As my incredible wife Heidi and I celebrate 21 years of marriage (!), I thought I would pass on some advice – the thoughts that I share in my wedding sermons, actually. If you have been or will one day be called into marriage, I hope you find some truth in it. And if it is too late for your marriage to be saved, I am truly, truly sorry. Thank God for His forgiveness and healing, and I pray both upon you.
A lot of people have false expectations about marriage. Some people expect way too little from it. They see marriage as simply a piece of paper – a legal contract – and a contract that’s only binding as long as the two people in it happen to feel like it.
But marriage is a lifelong commitment. And that commitment is critical, because there are times in a marriage when either or both parties will not feel very loving or charitable. But love is a verb, not a feeling – it’s a choice you make as husband and wife to keep working at your marriage, no matter what.
And while some wrongly believe that marriage is just a contract and nothing more, others believe that marriage changes and fixes everything, beginning a storybook romance for the ages.
But marriage is work – hard work – never ending work. A husband and wife come into a marriage as two individuals who arrived at an intersection on their journeys through life, and decide to continue on that journey together. But two people becoming one and learning to put the other before themselves takes hard work, sacrifice and forgiveness. Lots of hard work, sacrifice and forgiveness. Never stop communicating – if it’s a challenge for you to talk, make yourself talk, and if it’s easy for you to talk, shut up and listen. Let your strengths complement each other’s weaknesses. You will both grow and change as people, and it takes hard work, communication, sacrifice, trust and grace to grow and change together. But through it all, don’t forget to laugh together and be friends.
Marriage isn’t easy because life is never easy. You will fail each other. You will let each other down. You will make mistakes and you will hurt each other. There will be times when a husband will give in to the temptation to wound his wife by failing to show her the love she needs; and there will be times when a wife will wound her husband by stripping away the respect she knows he needs.
But when these times come, don’t run away from each other, run to each other. Admit your faults, and forgive easily. Never let the lines of communication break down. Build him up, love her and forgive each other.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love never gives up. It is not selfish, jealous or arrogant. Love is not quick to anger and does not keep track of hurts. It protects, trusts hopes and maintains. These are not just nice-sounding words; they are a high, high calling. In declaring your love for each other today before God and the rest of us, you are making a commitment to love like that. Those verses don’t give you a way to measure or judge another’s love for you, they tell you how to love.
Forgive early, forgive often (sounding a bit repetitive? It’s that important). And never, ever believe the lie that you are better on your own than together with your spouse. It only seems that way because it seems easier to be on your own than to have to consider someone else all the time. But you haven’t just found each other; God has brought you together, and for that reason you are stronger together than you are apart. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” This is why the man and the woman leave their families and in marriage form a new family.
Marriage is a high calling and a lot of work – but it is totally worth it. I cannot imagine who I would be were it not for the incredible woman by my side. We both realize that we each come with our own set of challenges, but we both know that we are blessed by each other in so many ways. Remember that God is there with you in your marriage. If you keep Christ between you as the heart of your marriage, your marriage will be strong and lasting.
If you are called into marriage, may Christ be always at the heart of your marriage, and may your journey be filled with joy and forgiveness. May your marriage shine as a beacon of love to those you meet, and may the love of Christ be evident in your love for each other, Amen.