I used to be a wedding photographer. What fun it was! Everywhere you looked was a magnificent picture just waiting to be taken. And, all around you beauty and sparkly things abound. It was a photographer’s dream! Everyone was happy, love was in the air, and anything was possible!
Oh, if marriage could be frozen in time on the wedding day! But as we know, these moments can’t last forever. Getting home from the honeymoon means beginning the work of marriage.
Twenty years ago, my husband and I said ‘I do’ on a drizzly fall day. I am so blessed to be married to a wonderful man. That’s not to say that it has been easy . . . no, it has NOT been easy. It has been quite a bumpy journey, indeed.
One thing that I have learned over the years, that I never would have guessed, is that . . .
marriage is a crap shoot
As Forrest Gump would say, ‘marriage is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.’
There is no perfect girl or perfect guy for anyone. There are only human beings who are flawed and messy.
There are no guarantees in marriage. There is no magic formula. If you were hoping to find one here, I give you my blessing to stop reading this and go do something else.
There are 4 things that I wish someone had told me before I got married. Whether you are engaged, or already married, I hope you find these tips helpful.
1. You must die to self
A successful marriage that lasts is one in which both partners are willing to die to self.
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. Luke 9:23-24
Contrary to popular belief, marriage is not a 50/50 deal. The idea that if you give 50% your partner will give their 50%, is an illusion. Marriage is rarely that clean or simple.
Getting married with the the expectation of getting your needs met, sets you up for disappointment. Marriage is not a means for getting your needs met.
Marriage is a 100/100 deal. You need to give 100% to your partner, regardless of how much they give to you. A marriage where both partners put their needs last has the greatest chance of success. Put another way, a marriage where both partners resemble Christ has the greatest chance of success.
This is God’s design for relationships. Everyone is to put the other above themselves, in so doing imitating Christ.
If someone grabs your shirt, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. Luke 6:29-30, The Message
Do we see this happening today in society? Hardly ever.
I recently found a person’s bio on twitter that read, “I only fear the slowing up of the engine inside of me which is pounding, saying, keep going, someone must be on top, why not YOU?”
We are a narcissistic society.
The concept of putting yourself last instead of first is counterculture. What I am suggesting is not the popular view. Dying to self is not what people are talking about at parties, or wedding showers. But, it is God’s truth, and God’s truth works.
Marriage is a servant job. That is why so many fail. Who would sign up to be a servant?
However, this is exactly the position that Jesus embraced. He emptied Himself. Could anyone have humbled themselves more than He did? I think not.
He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7
For a successful marriage you must be willing to surrender your hopes, dreams, desires and expectations. You must lay them down at the foot of the cross. Get rid of them. Surrender them to the One who gave it all.
2. Know who you are
You are a child of God, wholly and acceptable through the blood of Jesus. If you are not confident of this fact, you should not get married until you are.
‘You complete me’ is one of the most quoted movie lines of all time. It is from the movie, Jerry McGuire that came out in the 90’s. This movie showcased the epitome of dysfunctional relationships. And yet, many people walked around thinking that ‘completing me’ was what marriage was for.
No human being can complete you.
You are highly valued, extremely loved, wholly forgiven, and adopted as a child of God. You alone are a treasure. You are complete and wholly acceptable just as you are.
If you feel less than a whole person, God is the only thing that can fill the void. Ask Him to heal you and make you whole.
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
Each person must be wholly self, while at the same time dying to self.
3. You will not be married to the same person in 5, 10 or 20 years
Am I saying that you will get a divorce and marry another person in 20 years? Nope.
I am saying that the person that you are now engaged to will not be the same person you will be married to 5, 10, or 20 years down the road. They will be different. And so will you.
This is why I say that marriage is a crap shoot. We change. We become different people. All of us do. It is inevitable.
As followers of Christ, we must change to become more like Him.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Are you the same person that you were 5 years ago? What about 10 years ago? 20?
I certainly am not. I hardly recognize the person I was when I got married in 1996. Who was that girl?!
Neither my husband nor I could have known the person we would become 5, 10, or 20 years down the road. We are different people. My husband is not who I married, and I am not who he married.
If you are young, however, you may not have done much changing yet. Don’t worry, you will. The 40 year old version of you will be completely different than the current you. You are just going to have to take my word for it.
Invite God to be at the center of your marriage. This is your best chance for those two completely different people to have a marriage that lasts.
4. Your marriage must have a mission beyond itself
The idea of marriage in scripture is primarily introduced to show us the relationship between Christ and the church.
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready. Revelation 19:7
For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. Isaiah 54:5
You and I have one mission in life, and it isn’t marriage. We cannot substitute our marriage, our kids, or anything, or anyone for the Great Commission. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, making disciples is always our mission.
Don’t get me wrong, our marriages are important. God honors marriage and so should we. However, our marriage cannot come above God and His will for our lives.
In Francis & Lisa Chan’s book, You and Me Forever, marriage is compared to the TV show, The Amazing Race. On this show couples are on a mission that pushes them to their limits both physically and mentally.
The Chans go on to say:
“the reason we don’t often fight is because we don’t have time to fight. We are busy trying to get to the finish line. Even in our victories we only have time for short celebrations because time is ticking. A quick high-five and then it’s on to the next checkpoint. We may take breaks to catch our breath, but we quickly get back in the race.”
This is what marriage should look like. A healthy marriage consists of two people working toward something greater than themselves. A healthy marriage has a mission beyond itself.
Marriage is a crap shoot.
There is no magic formula to know that you have met the right person. There is no amount of marital counseling that can guarantee success. There is no length of time that you should date that assures that a marriage will last.
Mirroring the image of Christ is the best chance we’ve got for having a marriage that lasts a lifetime.
The Chan’s book finishes with the most beautiful prayer for marriage.
I would love to hear what you think.
What advice about marriage would you give to couples?