New Art and How to Stay Together When It’s Tough

New Art and How to Stay Together When It’s Tough
If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I often use my works of art as a conversation piece. The art becomes an avenue of dialogue, and sometimes the conversation diverges off the path of the original idea conveyed in the work, just like you may compliment your friend on their tasteful decor, and then moments later you segue into talking about how you and your best friend met.
I think this is what will happen with today’s post. I hope you don’t mind. 🙂
I recently got back from a wonderful vacation in Michigan visiting friends over in the Detroit area, and then had a beautiful, scenic drive through the U.P. We stayed overnight in Escanaba, and in the morning our kids played at a vacant and refreshing beach.
A scenic beach in Escanaba, MI

A scenic beach in Escanaba, MI

With this time away from the studio, I came back refreshed, but had to stoke the coals a bit to get the productive artist in me going again after a week of inactivity!
Monday afternoon, some classmates from high school made the two-hour drive from Merrill, WI to Eau Claire to pick up this wedding portrait I did for them. I love how it turned out, and as I told them, it all starts with an excellent photo to work from. The pose is natural and the they are a good looking couple.
"Jaeger Wedding Portrait," by portrait artist Matt Philleo, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas

“Jaeger Wedding Portrait,” by portrait artist Matt Philleo, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas

This was a candid shot taken right before the grand march, and perfectly captures the overflowing joy of the celebration of their new life together.
Here is a photo of them in front of the painting. Nearly twenty years and still going strong!
Celebrating nearly 20 years of happy marriage.

Celebrating nearly 20 years of happy marriage.

From my recent visit with them at my studio, and prior to that, at the Merrill High Alumni Art Show in February, they seem to be a truly happy couple, and a great match. I believe God has blessed them indeed in many ways.
Now this is where the conversation will veer off the path just a bit. But I think you’ll find I’ll still be driving on the right side of the road as we go along in this discussion!
I can understand how people that are well suited to each other in marriage can have many blissful, stable years together. You know the kind of marriage I’m talking about: Ward and June Cleaver, where everything is tidy, docile, and neatly tucked in behind a white picket fence where a happy nuclear family lives their picture-perfect life.
But what do you do when you and your spouse are two very different people and things aren’t working out the way you want?
What do you do when the flame is an ember nearly snuffed out and sometimes you interact with each other like oil and water, fire and ice, Packers and Vikings fans…you get the point!
As far as this couple I did the portrait for goes, naturally I don’t know entirely what their situation was and is. They were high school sweethearts and probably get along great together, but I’m sure they have had to work at their relationship like the rest of us.
Now to take it a step further, maybe you have struggled severely in your marriage, and you have discovered your spouse is not the person you thought when you married them (and the feeling is mutual!) You have weathered severe financial and health trials, difficulties, personality conflicts, challenging extended family relationships, and destructive arguments with each other, and yet you have still managed to stay together.
To you, I lift my hat. I think this is a miracle.
I know it has been for me and my wife.
We are two very different people and have such different perspectives on so many things. We didn’t really know the full extent of this before getting married. We just liked hanging out with each other and the relationship grew. Oh, we had some hints that we may have “compatibility issues” but we loved each other and thought those things would just work their way out naturally.
Those issues worked their way out, all right. In many an argument, both loud and even worse, in the bitter, seething, silent treatment that often is far more damaging. If it were not for the grace of God, I can honestly say my wife and I would be divorced several times over!
"The Silent Treatment", photo by Matt Philleo

“The Silent Treatment”, photo by Matt Philleo

You’ve heard the sad statistics on today’s marriages–that more than half end in divorce. There are so many things in today’s culture that can drive a couple apart: financial strain, health problems, infidelity exacerbated by the explicit culture, and constraints on family time.

After dealing with divisiveness in your relationship for a while, you can start to have serious doubts.
However, I learned an important truth from a preacher, Paul Washer, I heard on an online sermon one day. This secret has helped me so much when I’ve been tempted to give up:
You didn’t marry the wrong person.
God is sovereign. He created the world, including us, and holds it all together. He gave us free will, but even within the freedom He has given us to make choices, He ultimately calls all the shots. The game is rigged, but in a good way. It’s like the casino where you can play every slot machine in the line, and the house always has the advantage. They know the kind of results you’ll get, even though you choose where and how you’ll play. It’s like this with God, except He is good, kind and benevolent, and not anything like a profiteering casino owner. He has a purpose and a plan. It’s good, and He will carry it out, using everything to His advantage.
God, in His sovereignty, (especially if you are a Christian), has allowed you to be matched up with a person that lacks many of the very things you wanted in a mate.
Why would He do that?
The primary reason is so that you will learn to depend upon the grace of God and be conformed to the image of Christ.
In other words, you will feel so hopeless sometimes that you will cry out to God for help.
Not only that, but the other person’s difficult, abrasive behavior (at least so it feels to you) will sand off your rough edges like sandpaper. You will learn what it is like to love someone you feel is not worthy of your love. In essence, you will experience, at least to a slight degree, what Jesus feels when He loves us–broken, rebellious, and wicked as we are.
And as He loves us, and we receive His love, that’s what brings a change. We respond to that faithful love and say, “If God is that good to me, let me live my life for Him. Let me love Him back!” We can do this same thing for our spouse. We can love them and watch them change as a result. But even if takes years, we can learn patience in the process and grow more like God day by day.
My wife and I in our renaissance-themed wedding attire.

My wife and I in our renaissance-themed wedding attire.

Another wonderful thing is that God, also in His sovereignty, has given you a spouse who is strong in all the areas they must be strong in, because He never gives us more than we can handle. 
The apostle Paul wrote about this idea in his first letter to the Corinthians, recorded in chapter 10, verse 13:
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
So if you are tempted to throw in the towel, don’t. There is always more grace to endure, if you’ll ask God for it.
God has given us a spouse that, even though they rub us the wrong way sometimes, together we can create electricity like a balloon on a wool sweater!
For example, my wife is the more logical one in the relationship, whereas I am more of the emotional type. She balances me out. I may see an opportunity and want to dive in, but she will caution me from being too eager, driven by my passion rather than taking a cold look at the facts. Listening to her counsel (need to do more of that) has saved me from many blunders.
The biggest thing that has kept my wife and I together is our commitment to forgive. We have both fired cannons at each other and hurt each other with our words and actions many times, but one thing we do is forgive…and quickly. All I have to do is think about how much the Lord has forgiven me, and how desperately I want to feel His love, embrace and presence after sinning against Him or others, that I can’t afford to hold a grudge against my wife. Not even for a minute.
I have been tempted to punch walls, like I used to do before I was a Christian.
As recently as just this week.
But I took the anger, the blinding rage and dropped it all in front of the Lord as I fell to my knees. And although I’d like to say I had instant, perfect peace, the animosity was at least soothed and I could think clearly again. My wife and I then talked the issue out and forgave each other and that was that.
When I think about the last twelve years of marriage, I can truly say I love my wife more today than I did gazing at her beautiful face at the altar. Because it’s one thing to love when your emotions are soaring, expectations are high, and life up until that point has been mostly pleasant, but it’s another thing entirely to love when your emotions have gone down the drain, your expectations are dashed, and you life has been both unfair and often unpleasant.
Love is not a feeling but a choice.
Love is not a cohabitation, but a commitment.
Love is not clean, but it is cleansing.
How about you? If you are married, what has kept you and your spouse together? Do you have any advice or wisdom to share? Thanks!

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"I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands."

Inscribed6a 500px

"Inscribed," Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo

One day, when I was discouraged I read a verse in the Bible, in Isaiah, 49:15-16, where it says, "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands." This verse brought such encouragement, that I created this original work of art to share the incredible love of God with others, including you!

Get a free 8 x 10 copy of this drawing that you can use to print, share, or as wallpaper!

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