My name changed the moment I first met John.
And I’m not talking about my last name (though that also changed a few days after we got married). I’m talking about my first name.
My birth name is Debra, but my nickname had always been Debbie. That’s what everyone called me. My parents, my family, and all my friends at school. To the little part of the world that knew me, I was Debbie. My identity was wrapped up in that six-letter name.
Now fast-forward a couple of decades to when I met John at a conference in Boston for the very first time…
It was the Fourth of July weekend, and after noticing each other from across the room, our paths finally crossed and we introduced ourselves. I’m not sure why it happened, but even though I introduced myself to him as Debbie, for some reason he just started calling me Deb. I don’t know if he misheard me, or if he just decided to go ahead and shorten my name, but whatever the reason, he referred to me as Deb from that moment forward.
Any of you Debras out there know there is a huge difference between a Debbie and a Deb.
Debbies are cute, funny, and sweet. Debs are serious, to the point, and brash.
Debbies are charming and the life of a party. Debs are blunt and a little rough around the edges.
Everyone wants to be a Debbie. No one wants to be a Deb. I know I sure didn’t.
But after a few weeks of John calling me Deb, I started to find it endearing. I mean, no one else in the world called me Deb but him. It was sort of like his special name for me. So I decided not to correct him. Months later, after we started dating, I found myself identifying with the name Deb. It was almost like adding a new piece to the puzzle of my life and identity. I eventually started introducing myself as Deb when I was with him. I was his Deb, and I liked it.
Now the name has stuck. The funny thing is, you can tell precisely how someone knows me just by listening to what they call me. It’s almost like a timeline of my life. If they call me Debbie, there’s a good chance they are a relative or someone I know from childhood, high school, or college. If they call me Debra, it’s likely someone who knows me from my career or professional world.
But if they call me Deb, you can guarantee they met me during my P.J. years (post John). You might say I lost my childhood nickname, but you could also say I gained a special new nickname.
LOSING YOURSELF IN A MARRIAGE
This story is a funny little glimpse into my personal life, but more than that, it’s an important analogy into the exchange that occurs within the context of a marriage. Marriage is the hardest and greatest thing you’ll ever do, because through marriage you are called to “lose your self” to gain so much more.
When you hear the term “lose your self,” you might rebel against that idea, and rightly so. I, for one, am a huge advocate for people not losing themselves in a dating relationship, but rather, committing to finding themselves long before they get married. They should dedicate the time and energy it takes to get to know themselves first and to get to know themselves well.
To attract and sustain a healthy marriage, singles should become as healthy and whole as they can while standing alone and remain that way through marriage. I dedicated my entire first book to this important concept.
But in the formula of marriage, I’m talking about a different kind of “loss.” I’m not talking about the loss of identity, but about the loss of self. They might sound like the same thing, but they are completely and utterly different.
The loss of self has nothing to do with losing our identity or our personality. It doesn’t mean we ignore our needs, wants, and desires or let go of our goals and dreams. It doesn’t mean we forget our opinions, our beliefs, and our ideas. No, letting go of self means one thing and one thing alone: we choose to lose all that is wrong in exchange for all that is right. Losing our “selves” means we let go of all that God has called us not to be in exchange for all he has called us to be.
And when we can see marriage as an invitation to partake in this beautiful exchange time and time again, we find ourselves becoming better and better along the way.
Losing our “selves” means we let go of all that God has called us not to be in exchange for all he has called us to be.
We’re invited to exchange our selfishness, for holiness.
Our vulnerability for intimacy.
Our pride for humility.
Our assumptions for truth.
Our insecurities for safety.
Our facade for authenticity.
Our infatuation for adoration.
Our independence for oneness.
We’re called to lose all that we are not, for all that God calls us to be.
Nothing can move us into the beautiful exchange of marriage more than the knowledge of the greatest exchange that took place for every one of us. In this beautiful exchange, the greatest one of all, Jesus Christ exchanged His life to redeem our weaknesses, our brokenness, our sins, and our struggles.
In this beautiful exchange, He took upon Himself all that He is not to free us to become all that He has called us to be.
And just as Christ rose again, so we can rise again too. After the struggle of death, there will always come the victory of life (Romans 6:11). Those who know Christ in the suffering of His death will also know Him in the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10-11). No matter what hardship you are facing today, be encouraged that, through Christ, there is hope of resurrection. There is hope of reconciliation. There is hope of redemption.
COST AND REWARD
Everything of value—and that is exactly what marriage is, a most valuable and cherished possession—is costly. Scripture affirms this value and refers to finding a good spouse as though they are a precious gem or a royal crown (Proverbs 31:10; 12:4). The analogy portrays the sheer blessing of finding someone who adds value to your life. Marriage isn’t just about the sacrificial cost; it’s about so much more. It’s about the great gain. It’s about the beautiful exchange that occurs in our lives when we let go of the wrong in exchange for what is right. And ultimately, what we give is nothing compared to what we end up receiving.
While that exchange is certainly costly, it pales in comparison to the great reward we receive in the end: less of us, and more of Him. “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). The emptier we feel, the more He can fill us. The less we have, the more we can receive. The weaker we are, the stronger Christ makes us. The more we give, the better we become. It’s the irony of the beautiful exchange that will occur time and time again in our lives and in our marriages, if only we invite it to change us. If only we allow it to refine us.
No matter what your relationship status, whether single or married or somewhere in between, may you allow God to use the relationships He’s placed in your life as an opportunity to enter into the beautiful exchange; the exchange that will replace more of us with more of Him. And as we do, may we watch the transformation within us begin to influence those around us.
Because marriage is a call to lose ourselves, to become even better along the way.
This article is a short excerpt from my book, Choosing Marriage! It’s the most vulnerable and raw look into the REALITY of marriage and the things people don’t prepare you for before you say I do. My one and only prayer is that this book would infuse hope and healing into marriages (and FUTURE marriages) across the country! Whether you are single, dating, engaged or married I believe it’s a message that will change hearts and lives. Scroll down to get a glimpse of the table of contents, and then order your copy today.
Choosing Marriage: The Hardest and Greatest Thing
We Before Me: From Selfishness to Holiness
Walls Will Fall: From Vulnerability to Intimacy
Alter That Ego: From Pride to Humility
The Struggle Is Real: From Expectations to Reality
Always Use Protection: From Insecurity to Safety
#RealTalk: From Facade to Authenticity
Sex Marks the Spot: From Infatuation to Adoration
Better Together: From Independence to Oneness
The Beautiful Exchange: From Hard to Great
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog as well as the Love + Relationships Podcast reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!