We’ll have been married for six years next month, and I am absolutely certain when we exchanged our vows that beautiful fall day, I had no anticipation of asking such questions on the other side of a cracked bathroom door so many times in the years to follow.
Yet, there is so much I hadn’t exactly anticipated:
The hard, the ugly, the incredibly good and comfortably easy. I hadn’t imagined all the tears that would fall when we grieved loss or the tempers that erupted and hushed calmly after each storm. I hadn’t fully understood the partnership of parenting and putting up dishes and decorations and how we’d stay up until midnight, because time spent studying God’s word together was actually more valuable than sleep.
I hadn’t expected the overwhelming strength and grace I’d find in the man who’d walk that wedding aisle to start this journey with me and who’d bring me that toilet paper. I married a good man, but more so, I married a Godly man – an imperfect man, who takes me with all my faults and failures and helps us navigate our mess to find out what really matters.
I am learning humility in being vulnerable and transparent and being observed as God puts me back together each day. I say observed, not chastised. I feel his encouragement and not condemnation. He deserves the same.
As husband and wife, we find ourselves facing situations we simply cannot resolve alone.
And so God teaches us in Ecclesiastes, Chapter Four that:
9“two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
There may be times still I feel let down but not let go. The more I grow, I am learning, it isn’t often my spouse who has let me down, it’s been me sliding on my own.
It’s been my same selfishness, my stubbornness, my expectations that were not rooted in compassion, teamwork and grace that trip me up each time. Just as every misguided struggle with self (identity, worth, -ishness) I’ve faced in the past had led to detours from a genuinely joyful path, so does each challenge today.
Yet, there remains our cord of three strands.
For those who understand marriage as a gift from God, we recognize the significant responsibility we took on to reflect the leadership and grace between Christ and His Church. Our identities in marriage must become more about Christ than ourselves, and as He has proven, sacrifice and surrender lead to the greatest love. Marriage is about the three of us — you, me and our God who joins us together.
As friends of ours plan weddings now and prepare for marriage, I think of the sizable load they are choosing to carry and share. It is not simply a party or celebration, it is a covenant costly enough to reflect our invitation and acceptance as heirs into God’s Kingdom. It is a promise that there will be hard but the exceedingly great to come will be well worth it.
Weddings are a big deal now and were a big deal in Scripture.
We learn in the book of John that Jesus’ very first miracle was accomplished at a wedding, as He demonstrated His authority over the chemical composition of water in turning it into wine.
As we read the final book in our Bible, we learn of the wedding feast of the lamb.
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:6-9
Not only must we remain aware of the picture of divine romance our marriages reflect, we must also recognize that our sexuality within marriage is a gift.
God has given the husband and wife a special gift of intimacy in marriage, and we demean His glory and the worth of our bodies when we abuse such a gift within marriage or outside of it. Like anything good, it can be corrupted and used as a temptation against us. We must be on guard always.
Our God loves us. We know this, because if we believe Christ, we believe God is personal. Without this trust, we cannot claim to honor a loving God, because there is no love without relationship and little relationship without trust.
God loves us enough to rescue us from darkness, from ourselves. He loves us enough to allow us to minister in our marriage, and we can choose to be used or not to be. We can sacrifice or not. We can give grace or not. We can persevere or not.
I have a dear friend who has faced the most hurtful scenarios of a marriage caught in the crossfires, the actual situation scripture even uses to justify separation, yet she chooses to remain and forgive and love.
And I stand amazed as God is still making miracles.
And I stand amazed at the sanctuary of worship where men and women still come together in the eternal name of Jesus to commit to each other and the world that no matter what comes before us, it cannot come between us.
Because that’s where God is.
Right in the middle of bent you and broken me, with arms stretched as wide as the Cross to hold us together.
So I know:
Whenever I am weak or you are, He is strong.
Whenever I choose myself or you yourself to come first, He chose us.
Whenever I think forgiveness is not an option or you do, He forgave already.
Whenever I believe or you decide that this is all just too hard, His cross is before me. His grave is empty.
There is such a thing as cohabitation, but it is not what we believe God has sanctified and ordained.
There is such a thing as divorce and separation, but there is no longer a “me” and a “you” once joined as “one” we became.
There is such a thing as a marriage license and tax breaks and benefits, but mere paper will expire with this world that remains.
There is such a thing as repentance and redemption and setting our path straight.
And although we cannot do it all ourselves, God is able.
We chose Him. We choose Him every single day.
And this is the story our marriage will tell. In the good times and in bad. In sickness and in health. When we forgot to replace the toilet paper roll or forgot to say thank you after supper, we will still remember who we chose – Who we still choose every single day.
Friends, if you find yourself struggling to find happiness in your marriage, please know I have been there. I think it is safe to say that we all have been, given we are promised hardships until we are Home in heaven. We can consider the challenges we face to all be heavy, even if some are more severe threats than others. The question before us is always — what will you do with what you’ve been given? The answer should always be — pray. Talk to God and go with Him, however He leads. If you are in an unhealthy relationship, if abuse is present, seek protection and counsel and pray. Know that God is the redeemer and lover of your soul. Only with Him can we overcome any of the attacks we face. And our marriages will be attacked. We learn there is nothing the devil desires more than to destroy the identity and glory of God, be it individually or in the union of marriage. It is time to remind him to stay back; it is time to remind him who’s got yours — King Jesus; let us fall more in love with Him today.