Two very dear friends of mine are in that blissful stage of engagement–one still basking in the romance of a surprise Eiffel Tower proposal and one busily finishing up preparations as Saturday’s wedding inches closer and closer. They are dreaming of dresses and flowers and honeymoons and houses, and looking forward with eager delight to settling down into newlywed bliss. As I think of them and pray for them, I have a heart-full of things to say. There are times in life when you just have to experience a particular situation for yourself to truly understand it, and there are times in life when you can prepare and be advised beforehand. Marriage is both. So here is my heart on marriage–formed through reading what Godly women have written, through the examples of Godly women around me, and through my own nine years experience. I pray that my friends (and anyone else who may benefit) will read it, pray through it, discard what may be faulty advice, and find something helpful for their own new journey of marriage.
Dear Britani and Brooke,
The time of engagement is a time when everyone feels qualified and obliged to offer advice to the bride-to-be. Unfortunately, that advice is not always helpful or even encouraging. So I want to share with you from my heart. This is not advice; this is just my heart on marriage–what it can be and what it doesn’t have to be, no matter what everyone else says. I know that my nine years of marriage is a drop in the bucket compared to some couples who have been blessed with many many years together, but we’ve squeezed an amazing amount of life changes into our nine years, and it’s in those times that one grows the most and learns the most.
The first thing I thought of when contemplating what I wanted to share with you is this: No matter what anyone says, the romance does not have to end when the wedding does. I heard a thousand times before we were married, “He’s romantic now, but just you wait. That will all fade soon enough.” Well, of course things change; they were right about that. But different is not bad, just different. There may not be money in the budget for a night out every week anymore, or extravagant gifts, once you’re out on your own and paying your own bills. But make the effort to keep the romance alive. Save up and splurge every once in a while (we’ve enjoyed nights at a bed and breakfast, a trip or two just the two of us, a weekend marriage retreat, a night at the symphony, even a hot-air balloon ride)–but “romance” doesn’t have to be big and glitzy. Nurture romance through little things like holding hands, buying cards, flirting, laughing at inside jokes. Life will give you plenty of memories–keep pulling them out and reminiscing over them. Don’t let bills and jobs and individual interests pull you in different directions to the point of becoming two people who live in the same house but have forgotten how they got there. Take the time and make the effort to be romantic.
Something else I heard often in the months leading up to my own marriage was wives complaining over different habits their husbands had. The habits in question were just small, petty things, but they had escalated so much from years of resentment and irritation that they had become a major issue that was difficult to ignore and was actually eating away at the relationship. Yes, although it may be hard to believe now and not that I’m wanting to pour cold water on the dreams of bliss you have right now, your prince charming will turn into a frog all too soon. Not completely, but he will have those irritating habits, too, just like all those other husbands that women complain about every time they get together. He will do things like stack the dishes all over the counter instead of setting them in the sink. Things like nod his head and grunt in all the right places while you’re talking to him, and then have no clue whatsoever what you just said. Things like forget to tell you until that morning that he’s made plans for you for that evening. So you have a choice: what will you do? Be like all those other wives and just get irritated and complain until these issues begin to color your very view of your hubby? You would do well to instead remember the times that you let his sock drawer go completely empty before you did laundry, times that you went to the grocery store and stocked up on all your favorites without even considering what special requests he might have, times that you just completely forgot to do the only thing that he asked you to do for him that day. Yeah, he’s going to drop the ball sometimes. But so are you. Make up your mind to have an attitude of forgiveness, of not expecting perfection that no one could deliver, of choosing to love even when you don’t feel like it.
Although there is so much more to be said on marriage, for now I just want to touch on one more thought: in a world where the very definition of marriage is crumbling as fast as the divorce rate grows, how can you ensure that you’ll be the ones to make it? The ones to celebrate anniversary after anniversary, til death do you part? It’s simple: don’t forget the foundation. Just as an architect would never design a building without a foundation, they are foolish who design their marriage without the necessary foundation, and the foundation of marriage is Jesus Christ. What is marriage but a symbol of the love that Christ has for His own bride, the church? Do you want a deep, lasting, fulfilling marriage? Then love as Christ loves. Follow the principles laid out in Scripture for a biblical, God-honoring marriage. These principles are not hard to find; the Bible speaks very clearly on how husbands and wives are to live with each other. Pray together often. Share with each other what God is doing in your lives. Ask each other how you’re doing spiritually. Do not allow your spiritual lives to be a private, unspoken area. Speak to each other of God and His faithfulness, of your struggles and worries, of how you need prayer right now. If you’re struggling spiritually, be honest about it. If God’s just been knocking your socks off with His love, share that with your husband. Be a spiritual encourager to him, and be gracious to receive the spiritual encouragement he may offer you. This is the foundation. Without this, your marriage will always be one step away from crumbling.
Oh, there is so much more I would love to share with you about marriage, and probably will share more in the future. But for now, I’ve shared some of what I pray for you and your marriage. You both are such a blessing in my life, and I feel so privileged to be a part of your journey toward marriage. May God be very near to you as a couple and as individuals as you become your own family. May you seek Him as never before, and may you find Him. Love each other. Not just a warm, fuzzy, happy feeling love, but a sacrificial, selfless, giving-everything-you-have kind of love. This love will be difficult, even painful to give at times, but it is this love that lasts because it is this love that is a picture of how Christ loves us.