Building a Christ centered marriage; 4 Things that I wish someone had told me before I got married

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.

zelweggerDM0102_468x768‘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. WhoDSC_0097 copy 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.

amazing-race (1)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.

Prayer for Marriage 2

I would love to hear what you think.

What advice about marriage would you give to couples?

Shout it from the mountaintops!

Recently I attended a writer’s conference at a nearby Christian university. The presenter of the social media workshop posed these questions, ‘what is your passion?’ and, ‘what is your purpose?’ As she talked about this I could only think about what I call ‘my message.’

My passion and my purpose are wrapped up in ‘my message.’

We all have a message, something that we want to shout from the mountaintops. It is often born of a story, an experience, or a tragedy. For some it is learned or discovered. Or, it can be from a revelation from God.

All of us have a message that we convey to the world; an outstanding theme in our journey with God.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”   Acts 1:8

As followers of Christ, I believe that our message should contain two parts; 1) a message about God, and 2) a message about humanity.

Passion about God + Passion about People

There are multiple places in the bible that we can find the two greatest commandments. Jesus told us that the most important things for us to do are to love God, and love others. These two are significantly more important than any other.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”   Luke 10:27

Our message, as followers of Christ, therefore, should also contain these two most important parts. Our message to the world should be what you want people to know about God and what you want people know about themselves.

Who is God to me?

God is loving, merciful, forgiving, and the great comforter.

I could say that He is loving and merciful, but that leaves out His great compassion.
I could say that He is kind and forgiving, but that leaves out His faithfulness.
I could say that He is strong and powerful, but that leaves out that He is perfect peace.

God is just so many things. One could say He is everything!

In other words . . . . . He is soooo good! Saying that God is good encompasses everything else about His character. All the things of God fall underneath the umbrella of His ‘goodness’.Umbrella illustrationThis theme has permeated my life for the last five years.

“O taste and see that the LORD is good!”  Psalm 34:8

What is most precious to me about God is His goodness. In my high points and low points of life, He has always been there. He has always been so good to me.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”   Psalm 107:1

Therefore, the first part of my message is that God is good.

About six months ago, I learned of a girl that had been coming to my church with a friend of my mom’s. She was nineteen and very much lost. I knew very little about the details of her life, but I felt drawn to her nonetheless. And, one Sunday, we met.

I wanted to help her, so we agreed that we would meet for coffee later that week.

I can pick out the people in a room that think that they don’t matter. And, she definitely was one of them.

She wrote me a note the day that I met her. It read . . . . 

Angel lady,

The unspoken/unknown connection that has called you to me has intensely impacted my heart and strength to hold on in ways you are unable to comprehend. But just know, wherever this goes – you are just one more strange sign in my life to not give up faith.

There are good people with good intentions, like angels upon the earth who were sent at a time of weakness.  You are unaware of the impact your concern or interest, whatever it may be, has on my heart and faith.

I was shocked by her words. She knew that I wanted to get together with her, but other than that, I had done nothing for her. We only met once. And, I am definitely no angel lady!

Somehow, that tiny gesture of reaching out touched her soul.

I never saw her again. She canceled our coffee date and never came to church with my mom’s friend again. I tried to get in touch with her, but gave up after a while.

I think about her often. And, I have been praying for her ever since.

It’s amazing to me how desperately people want to know that they matter. And sometimes it takes very little to let them know that they do.

I desperately want people to know that they matter.

Whether or not a person knows that they matter can change their purpose, where they live, who they associate with, and most importantly, who they live for. It can change everything.

What if people knew without a doubt that they mattered to God?
What if they knew that they are His masterpiece?
What if they knew that they are worth dying for?

My message to the world is:
GOD IS GOOD, and YOU MATTER!Cartoon Illustration of  Businessman Speaking with a Megaphone.


Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart!   Psalm 73:1

God created us all for a purpose. God created us to have passion. He created us with a message. And our message should become our mission.

What is your passion about God? What is your passion about people? What is your message?