You should probably not read his blog post. A lot of wiser, godlier people have been married much longer than I have and have a lot more wisdom to share. With that said, I try to walk faithfully to the Lord and am always seeking to learn. I fail miserably, but praise Christ that his mercy is never ceasing and he pours oceans of grace on me. Anyway, if you haven’t stopped already it must mean you want to see what I have to say, for whatever the reason.
My wife and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary on December 1st of this year. It seems like we go married both yesterday and decades ago. I have certainly learned a few things on the way and I thought I would share it with the world. Hopefully, the world will decide to share their wisdom with me in the comment thread, despite comment threads typically being where wisdom goes to die.
Here we go…
Marriage Is Indeed A Profound Mystery, one that must be wrestled with. I know what you are thinking, “Of course it is. The Bible tells us it is a profound mystery.” Well, reading it in my Bible and trying to live in the ambiance are two very different things. The great mystery of marriage the Bible speaks of is that at the very heart of marriage, “the two shall become one flesh,” is the reality that it refers to the relationship between Christ and the church. When you are young and headed for marriage you are thinking about sex, the potential of kids, sex, where God is going to lead you and your spouse, fun things you can do together (yes, I really just mean sex again), you get the point.
What you aren’t thinking about is that your new covenantal relationship represents the greatest relationship ever established in the history of the world. Heck, you really don’t even care to spend too much time understanding what makes the relationship a covenant and why that carries so much weight and practical instruction. So, you go about marriage quite poorly for awhile (really talking about myself here) and you come to the point where you feel like your marriage is on the brink and you have to start back at ground zero, “the two shall become one flesh.”
You And Your Spouse Are Wicked. I am a pastor, you probably saw this one coming. Problem is, I always heard and believed it as well, but never knew the damaging impact it would cause my marriage. Pride. Selfishness. Lust. Insecurity. Anger. Harsh Words. And on and on can all take a serious toll. When sinners say I do you can get a real mess on your hands quickly. The fundamental flaw of every marriage is the reality that we have sinful hearts that are always creating idols. It is never really about communication principles. Not saying you don’t need to learn how to understand and communicate with your spouse, you do. But if you go to marital counseling and that is the deepest it gets…. RUN.
Things Untouched Come Back With A Vengeance. And it hurts, bad. My wife and I didn’t address a couple things well early on in our marriage. For several years we left these things untouched until the consequences of the bad choices/lack of choices had created a great chasm in our marriage. I’ll be honest, most of this came from me abdicating leadership early on. I didn’t want to “fight that battle.” Really, I was an ignorant coward. I told myself, “If I just let it go, it will be fine.” Wrong. Even when it is hard and it hurts, it is only fine when Meredith and I simply don’t leave something untouched. Thankfully, we now deal with the hard, uncomfortable, and painful things head on. We got tired of getting whipped when untouched things came back with a vengeance.
A Culture of Repentance, Forgiveness, And Grace Must Be Established. Honestly, this is probably my biggest lesson learned. Listen, just because you and your spouse are both Christians doesn’t mean this culture automatically gets established. You are both wicked, remember? I sure didn’t. I assumed this culture would get created on its own because we both love Jesus and Jesus is all about repentance, forgiveness, and grace. Doesn’t work that way, not for us at least.
Once several years ago I spoke very harshly to Meredith in front of a pimply faced teenage stranger. The look on his face said it all, “Did you really just do that?” Yes, “Pastor Matt” sure did. I remember thinking, “Well, that was dumb, but she will be fine.” That is when God stepped in. The Holy Spirit convicted me in an undeniable manner and I apologized thirty seconds later, repented for allowing an unhealthy culture get established in our marriage, and vowed to make sure repentance, forgiveness,and grace was the culture of the future.
Happily, while we aren’t perfect here, I can at least say that culture is established in my home and it has been the single biggest difference maker in my marriage. Funny how the biggest difference maker are the very things that are the foundation of the relationship between Christ and the church, huh? Profound mystery indeed.
Kids Can Be A Great Excuse For Keeping Marriage Mediocre. My wife got pregnant with our first son, Caleb, quite a bit earlier than we had planned. Caleb was born when I was 20 and Meredith was 21. Three years later we had Calvin, our second son. One thing that has made itself painfully obvious is that for a long time we allowed our kids to be an excuse, heck as a distraction, so we didn’t really have to address some issues in our marriage.
One of my mentor’s wife, Tanya York, put this on Facebook a little while back and she nailed it:
I love my sons as deeply as a mom could possibly love. I love that God gifted me with responsibility to guide and encourage them as they grew into adulthood. The balance of loving them over worshiping them is a battle every parent must win. If your Facebook, Instagram or Tweets all focus on your children and your marriage is less than fulfilling… There just MIGHT be some correlation. You might need a reset.
The kind of shaping your kids might need the most is seeing a model of a healthy and deeply devoted love visibly displayed before their very eyes between a husband and a wife. Love that is more valuable over all others. This teaching opportunity has a very short window.
Pain Is As Necessary As Joy. Man, I sure got this wrong. Thankfully, my marriage does have a lot of joy in it. But, had a picture of marriage being the most joyous thing on the planet. Marriage came very difficult to me. I could say it was because I didn’t have a biblical, godly marriage modeled to me in my youth and sure that might have had something to do with it, but my own heart is the biggest culprit. So, I walked into marriage thinking bliss and joy… and sex. Instead I was met with difficulty and pain. Bitterness and regret was always begging to get in.
Praise God that his grace to me showed me the pain in my marriage wasn’t a sign to get out, despite that being how most people interpret it. Pain in my marriage was God showing me I had a long way to go in my sanctification. Pain in my marriage has made me cling closer to Christ, wrestle with how to better serve and lead my wife, and been God’s primary instrument in making me a quick repenter. If your marriage never has joy you certainly are going to be miserable. But, as your experience tells you, marriage isn’t 98% joy and 2% pain. Therefore, see the pain in marriage as what it is… God’s grace to you. Pain is as necessary in creating a healthy, Christ-centered marriage as joy. They aren’t enemies. Pain and joy are God’s sanctifying tools to create a marriage that truly can be a beautiful representation of the relationship between Christ and the church.
Marriage Is Worth Fighting For. Nothing I said above really matters if I didn’t learn and really believe this last one. There have definitely been moments when I thought, “Is all of this really worth it? Is staying together really worth the work it takes to deal with all of these things?” Well, the profound mystery thing kept coming up. Was it really worth the King of the universe to sacrifice everything to deal with me and my sins? If I was him, I would probably have said, no. I’m glad I am not Him. I am glad I have a God whose love transcends and who pursues wicked sinners with a resolve that gets his Son crucified and buried. I am also grateful for a Christ who has the type of power to raise from the dead.
The same grace and power that we see in the gospel is the same grace and power that convinced me my marriage was/is worth fighting for. Our marriages, my marriage, is a testament to the glorious gospel of grace whether I asked it to be or not. My marriage is also the primary tool that God has used in my life to make me more like Jesus. Represent the gospel? A tool to be made more like Christ? Those two things alone are reason enough for me to fight for my marriage, even when it feels weak and pathetic. Just like I was weak and pathetic when Christ rescued me. There are several other reasons, but those two are the foundation.