I've heard married couples confess that their first year of marriage was the most difficult time of adjustment. But for my husband and me, it was the year after baby that hit us like a sucker punch to the gut.
Somewhere amid career callings, the construction of a home, a sink full of baby bottles, a gazillion loads of laundry, and trash bags full of dirty diapers, the young couple who'd once spent hours talking on the phone just to hear the sound of the other person's breathing soon transformed into two different people going in different directions.
After countless sleepless nights, several unpaid hospital bills, and months of my postpartum depression chased with a prescription of Xanax, Justin and I woke up one day not sure what had happened to the people who said "I do" at the altar only a few years before. While we still loved each other, we no longer liked who we were—as individuals or as a couple.
As weeks turned into months, Justin and I felt more and more like the proverbial "ships passing in the night." It also seemed as if all my dreams and plans as God's messenger were overshadowed by a tiny person who always needed me! And my husband, who at one time thrilled at my touch, was now too tired to need me.
I spiraled into depression. Medication just numbed the ache and kept me from crying. With each passing week of missed quiet times with the Lord, church services where I merely went through the motions, and evenings spent in front of the television with no meaningful conversation, I struggled to find a resemblance to the life I'd envisioned for myself. The truth is, I was so "busy" putting God first in my life that I completely missed him. On the outside I looked the part of a good, healthy, organized Christian wife and mother. But on the inside, I was a wreck!
For the majority of my Christian life I've found it easy to put the things of God first. It's a noble desire. But the above scene—the one about the wife addicted to antidepressants and the marriage on the brink of ruin—is a prime example of someone who was putting God first in her life.
But as I was putting God first, I ended up dabbling in an affair, attempted to take my own life, and was given a cancer diagnosis. So I have come to one conclusion: putting God first is not very effective, and it is certainly not very simple. But placing God in the center of our lives—oh yeah, now this is the sweet spot we're all searching for. Although encountering problems in this life will never cease, our lives can be dramatically simplified, purpose-filled, joyful, and effective the moment we begin to live with Jesus in all things, instead of first of all things.
What does it look like to put Jesus before something, anyway? Jesus, and then my marriage … Jesus, and then my health? No—this theory creates unnecessary chaos. Why? Because humans are just not smart enough to keep that system going without eventually messing something up, no matter how well-intentioned or "moral" we think we are.
Instead, the life-changing truth I've embraced, and I pray you will too, looks more like this: Jesus in my marriage. Jesus in my family. Jesus in my health ….
When Jesus resides in the center of our lives, our lives will revolve around the things of Jesus. And when everything revolves around Jesus, he not only becomes first in order, he becomes the center of our purposes.
When our lives become God-centered, it no longer matters if we're happy or sad, broke or thriving, discouraged or peaceful—because everything we do, think, and desire is paced to do, think, and desire like Jesus. His will becomes our heartbeat and begins to align with our deepest desires. And when we begin to feel the effects of a satisfied heart, our lives become more simplified.
Simple? No. Simplified? Yes.
God-prioritized? No. God-paced? Yes.
Kasey Van Norman is the founder and president of Kasey Van Norman Ministries. Kasey and her husband, Justin, live in Texas with their two children. She is the author of Named by God (Tyndale).