This past month of marriage has been so sweet. I have honestly really loved being with my best friend every day. I love waking up with him, coming home to him, and the precious moments throughout each day. It is so much fun being married to Jason. We have discovered new things about each other: Jason is a light sleeper. I apparently hit the snooze button too many times. Jason talks a lot more than I thought he did. I am really bad at leaving the clean laundry in the laundry basket all week.
I have also learned how sinful and selfish I am. Granted, I was already learning this while we were engaged, but it is really coming out now! Today at lunch, I told Jason how I wish I could have a more Christ-like attitude like he does. Jason is so selfless, so patient, extremely kind, and very forgiving. 98% of the time. Then I thought about all the times that I am not selfless, patient, kind or forgiving, and realized it’s a lot more than 2% of the time that I act this way. I want to be more like Jason. But ultimately, I desire to be more like Christ.
During our last month or so of engagement, Jason and I met with our officiant/college pastor and his wife a couple of times for pre-marital counseling. We had already done the typical “Prepare and Enrich” pre-marital counseling with one of my home church’s pastors and family friend, so we read “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas. It was so good. I had never read anything like it!
How many times do you hear people say, “If only I was married, then I could be happy.”? They could replace the word “marriage” with anything-rich, healthy, had kids, prettier, etc. The list could go on and on.
One thing that Jason and I learned during our first pre-marital counseling session is that Jason is an idealist and I am very much a realist. I am extremely realistic about things. Jason is as well, just not as much as I am. I’ve always known that marriage would be hard. I never thought it would easy. Thankfully, I had a great model of what marriage would be like living with my parents for 23 years. They just celebrated 26 years of marriage! Living with them, I saw how fun and exciting marriage could be. But I was also able to see how trying marriage could be. That’s not to say anything about my parents-they love each other so much and have worked hard to make these last 26 years something worth celebrating. No marriage is perfect. They all take hard work.
So I knew that marriage would be hard with my own husband. But what hadn’t really been put into perspective for me was why marriage would be hard.
Marriage is not designed for us to be happy. It’s not designed for us to procreate. Yes, happiness, pleasure and procreation are gifts from God IN marriage, but that’s not why we get married.
The question that Gary Thomas asks is, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy, more than to make us happy?”
I knew that marriage mirrors God’s covenant relationship with us, his people. It’s a beautiful picture of unconditional love and extreme sacrifice.
Gary Thomas explains it like this, “The first purpose in marriage is to please God.” He goes on to say, “The challenge, of course, is that it is utterly selfless living; rather than asking, ‘What will make me happy?’ we are told that we must ask, ‘What will make God happy?’…Just as Jesus went to the cross, so I must go to the cross, always considering myself as carrying around ‘the death of Jesus’ so that his new life-his motivations, his purposes, his favor-might dominate in everything I do”.
Wow. So what would make God happy in my marriage? Gary Thomas gives this explanation: “We show our love for God in party by loving our spouses well. And we love our spouses by loving God”. The thought that God wants me to serve him by concentrating on making my husband happy is amazing. Making Jason happy makes God happy-that is such a cool perspective on marriage!
So what if Jason is difficult to love at times? Well that’s what marriage is for-to teach us how to love. One of my favorite quotes from “Sacred Marriage” is this one by Gary Thomas, “The more difficult your spouse is, the more opportunities you have to love”.
I could literally go on and on all day about how awesome this book is and how wonderful the true meaning of marriage is. I really could. But you probably wouldn’t read the whole post. So I encourage you to read “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas. I also encourage you to read “The First 90 Days of Marriage” by Eric and Leslie Ludy (my favorite authors); I read this book over the course of our honeymoon and absolutely loved it!
I am currently trying to get my hands on the book “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim Keller. Last week during our Newlyweds/Engaged Sunday School class, we talked about the meaning of marriage and one of our teachers gave us some quotes from the book. One of them is this, “The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope…Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us.”
Does that inspire you or what? I am amazed at the love God has for us. It inspires me to love my spouse more and more each day.
So going back to how I desire to be more like Jesus ultimately, here is one last quote from Gary Thomas that gives me hope to developing a godly character and becoming the wife I feel Jason so richly deserves, “Marriage helps us to develop the character of God himself as we stick with our spouses through good times and bad. Every wedding gives birth to a new history, a new beginning. The spiritual meaning of marriage is found in maintaining that history together…The stronger we grow as spouses, persevering and pressing further into our marriage, the more we’ll develop the very character traits we need to become mature believers. Growing in our marriages, then, can build up our faith, even as growing in our faith will build our marriages. It’s a wonderful circle of spiritual life!”
I pray that my marriage to Jason brings so much joy to God. I pray that when my flesh tries to tell me something is okay in my marriage, that I learn to desperately seek what the Word of God tells me is actually okay. That when I don’t feel like loving Jason as I should, that I choose to love him anyway-because that brings honor to my heavenly Father. I pray that I seek God first as my First Love and that He is constantly at the center of mine and Jason’s marriage relationship. I pray that Jason and I can spread the gospel by continuing to choose to love each other through good times and bad.
I pray that you will seek the same thing for your own marriage.