One of the wise and insightful women I interviewed for my book, Confessions From an Honest Wife: On the Mess, Mystery & Miracle of Marriage (Revell, March 2006), remarked that men have only five needs.

Yes, only five: lots of sex, a supportive wife, a tidy home, good food and well-behaved children. While I can’t authoritatively speak generalizations made about men, I think we’d all agree that women are not quite so simple. We’re fantastically complex. Mysterious.

I’ve heard it said that since both man and women were created in the image of God, each manifest different characteristics of God, the feminine and masculine. I believe that one of the characteristics of God manifested in women is mystery — glorious and profound mystery. A man could live nearly his whole life with the same woman, and she could still confound and surprise him. And though men often lament this fact, I really think they wouldn’t want it any other way. After all, only having five needs seems a little lackluster to me …but maybe that’s just because I am a woman.

Though the mysteriousness of women is a universally known fact, it hasn’t stopped many folks from trying to place us in a category to better get their arms around our gender.

“Women want security,” it’s said.

True. Many women want security. But I’ve always resisted great sweeping characterizations made about women — or anyone, for that matter; you can’t put groups of people in a single box, especially half of all humans.

One woman told me that if you had a husband who was faithful, solid, and stable, and let you stay at home with your kids…well, then you had won the life lottery.

That idea of life lottery intrigued me, and I began asking other women when I was interviewing them what the life lottery was to them. Their answers, incredibly diverse, surprised me.

While security was life lottery for one, it was not so for another; for a third, it was companionship. This makes me think we should embrace our mystery and our uniqueness as being from God, a reflection from him in us. We’re fantastically unique and can learn from each other in our diversity.

Most of what I’ve learned has been in the valleys. Strange, how the darker times can be the most illuminating and revealing. Amazing, how when you’re in a place so dark that you can’t see your hand in front of your face, that there you see with abundance, making the most startling revelations about life, faith, and self. The disclosures in the dark are the ones we never forget. It’s through some of our most bitter times that we learn about God, his relationship to us, and his character.

Almost without exception, the women I interviewed for this project, no matter how long the duration of marriage, said marriage was like a mirror. We all see our reflections, temporarily distorted or not, through marriage — whether that mirror is like the distorted reflections we see at a carnival in a House of Mirrors, or the one in which Snow White’s evil queen beholds herself as the fairest of all (only to finally see that was not the case), or the watery one in which the ugly duckling saw it had turned into a beautiful and graceful swan. We see more than only a two-dimensional image staring back at us. We see the history, sinfulness, woundedness, soulfulness; in the end, we see strength and we see grace.

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Only when we’re brought to our knees by circumstances out of our control are we able to see that we can survive. Only then do we fully see God is faithful. He gives us the strength we never thought possible, and just enough. Then life goes; it goes on, but we changed, made stronger, fortified by wisdom and love.

The beauty of being a Christian is that if we allow it, God can show us that he is even truer than our own truth, more real than our own reality.

And so the great mystery of woman, of life, of circumstances, and of God becomes the great mystery of marriage. Marriage is romance and passion and love but also so much more. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there’s no formula, no one way to “do” a marriage. Each of brings our uniqueness to the union.

Also, there’s this: how may facets in marriage reflect the aspects of our relationship with God and his relationship with us. This was astounding to me. I should not have been surprised, really; I think I’ve been taught that somewhere along the way. And God himself speaks of the parallels as he tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. But to see the expression of that as I listened to story after story was to see a miraculous unfolding of that model come to life. So many of the ideas grappled with by each of the women here draw connections back to God and our relationship with him: intimacy, submission, trust, and faithfulness.

These are ingredients of relationship as God intended. To see the beauty of the pattern laid out gives me a glimpse of the hands of God. That hand we don’t always see or look for in the routine of living, but the sight of which we can move us from loss to purpose, from ordinary to enchanting.  You, too, are journeying; as with the nature of journeys, you probably won’t be still for very long. And as with all eventful journeys, though there are clear days, open roads, and moonlit nights, with not a soul in sight to slow you down, there are storms that blind you for a while or keep you standing still. Even a flat tire can happen. A journey is often peaceful, or seemingly long, exhilarating, full of the unanticipated, and out of control — at least our control. Wherever you are in life’s journey, be encouraged.

Men are known for being competitive, and in my experience I would say that is a common characteristic found in many of them, but women are competitive too. What is it that causes us to compare ourselves with each other? We are always sizing people up in comparison to ourselves and judging either ourselves or others as lacking. But appearances are often deceiving. Even the one who seems the most put together has her own reality — that is, her own struggles and flaws. How I wish we all, myself included, would be more careful when w make assumptions about people’s lives and judge them accordingly.

We must remember that we’re each in process. We each have the messy, the mundane, and the delightful in our lives to a greater or lesser degree at one time or another. The most destructive thing we can do is envy others their triumph, rejoice in their messiness, or become discouraged in our own in relation to others’.

God looks at that messy or the mundane or the just plain simple and uses it for beauty and purpose. The raw materials are something precious and holy; whatever state they’re in, they’re seen through the eyes of an artist.

Adapted from Confessions from an Honest Wife: On the Mess, Mystery & Miracle of Marriage (Revell) Copyright © 2006 Sarah Zacharias Davis, used with permission.

Sarah Zacharias Davis is the author of Confessions from an Honest Wife: On the Mess, Mystery & Miracle of Marriage (Revell). She is the daughter of best-selling author Ravi Zacharias, and the director of marketing and events for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. She graduated from Covenant College with a degree in education and now lives with her husband in Roswell, Georgia.