Very brave of you, Ruth, to share your journey. The older I get the more I realize I have very few answers. Sometimes I wonder if there are any answers to certain situations. But social media always influences people to only share their best selves and not only is it not realistic, it can be discouraging to people who read all these "fairy-tale" stories that don't share the struggles or heartache behind them. So thanks for being honest and real! ** hugs! **

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Cleo.

      You are correct. It is shameful to share our failures, mistakes, and downfalls, but I have noticed that a lot of people (especially women) are experiencing the same difficulties in marriage...and in many cases, the same issues. Often, women throw themselves into their children so the marriage looks fine to everyone else; meanwhile, they are hurting inside. Online forums provide a way for people to anonymously discuss these issues privately, and publicly they do not have to reveal their struggles. Everyone is pressured to look perfect to the world, but a lot of people are hurting and struggling and are paralyzed to admit they are not really well grounded after all.

      So, yes, it is difficult to admit the truth, but I think more people can relate to it than not. Or maybe it can serve to help people understand the realities of life in general. Nothing is easy, and especially marriage. More importantly, we have been doing marriage wrong, and we are teaching marriage incorrectly. People are going to keep getting hurt and turning to divorce if they do not change their thinking on marriage. And that is why I wanted to share this.

      Delete