Marriage has been on my mind for some time now, but it is my 31st wedding anniversary so I wanted to share some things today. I began thinking about writing on marriage when we were at a birthday party in February and I got into a marriage conversation with a couple that had just celebrated 50 years of marriage. Then, recently I got to see a really precious young couple who had only been married for a few weeks. Both couples seemed so unified, so beautiful.
I asked the 50 year veterans if they remember talking about marriage as “hard work” like so many of the younger generation talk today. They said they never thought of marriage that way. Their perspective was that they always knew marriage was work, but not “hard work.” They told me they think that selfishness is so much more prevalent in our society now and is what makes the work “hard.”
I watched the newly married couple work together two weekends ago. The young woman had to spend time with her friends differently than in her single days and the young man had to do a lot of patient waiting and standby, but they were all smiles. They’ve been raised in a church that teaches that marriage is “heaven on earth.” It shows.
We have other good friends in the ministry who have had a really strong ministry to marriages over the years, including mine. My favorite teaching point from them is that we are to love one another the way Jesus did, always considering our spouse in light of covenant, “Your good at my expense.”
I really believe that point of view and perspective makes all the difference in the world. Is marriage work? Of course, but it’s meant to be teamwork. “They are no longer two, but one flesh,” from Matthew 19:6 sounds like a really good idea, but it wasn’t meant to be just an idea, but an experiential reality. The only way that happens is for husbands and wives to realize they are on the same team. Likewise, the 1 Corinthians 13 love chapter is quoted all over the place for engagements and marriages, but it is not meant to be a plaque on the wall but a principle planted securely in the soil of relationship.
Will the “heaven on earthers” have hard times? Of course, but covenant teamwork will kick in and they will grow closer and stronger through every situation. Proverbs 18:20-21 tells us that, “With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; He will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” We speak things with our mouth and those things produce a harvest in our lives. Applying this to marriage may seem like a stretch for the application of this verse, but the very next verse refers to marriage, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Am I trying to say that you can speak a good marriage into existence? Maybe. I know there are men and women who have prayed, fasted, and proclaimed success over their marriage just to see it all fall apart. I could never be so cruel as to say that they didn’t do enough or say enough. It does take two people and “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3) The word for agreed could be translated to say, unless they have “an appointment, or a meeting place.” The best way, really the only way to start a marriage successfully, is to have a common meeting place. As believers, that meeting place is first at the cross and then at the throne.
The cross meeting place is the place of covenant. Christ went to the cross not to make a doctrinal statement but to demonstrate the reality of “your good at My expense.” When we are following Jesus in our marriage we “take up our cross daily”(Luke 9:23) and follow Him, considering our spouse’s interests ahead of our own. The meeting place of the throne is where we “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Can I just tell ya, after 31 years of marriage, I still need help. Sometimes I just want my husband to pick up his cross and do it my way or at least see it my way. Really! Thank God He’s still on the throne, ready and willing to help me see things His way!
So what is this mystery of marriage? Technically, according to Ephesians 5:32, this great mystery is that our marriages as believers should reflect the love of Christ for His church, but let’s face it, marriage itself is just a mystery. When we start out we have no idea what it will look like in 10, 20, or 30 years. Okay, we have ideas, but we actually have no clue. After 31 years of marriage, I can truly say that other than giving my life to Christ, marriage is the best thing that ever happened to me. My marriage didn’t even start at the right meeting place. My husband and I were living a pretty wild life, got married and fought for the first four months. I always joke and tell people that God must have sent angels on assignment. I can almost hear Him saying, “We need an intervention or they are not going to make it. Go! Open their eyes to see their need for Christ!”
Four months into our marriage, my husband got saved at on out of town business weekend. Can I just insert here, thank God for the evangelistic outreach of the Amway business. We haven’t been a part of it for over 25 years, but God used their Sunday morning optional meeting to get a grip on my husband’s heart. He came home in the middle of the night ready to remove every unholy thing from our home. My eyes were opened to the Truth immediately. It was as if I knew it was there all along but just couldn’t quite see it. My husband came home not with “it” but with “Him.” It was easy for me to follow.
So they all lived happily ever after, right? Not quite. We had years of learning that we were on the same team. I needed to learn to respect my husband and he needed to learn to lead. Sometimes we were just a mess. We always worked together to clean up our mess though. I think we were married 15 years before we met anyone teaching on the heart of covenant marriage. We had been given some rules to follow, but honestly I think we were both better at breaking rules than following them. We entered the ministry after 13 years of marriage. Still, it was a couple of years before we got to know other ministry couples that walked together in covenant marriage, not in principle only, but in demonstration. I thank God for those friends in ministry that have not just taught us rules of covenant marriage, but have demonstrated it for us. Their example has revolutionized, refreshed and refueled our marriage time and time again.
I could ramble on and on with my thoughts about marriage, but instead I’ll give my advice. I decided that after 31 years I finally qualify to give some. Here it is: 1. Make sure you have a common “meeting place” with the person you marry. His cross and His throne. 2. Stop just quoting scripture verses and start living them. 3. Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork! Sometimes you just have to take one for the team. 4. Communication is crucial. 5. Speak life and blessing over your marriage and your spouse. 6. And from my husband, “There is nothing more important than putting your personal relationship with God first and your spouse second. Watch what gets your attention.”