I can’t remember having many aspirations about married life as a child, but I imagine I didn’t envision a home like this as our first married residence. I probably dreamed of something fancier than a cockroach-lined hall opening to our apartment, or a kitchen with broken cupboards with (count it!) three different knob types hastily assembled.

And yet, the more I learn about the lives of my neighbours, and the more I hear their stories, the more grateful I am for my poorly painted apartment with dirt waxed permanently into the floor.

When my husband and I were engaged, we picked this apartment building. It did not go over well with everyone. A close relative has visited us just once since we have moved in. He was mystified and hurt in our decision to live here. Some friends who do not know the Lord refuse to visit us. They too can’t understand why we would choose this.

Far more frustrating, though, than the people who argue we shouldn’t have done this, is those who tell us they themselves cannot. That we’re special, we’re amazing, we’re willing to sacrifice that “first special year of marital bliss” for the Lord, that we’re so Christlike. It’s frustrating, because we know how untrue it is.

The first year of marriage has shown us our brokenness and our need for Jesus. For me, it was having him see insecurities, selfishness, and an un-christlike heart that I tried so hard to hide from everyone. For him, it was having to adjust to living with someone and sacrificing his wants and desires. And yet, as concerned as we were by the constant iteration of how hard the first year of marriage is, what I’m struck by over and over, is how MoveIn, and by extension Jesus, makes it often easier, not harder, to have a healthy, strong, joyful marriage.

I’m convinced that our first year would have been far more difficult with far more ugly, selfish fights, had MoveIn not provided a common goal, heart, and mission for us. When we’re so close to neighbours, and weekly remembering them in prayer, we’re thinking about how our lives and our marriage is reflecting Christ. While we certainly can be selfish and forget Christ, MoveIn helps us to be working hard for something beyond ourselves. MoveIn’s emphasis on brokenness has reminded that when we do fight and fail (even in front of neighbours), we can still reflect reconciliation and forgiveness.

Our prayer from the start was to see our marriage be for something beyond ourselves. Recently, a close Muslim friend just out of an abusive marriage said to us “You don’t seem married. You just…you actually like each other. You say nice things to each other. My husband never said nice things to me.” We grieved with her, but were also touched and excited that she could get a taste of the love of the Kingdom through our marriage.

Marriage is a beautiful picture of God’s intimacy and love for us. But at the end of the day, it isn’t necessary or even the most important thing for a Christian. It’s temporary, and can either be used selfishly to fulfill our earthly desires, or can be used to point to Christ. I’m grateful that MoveIn has helped us hold our marriage accountable to mission and being Kingdom-minded. For anyone considering what a MoveIn marriage might look like, I want to offer hope. MoveIn has time and time again helped us realign our priorities in marriage back to Christ, and that is a gift and a joy to have.