I remember right before Joel and I got married, I was 23 and thought, of course, that I knew it all. During bridal showers and other events leading up to our wedding, there were some people that were pretty negative about marriage. Comments like, “Oh, that lovey dovey stuff will fade”, “you’ll see, things will be different in a few years,” “romance will fade,” “those things you argue about now…just wait”. And they went on. I was pretty shocked about it to be honest. I was over the moon happy and excited about marriage, why wasn’t everyone else? Also, seeing that I was as happy as I was, why would people say things like that? They were totally raining on my parade. After we heard the amount of comments we did that seemed negative, Joel and I said we wouldn’t be that way. In 10, 15, 25 50 years, we didn’t want to be negative. We still wanted to have romance in our marriage, we still wanted to be happy and excited like we were at that moment.
I look back now and although it was probably not done in a good way at all, those people were sharing wisdom. It sure didn’t seem that way at the time, but I think they were trying to be real and honest and just weren’t sure how to do it. It’s kind of like when someone tells you when you’re pregnant, “wow, you are really getting big!” At the heart of the comment they are actually probably trying to give a compliment and just doing a very poor job. No pregnant woman WANTS to hear she is big just like no soon-to-be bride wants to hear that the romance they have right now is going to fade. But, being a pregnant woman that felt like a whale all three times, I got bigger and it is safe to say that I am in a different place in my marriage than when I was 23.
SO, what WOULD I tell my 23 year old self? How would I explain the journey of marriage without raining on the romance parade?
I specifically learned pretty early on that a marriage is not about a wedding. As much as stores would like you to think that spending $20,000 on the wedding of your dreams is what is going to make a girl happy, they are sorely, SORELY mistaken. When the food is eaten and the couple says “I DO” and the gifts are unwrapped and the honeymoon is over, life sets in and that $20,000 is money you wish you had back to start a life, invest in pre-marital counseling or other things. I have told many young brides that although the wedding will likely be amazing, what are you doing to prepare for your MARRIAGE?
I would have tried to tell my 23 year old self that after a period of time, those feelings you had change. They don’t leave, they change. It is at that point that you have a choice. That choice is one that you have every day. When you argue and fight and struggle and doubt and think “what in the world did I get in to,” those are the moments when you CHOOSE to love your spouse.
It’s not all pretty and perfect and romantic. I preface this saying that my husband has done an amazing job at keeping the romance alive-flowers for no reason, nights away, love notes, surprises for no reason and on and on. He knows what makes me happy and what makes me feel loved by him. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get messy. Arguments, big ones happen. Sorrow and loss happen. Loneliness happens…life…HAPPENS. Our journey as Christians was never promised to be easy and I think that translates to marriage as well. We were never promised it would be easy, but that is not stuff that is often talked about at bridal showers. I would tell my 23 year old self that life happens and struggle and pain and sorrow happen. It’s important to know what you are going to do when it does. Are you gonna pack up and take off or dig in a stick it out, work through it and be better.
There is not a single person besides God and your spouse that know you better. It’s easy when you look and feel beautiful at your wedding to be lovable. But what happens after three kids, late nights or early mornings, when arguments set in that you continue to have over and over. Your spouse sees you at your worst and you see your spouse that way too. I am thankful to have a husband that loves me in spite of my worst moments. He has a choice each day and he chooses me as I choose him. It’s not always easy. You are saying YES to something that is completely unknown.
The man who married us, Jim Lo and his wife told us that you have to put your life in this order: God, spouse, family, ministry. I would have told my 23 year old self to listen to that, believe it and create a life around it. God has to hold you or the rest of it doesn’t work. There were times in our marriage when other things got in the way of this order. This is so very important.
Stay current. I think this is the modern way of saying “don’t keep a record of wrongs”. We listened to a cassette tape sermon series and this is one of the main things we took from that series (that we listened to on a VERY long road trip). There are going to be times that you want to bring up past hurts, arguments and faults. DON’T! By staying current and talking through an issue soon after it happens and then letting it go is so much better than not talking about it and bringing it up over and over. It does NO good and only hurts. No one wants to continually have those things brought up and hung over their head. Forgive as God has forgiven you because you have your own list of faults too!
I would tell my 23 year old self that I love my husband more today than I did on our wedding day. It looks different and FEELS different and it is a different love. A mature love that grows.
SO, what brought all of this up? Well, a little less than a month ago, one of my favorite Christian artists came out with a new song. She hadn’t had a new song for a long time because she got married, took a hiatus and had children. The song she wrote has her husband singing with her and they wrote it together. I feel it is such a testament to marriages from our generation and how they need Jesus to hold them. In the second half of the song, it says: “We reflect the greater story of the King and His bride, we’re not hidden, but shine brightly bearing witness in the night.” This hit me so hard, like a ton of bricks and I feel I had never visualized our marriage this way. I need to. We do reflect the greater story of our King. I want to shine brightly even on those dark days and in those dark moments. Join me! Let Jesus hold your marriage.
Here is the song in case you want to listen to it.
Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. 2 Corinthians 3:18