Mae, I’m sure you have been inundated with a lot of well-meaning advice as I was when I married. At the time, I remember thinking, “Do you mean that all I have to do to have a happy marriage is to __________?” (Fill in the blank with whatever the advice is.)
Imagine my shock (and truthfully, my anger) the first time I lovingly washed his clothes and found that some items weren’t folded “right” or others weren’t hung “right”. No, I didn’t dissolve into tears. That’s not my style. But I was very hurt!
It was a few years before he realized the impact of his words on me. He is logical. He grew up in a home of only boys. He was sure I would want to know the “right” way to take care of him:)…or if I didn’t, I would want to! He was quite confused and puzzled to learn of my reaction to his words…and apparent lack of appreciation for what he had done for me.
ONENESS FROM TWO PEOPLE IS IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT CHRIST!
There begins the tale of all of our marriages…two human beings with different backgrounds learning to become one in Christ. It’s just another way God uses to sanctify us…and make us more aware of our need for Him.
In theory, most of us would say that marriage needs to be built on Christ. But when people tell me things like that, my question is “What does that look like?” (or some similarly irritating question to the speaker!) The answer to that question is much more difficult…and will take a lifetime to learn together.
YOUR MARRIAGE IS UNIQUE
In many ways, your marriage is unique. There is no other Lowell and Mae marriage out there! There never will be again. The creative way God has brought the two of you together and will make your family into one will look different from many other christian marriages.
It isn’t because you are the exceptions to Biblical teaching on marriage. It is because the way your marriage is designed to show God’s glory to the world will look different from ours or any others that you admire, because the way you and Lowell “fit” is different.
Knowing that your marriage is unique in many ways is helpful. Just because a couple in Marriage A manage their household chores/finances/child care and a host of other issues one way, doesn’t mean you have to. You can do what works best for Mae and Lowell (within Biblical boundaries of course!)
This will be a very liberating for your marriage. Especially as you go to seminary and find others who may have strong ideas about what your marriage should look like! You are responsible before God for your part of your marriage, not what is happening in the marriages of all around you.
WHAT DOES GOD’S WORD HAVE TO SAY?
For starters, I would like to share a Scripture passage that God has chosen to be my life verse! I wanted to choose one in high school, then in college. I never could come up with ONE. At this point in my life, I realize this is the one that God has been trying to teach me for years! I’m starting to “get it”. Let me read it to you.
1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil. 2:4-8
This passage not only tells us what to do, but shows what it looks like. The problem is that we aren’t God. We are bumbly humans who sin and do unwise things that hurt people we love even without intending to…sometimes. (Sometimes it is intentional!) One of the things that makes us as Americans so different from many other parts of the world is our distinct emphasis on our rights.
GRASPING OUR RIGHTS VS. PUTTING THEM TO DEATH
Isn’t it interesting what Jesus’ attitude was? As God, He had the right to all the worship of Heaven, all the community of the Trinity, all the riches and perfection of His Creation. He did not clutch those rights tightly to Himself! Not only that, He took on the form of a servant and became obedient to death. Not just a simple death, but the most despised death–on a cross. I suspect that for us, the rub often comes at the point of ”not clutching our rights”. Although I must say, I’m not fond of death either.
WHAT ARE OUR RIGHTS?
When we are in our marriage and are arguing over the same issue for the 15th time…or even the 150th time, somewhere along the way, someone is clutching to their rights!
The right to be right,
the right to win the argument,
the right to power,
the right to personal convenience,
the right to be heard.
Whatever the right is, you have the opportunity to set aside the rights you have and to SERVE. Ultimately, the person you are serving is not your spouse or your child or your friend or even your enemy. You are serving Christ.
MUTUAL RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER
Mutual respect-Honoring each other as someone made in God’s image. Of course, that is how we are to view all people, but it holds especially true in marriage. This is a place where we have the ability to hurt each other in ways others can’t.
Our words as wives can slice through the hearts of our husbands in ways that can wound them deeply. We need to be aware of that. We need to save our critical words for very specific times and use them very sparsely and carefully.
Is there a kind way to make the needed criticism? Then use it. Can we be just as effective by catching them doing what is right and complimenting them on that? Our men seem so strong, we forget that underneath their apparent bravado is often a tender little boy’s heart that desires respect and encouragement from the woman he loves.
LEARNING TO ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER
Encouragement- If encouraging others does not come naturally to you, learn how to do it. Learn the difference between flattery and encouragement. I think of flattery as being much more superficial and not touching the person’s heart. Encouragement sees character development, it stimulates growth or attempts at it. It does not look for perfection…something that is totally elusive and if constantly looked for in others will strain relationships…at best! However, in marriage there is one way you can encourage your husband in ways no one else can.
That is through the enjoyment of your sexual relationship! Most people don’t talk about this much…one reason why I’m bringing it up:) After years of marriage, I realized that my enjoyment in this part of my marriage and even my initiation at times, brings an encouragement to him that I as a woman will never understand, frankly.
THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF YOUR PASSIONATE RELATIONSHIP
Up until the point where you marry, it often seems that you need to keep this sexual side of yourself “under wraps” for the sake of your purity. That is partially true, but it shows in those special smiles you have for Lowell only, the looks and quiet jokes you have together and even in the special short hand talk you have with each other.
After the wedding, you will be able to fully share yourself with him. It is a delightful time of exploring each other and getting to know each other intimately in ways you know no one else. The book of Song of Solomon is in the Bible for a reason. Within the framework of God’s design, pleasure is part of life…a wonderful part of it!
MARRIAGE SHOWS OUR INADEQUACIES AND FAILURES…
Whenever I speak at any event like this, especially regarding marriage, I feel totally inadequate. What advice can I give to this bride who will soon start this new stage of her life? I’ve told you many things I have learned, often the hard way.
Much of what I have learned relates to all relationships to some degree, not just marriage (an encouragement to those of you in the “want-to” column when it comes to marriage.) To prepare for marriage, make sure you have friends that you have learned to grow with…and deepen in your relationships. That is one (of many) skills that will serve you well in a marriage.
CHRIST FORGIVES…WE CAN RUN TO HIM ANYTIME!
The only way you will have a wonderful marriage that is glorifying to God is as you both put aside your personal kingdoms and together run toward God’s Kingdom. In every argument, in every decision, you can live in your own individual claustrophobic kingdoms or together, you can seek to live in God’s kingdom.
You can be like Christ who did not clutch tightly to His own rights, but became a servant.
May the God of grace be with you both as you join your lives together to enjoy the delights as well as the griefs and pains of life together.
–from remarks I gave at a wedding shower for Mae Davis on April 8, 2011. Her future husband is Lowell who I wrote about awhile back. They are heading to seminary in the Fall after spending some of the summer in Brazil with her family.
photo credit: photobucket-Estepp2005