A couple of weekends ago, I had the fortune of officiating the wedding of two people that I’ve come to know over the last year or so. I was honored and was touched by their deep, sincere love for each other. I wanted to share with you the message that I shared with them during their ceremony. I called it elements of a marriage that lasts. It’s not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a list of four things that I’ve seen so many of us get wrong…especially in the early years of marriage.
1. Remember that God, not man, created marriage. We don’t own this idea of marriage…it’s God’s. As much as we try to wrestle it away and make it something that we can make fit our own preferences and opinions, we can’t. God’s word is clear on the topic of marriage and the importance of this institution to Him. And, I’m not speaking politically here. I have found myself trying to make my idea of what marriage is the same as what God’s idea for it is. Things like: I should get more than I give and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll just move on. But, that’s not God’s design…that’s mine. And, just as God created the heart to pump blood throughout our bodies in a beautiful and perfect way, he created marriage with the same beauty and perfection.
2. Just like following Christ, in marriage we must die to ourselves and become selfless. It’s amazing to me how much my relationship with Christ mirrors my relationship with my wife. And selflessness is probably the biggest commonality. If my marriage is to be successful, I must find ways to serve and not manipulate my way into being served. I’ll put it this way: the things that are me-centered become secondary to the things that are us-centered. And, the wonderful and amazing thing is that every time I put my wife’s needs above and ahead of my own, I find that my own needs end up being met…every time.
3. The ups and downs of marriage are not signs of trouble, but opportunities to grow and solidify your foundation. Of course, I’m mostly talking about the downs or valleys of marriage here. Society would lead us to think that when there is conflict or disagreement in marriage that that means there is something wrong with our marriage…and us. Things like who ate the last cookie or who is going to pick where we’re going for dinner. Or the more important conflicts of marriage like “we can’t pay our bills” or “we’re not pregnant…again.” But it’s a lie that there’s something wrong when there’s conflict present. Conflict and valleys in marriage, if handled correctly, can actually be opportunities to grow and solidify the foundation of your relationship. How we handle the conflict in our marriage will, in large part, dictate our ability to live happily ever after – it is always an opportunity for us to strengthen our marriage for a life time
4. Compatibility is not something you have it’s something you create over time. Now, this one I heard from a great speaker on marriage – Ted Cunningham. You should definitely check him out! But his words are so true. I’ve heard it far too often – “we’re just not compatible.” As if compatibility is something to be found. Rather, it is something to be worked on over time and aspired to. My wife and I are very different. That’s probably why I married her (the jury’s still out on why she chose me). I would guess that you and your spouse are different on many levels – opposites attract, right? But, over time, it’s up to you two to take those differences and make them compatible. This takes time and never happens in an instant or overnight. The false expectation of compatibility from the beginning has caused far more divorces than one can imagine.
When we give up ownership of our marriage to God, live selflessly FOR our spouse, view ups and downs as opportunity for growth NOT demise, and make compatibility something we achieve and not something we just magically have – it is possible to have a marriage that lasts. Sure, it takes work on our part, but anything that’s worth having is worth working for, right?
But, hear me – happily ever after is not just beautifully written prose – but it is possible and that is my prayer for you today.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails… 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.