I’m pretty nervous about this post, mostly because I don’t think there’s anything left to say about Valentine’s Day that hasn’t been hijacked into the low-hanging fruit of “Facebook faux-losophy” by the seemingly endless supply of quaintly saccharine and infuriating clichés on social media (think: “Jesus is my soulmate!” or “Spending time with bae” accompanied by a picture of an open Bible, as well as other well-meaning but ultimately shallow and facepalmingly platitudinous posts that end up alienating everyone while successfully telling the world “shut up and listen to how happy I am!”). (As you can tell, I’ve never been good at writing short and catchy openings.) At this point in social discourse, it’s really difficult to say anything original or real. I don’t want to sell you anything or make you feel empowered or guilty—it’s normally the posts with extreme, angry, poorly thought-out claims that get shared a bunch. I don’t want this to be clickbait.

So, in an attempt to piece together this Humpty Dumpty thing we call authenticity, I’m going to do the only thing I feel I can do: try to share my story of God’s grace to me.

I got married a little over seven months ago. And I love it. But rather than focusing on the countless positives of my marriage so far (meaning: don’t take this post as a cry for marital help; we’re doing fine), I want to break tradition by telling you about how difficult it is for an inherently self-absorbed sinner like me to get outside myself and love someone else.

First of all, marriage has meant leaving the cozy little habits I pampered myself with while a diva-bachelor. For example: I can no longer use my bedroom as one big closet/hamper. I used to leave dirty and clean clothes strewn about haphazardly to freely intermingle, mixing piles of button-downs with mountains of boxer shorts, and determining the wearability of the day’s outfit by picking it up off the ground and smelling it. None of this is cute anymore. I’ve also had to leave my Kraft Mac and Cheese eating habits at the door and have discovered these things called vegetables. Why do people eat these? You’d think that with so many different kinds of vegetables at least one or two would be delicious, but no. They ALL taste like bugs and dirt.

Alright, this is going off the rails, but you get my point. I’ve had to give up myself in order to make marriage work. Everything that used to by mine is now ours. I’ve been forced to face the reality that I’ve spent the last 24 years doing what I wanted to do. My life was mine. My mind, my money, my sexuality, my habits, my time, all of them were mine and all of their consequences were mine. Now, at the flip of a switch, all of me is ours—my good parts and my crap parts. That’s not an easy switch to make. I’m selfish, I’m pigheaded, I’m persnickety, I’m borderline OCD, I’m full of lust, I’m full of pride. “Me” and making “me” happy has been the singular obsession of my mind since birth. Now, everything I am is also hers.

I love giving some of myself to her. I love showing her the things I’m good at. But holy cow…I don’t want to open some of my doors to her. The sinful parts, the shameful parts, the selfish parts, the diseased parts of myself that I pretend don’t exist and have let fester in a locked trunk in the back of my soul’s basement. We all have these parts of ourselves that are much easier to hide, but marriage needs everything if it’s ever going to work.

Marriage has ripped me open like a stale hard shell taco and forced me to slowly pick through the insides, honestly assessing everything that makes up who I am. It hurts. It’s mortifying and nakedly vulnerable. And it turns out the quality of my insides is closer to Taco Bell than the Mitchell’s Steakhouse I thought it was.

Our premarital (and now marital) counselor had a brilliant line: true change comes when it’s more painful to stay the same than it is to change. I guess that’s why God made marriage. Now that my “mys” are “ours,” all the self-chosen, velvet nooses I’ve slowly tied around my neck are now tied around her neck too.

I love my wife desperately, so I have to daily choose to avoid the traps and chains that would string us up. God has begun to change in me the things I thought were unchangeable by showing me it’s far more painful to see my wife suffer for my “mys” then it is to put myself through the pain of surrendering my “mys” to Jesus.

Pastor Mike recently said that God accomplishes His will through normal people and normal circumstances more often than through miracles. I’ve prayed for years that God would change certain things about myself and felt like He wasn’t listening because I wasn’t seeing amazing change. It turns out, God said yes. He’s just doing it through marriage.

Danny Nathan grew up at Grace participating in the music and worship ministry. He’s currently a worship leader, leading people into worship in a variety of venues, including our modern worship service and student ministry gatherings. Danny is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in English. In June 2016, Danny married his high school sweetheart Alli.