As we’ve gone through the past few weeks, everything has really been building toward a culmination of what this all leads to: marriage. Our years of singleness and our years of dating are (hopefully) preparing us for the years we spend as married adults; years which comprise the better part of our lives. If we’ve laid a strong foundation, we will build marriages that are meant to stand. But if the foundation is rocky or unsteady, the marriage will find it hard to make it through the storms and strong winds.
Let’s be honest: marriage is tough. It takes two committed people who are in it for life; come hell or high-water. If you’ve gotten to the point where you can honestly say “I can see myself marrying this person,” you have to get past the butterflies and warm fuzzies and decide to commit to faithfulness to that person. Distractions will come. Temptations will arise. It will be easy to opt for quick fixes instead of putting in the time to really solve an issue. Through all of this, it can be tempting to turn inward and be selfish in the marriage relationship. One must continually dismiss this notion and instead ask “How can I serve my spouse?” This must become a daily attitude of your heart and mind. Because you are no longer your own, you are now united to this one person for life.
All of this being said, I think it’s helpful to dig in today to some practical stuff as you contemplate all of this. Please know my heart: I am not here trying to dissuade or persuade you into marrying or not marrying a certain person. I leave that decision up to you and the Lord as it is something I believe He wills and determines for us. What I am trying to offer is advice to those who would take it. Advice from someone who’s been married a few years and has been down this road awhile. Marriage is wonderful. It’s really one of the best gifts God has given us. But it’s up to us to steward it well.
So as you’re getting ready to walk down the aisle, consider the following:
1. Know how each of you are uniquely wired
It seems like we have access nowadays to a lot of tools and resources to help us identify how we are designed. For many, taking certain tests or assessments aren’t exactly eye-opening but perhaps confirm what we already know about ourselves. But the person who maybe doesn’t know these things is your potential spouse. Above anything else, I found the love language questionnaire and as well as spiritual gift assessment to be the most helpful in understanding part of how my wife and I tick. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a world-renowned book and has many adherents within Christian circles today (https://www.5lovelanguages.com/). In addition, spiritual gift assessments (here is one example: Spiritual Gifts Survey) are great in that most of the time, spouses complement one another (crazy how God works, huh?). In discovering how your future mate is wired, you can step into their shoes and see things from their perspective.
2. The honeymoon will only last so long
I hope I’m not popping anyone’s bubble but it’s 110% true. Honeymoons don’t last…both the one you take and the period immediately following the marriage (whether days, weeks, or even months). That “honeymoon period” usually gives way to seeing that person up close and personal and perhaps being a bit taken back by what is discovered. You realize that all you fell in love with is still there but some other stuff comes along with the whole package. He’s a slob. She snores. He never picks up his laundry. She burns supper on a regular basis. All things you start to notice but have no other option because guess what….“It’s til death do you part!” But in all seriousness, many couples get starry-eyed all the way to marriage and through the honeymoon, only to be given a dose of reality when life hits. Prepare yourself for the ebb and flow of marriage. The union of 2 flawed human beings inevitably means this: you get to extend a lot of grace to your spouse.
3. Start good habits now
Praying together, reading the Bible, attending church, being part of Christian community…these are things that will be hard to kickstart in your marriage if you aren’t already doing them as a dating/engaged couple. With those habits in place, the solid foundation we spoke of earlier starts getting built. You have a support system built into the marriage that has staying power. Make friends with people who have been married a long time so you can glean truths from their example; even asking questions and getting advice. And men, take the role of spiritual leader of the home with sincerity and humility. You are called to lead your wife; that means diving into Scripture together, praying together, and attending church. If and when you start having a family, you are responsible for leading well in all of those areas also.
4. Above all, keep Christ at the center
I might be naive but within the church, it’s hard to imagine divorce occurring if Christ is truly at the center of the relationship. Call me simplistic, call me a traditionalist, but I truly believe when Christ is the focus and everything flows from Him, nothing can break 2 committed people apart. Trials will come. Some can be avoided by making good choices, others we have no control over. What we do control is our response to those things. Do we give up and walk away when it gets too hard? Do we stop extending grace to that other person? If I’m a follower of Christ, I know He never gives up on me. I know His grace never runs out. So those truths must become my motivation in loving my wife without any notion of ever walking out or giving up. Again, if Christ is at the center we continually keep our focus on the One Who truly matters.
Guys and gals getting ready to walk down the aisle, I encourage you to take the time now to start building the foundation. Make it strong so that it will last. Make it shine like a city on a hill because others need to see its light and example. Build your marriage on the same love that Christ displayed on the cross; a love that was willing to serve without getting anything in return. When we start to prepare for marriage in this way, we will show a non-believing world an example worth seeing. Marriage should be something valued and worth pledging ourselves to for life. The world doesn’t get that or understand. God’s design for this holy institution has been marred and tainted. Let’s reclaim it for His glory.
Leaving you with some Bible verses this week. Especially meant to encourage anyone getting ready to say “I do”:
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2,3
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4,5
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. Ephesians 5:25
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17