A---, I am so impressed with you and J----- and your relationship. You have such a passion for the LORD and your desire to serve Him is obviously number one in your lives. That right there will make all the difference in your marriage. I know you will do well.
K--- and I have been married for 32 years and 5 days. It has been the best hmmm about 25 years of our lives. We have had many unique experiences. Oh I could tell you stories! In many ways marriage to K----, an engineer with a true eye for adventure has been a stretch for me but I can truly say that K---- is delightful and I am glad I married him.
I say it’s been the best 25 years of our lives because there were a few years mixed in that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. We have been wealthy, we have been homeless we have been each other’s best friends and we have hurt each other so severely that we have seriously considered separation & divorce. We both came into our marriage with baggage. Everybody does. Sometimes I wonder what relationship would be like without baggage… (I guess that’s why Jesus came).
Marriage is a covenant commitment. It is a commitment to help each other into a life of ever increasing grace and holiness. Remember that when your dreams are shattered, your bills are overwhelming and your babies are screaming. Marriage is not about the day to day routines. It’s about chasing after the more in life with ever increasing passion!
If I had one piece of advice for anyone getting married it would be this, master the art of grace. Grace is not just what you do it is how you think. Remember Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” It’s not just that God doesn’t speak condemnation to us. Condemnation isn’t in His heart towards us.
Psalms 103:11-14 says, “For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
We are dust. We make mistakes. We are dust. In our life time we will make some really horrible, life altering mistakes. Sometimes God will rescue us from the consequences of our mistakes and sometimes He will let consequences smack us in the face and though the mistake may be one person’s choice, both partners will bear the brunt of the consequences.
Mostly because of our baggage, both K---- and I have made some really bad mistakes during our marriage and the consequences of those mistakes have been hard to bear. I don’t think there is anything harder to navigate in marriage than the pain and embarrassment of the consequences of the financial, social, moral, spiritual or just plain stupid mistakes of our marriage partners. Mistakes don’t mean anyone failed. They simply let us know that we are dust. God and God alone makes that dust into somebody unique and special.
Allow for dust. Make a commitment now to allow for mistakes. God knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. You will save yourself a lot of heartache if you remember the same. Make a place of safety with each other where you can confess your deepest faults knowing there is no condemnation with each other as well as with the Lord. Be willing to forgive any violation. Walk in open redemption with each other, and…almost equally important… get a sense of humor. Stupid mistakes over time will often turn into funny stories if we let our pride go and get dusty.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
It’s easy as you are starting on this road to see the good in J---- now. But there will be days when you wonder if the man you married is still in there somewhere. He may wonder too. Make a choice to remember, meditate on the good and praiseworthy. Proclaim who you know J---- to be. Write it down now while it’s fresh in your mind and when he does something stupid (which we all do) tenaciously cling to who you know God made him to be. Be an ambassador of reconciliation. Stand up for his redemption. And may he do the same for you.
1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].” (AMP) That sounds impossible doesn’t it? But when our partners are floundering it is crucial to know that somewhere in there they are the same wonderful, loving person you married. The gift we can give to each other in marriage is the calling out to who God created us to be when we least look like it.
That’s not to say you are meant to put up with wrong choices or hurtful behavior. Sometimes it’s important to have a fire spitting, knock down, drag out fight.
We have been instructed to put on the whole armor of God for the purpose of opposing evil. Opposing evil in our marriage is vital. But always remember what you are fighting for, that being a life of ever increasing grace and holiness.
Fight for each other not against each other. Some things aren’t important. Some things are more important than they seem. How you get toothpaste out of a tube isn’t important. If you disagree on this topic get two tubes of toothpaste. But there may be more to the toothpaste tube fight than meets the eye. Perhaps one of you is a person of order and one a person of spontaneity. Perhaps one needs bathroom drawers to feel ordered because it is a part of their gifting to bring things that are out of order into order. In that case it might be important for a spontaneous person to honor the need for order, while it would also be important for an ordered person to honor spontaneous expressions.
Speaking of fighting, It’s dang important to learn how to fight fair. I think that lesson takes a life time but here are 5 principles to get you started.
- Invite Jesus into your conflicts. Listen to each other then together listen to God let the Holy Spirit guide you into all truth about what you are fighting about.
- Own your own stuff first. There is no place for pride in an argument. James 15:16 says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Notice that the same people that are confessing trespasses are also the righteous whose prayers are effective.
- Fight to understand-- not to be understood. Winning is when you both have a greater understanding of each other. Don’t stop fighting until both of you win.
- Use “I feel” statements rather than “You” statements. It’s important to fight from a position of vulnerability rather than power. If you say, “I feel hurt when X happens, it makes me feel disrespected.” You are expressing a piece of your heart and offering relationship. If you say, “You don’t respect me!” you are speaking the words of our enemy the accuser and it will destroy your relationship. Accusations are a wedge that separate people. You can not be in intimate relationship with someone who stands as your accuser. Remember Romans 8 there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I can’t stress it enough, accusations are poison to any relationship. As soon as an accusation is spoken, relationship is broken and it can not be repaired until you put the accusation down.
- Remember your ultimate goal, that being to help each other into a life of ever increasing grace and holiness. Even when you fight, believe the best in each other. Remember who your partner is in Christ and speak to them in that context. Fighting teaches us to live in accurate service of one another. It’s a good thing.