Describing Marriage

marriage

June is traditionally the month for weddings. All the planning and expenses come together for a grand beginning as two people join their lives together.

If only we put as much effort into preparing for the marriage as we do preparing for the wedding.

For most of my adult life, I’ve heard various definitions of marriage.

I’ve heard it described as an equal partnership. A 50-50 partnership. A contract between two consenting adults who agree to mingle their assets and their lives. And, if you happen to be a Hallmark movie fan, a guarantee of life lived happily ever after.

But after 40 years of marriage, I can say with assurance that marriage is not an equal partnership.

It is not 50-50.

It is not merely a contract.

And it is not a guarantee of life “happily ever after.”

So, what is marriage?

For the Christian, marriage is not simply the union of two people. In a Christian marriage, Christ is the center of the relationship, because Christ is the center of the life of each individual.

For the Christian, the goal of marriage is Christlikeness. Of course, that’s our goal in all of life, including each of our relationships. However, marriage, unlike other relationships, provides daily opportunities to become more like Christ by putting the other person’s needs before our own. Did I say daily? More like minute by minute, even in the best of marriages.

Marriage is also a covenant, not a contract. Contracts can be broken with the help of skilled attorneys. But consider the traditional marriage vows: “Till death do us part…so help me, God.” Regardless of what our culture tells us, marriage is meant to be a lifelong commitment.

Marriage is also a partnership. But not an equal one, nor a 50-50 one. Marriage is a dynamic relationship in which both parties give 100% (or more!). Depending on the circumstances, it may seem as if one person is giving more than the other. Still, life is in a constant state of change. Children. Physical health. Finances. Mental health. Career. But if each party is committed to give 100%, then even if the other does not or can not, Christ is still at work, reproducing His image in us.

Finally, marriage is an exercise in submission. The apostle Paul wrote, ““Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21 NIV). What does that look like? Yes, the wife is called to submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:22). But the husband is called to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25)—a sacrificial love that holds nothing back, including his own life.

Yes, marriage is a lot of things, but one more thing it’s not is easy. Not easy, but definitely worth it.

What advice would you give to a couple getting married today?


Mate for Life

I never thought a sandhill crane would make me cry.

A pair of sandhill cranes were living in our little corner of the neighborhood for the last year. It seems fitting, since they happen to be the logo of our development.

We’ve watched them establish a routine. Foraging for food. Teasing our dogs by remaining just outside the boundary of the invisible fence that corrals our two eager boxers. Proclaiming, quite loudly, that they were large and in charge.

And always together. Until now.

For the past week, we’ve only seen one. One by himself (herself?) searching for food. And looking ever so lonely. I find myself hoping against hope that he’s alone because his mate is nesting somewhere in the area. Wishing that she’ll accompany him again a month from now with two newly hatched chicks. Mate for Life

Because, you see, sandhill cranes are one of those breeds that mate for life. And life for them is usually longer than 20 years. They mate when they’re about 2 years old, and spend the next 20-30 years nesting, raising chicks, and watching them leave to start their own families.

A circle of life. The rhythm of nature.

It makes me appreciate the lifetime I’ve had with my own husband. Seasons and decades. Experiences that have been good, bad, and occasionally so ugly the only thing you can do is stifle a gag reflex. Otherwise known as life.

There’s something special about sharing all those things across decades with one person. With someone who knows you, sometimes better than you know yourself. Someone who gets your quirks, overlooks your faults, and loves you anyway.

Someone who understands what real love is. Not just the hearts-and-flowers kind of love celebrated once a year on Valentine’s Day. But a love that’s in it for the duration. A love that puts the other person’s needs and desires ahead of your own. And a love that never lets go.

I’m grateful for that kind of love. For the “mate for a lifetime” commitment. I know that not everyone has the opportunity for that experience, and I don’t take it for granted.

So here’s my challenge…
Valentine’s Day has passed, but don’t wait another 12 months to show your love. While hearts and flowers are nice, consider other ways to communicate the deep joy and privilege of doing life together.

Identify a task the other person is responsible for, and surprise him or her by taking care of it. Do something together to get out of your rut. It doesn’t have to be dinner at a fancy restaurant (although that’s always nice!). Perhaps a spontaneous neighborhood walk after dinner. Or maybe sharing, without jokes or teasing, how much he or she means to you. Hold hands. Lock eyes with a smile. Bite your tongue when he leaves his clothes on the floor (again!). Or when she tells you (for the 20th time!) to pick up your clothes.

Expressing love—real love—isn’t easy to do day in and day out. We’re selfish by nature. We want our marriage and our world to revolve around us, not around the other person. And we want it now.

Christians know that to maintain this kind of deep, unselfish, humble love requires the supernatural equipping of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who encourages, prompts, and gives us the desire to love our spouse the way we want to be loved. 

And if you need additional motivation, consider my lonely sandhill crane. Don’t wait till it’s too late to say—and show—your love.

You won’t be sorry!

 

 


Four Benefits of the Best Kind of Honeymoon

Have you turned the page of your calendar yet? We’ve entered June, the month of weddings and honeymoons.

Wedding ringsLots of effort goes into planning a wedding. Among other things, the happy couple decides on the venue, guest list, vows, reception, and food. But not every wedding is so involved. Ceremonies can range from a ten-minute declaration by a Court Clerk to a destination wedding in an exotic locale.

Of course, we can’t forget the honeymoon—as short as an overnight trip or as long as an around-the-world cruise. A time to get away and bond, both physically and emotionally. A time to withdraw from external obligations, providing the opportunity to focus undivided attention on each other.

So when did the focus of the honeymoon change from the intimacy of relationship to that of a grand and glorious travel experience? A vacation of extravagant proportions just because, well, “It’s our honeymoon!”

It’s one thing if the couple (or their family) can afford the expense. But if they can’t, a new practice has developed. Get someone else to pay for it.

And why not? After all, if others want to help give the couple the vacation of a lifetime, why shouldn’t they? We give wedding gifts, don’t we? If the couple doesn’t feel comfortable asking for cash, crowdfunding sites have eagerly stepped into the gap to make it happen (of course, at a slight profit).

Gifts are good…if the honeymoon is merely a grand vacation. And for couples who have been living together, maybe that’s all an extravagant honeymoon really is.

However if, indeed, the honeymoon is more than that, the couple will cheat themselves of at least four benefits:

The blessing of undistracted intimacy:

For the newly-married couple, the honeymoon is an opportunity to tune into each other. To enjoy their deeper intimacy and appreciate new experiences as a couple. If the vacation is over-the-top extravagant, the focus becomes the lavish environment instead of each other. The couple has a choice to make: the honeymoon can be a time of investment in the relationship or a distraction.

The maturing process of delayed gratification:

I don’t know about you, but the more easily I receive something I want, the less I appreciate it later. When I have to wait for something important, it becomes even more precious. A serendipitous benefit is that the waiting also changes me. I develop and strengthen character qualities such as patience, self-control, and gratitude.

Giving in to the need for instant gratification will work against a couple’s relationship and increase the potential for significant problems, both relational and financial.

The satisfaction of working together for a mutual goal:

The longer a couple is married, the more experiences and memories they share. Remember when we…? How about the time we…? Difficulties that once brought on tears are laughed about years later. Stories are passed down to children and grandchildren. Let me tell you about the time we saved all our change in a jar for a vacation fund or when we held yard sales until we saved enough money. The recollections unite the couple, help cement the relationship, and reinforce them as a family unit.

The joy of anticipation:

Remember waiting for Christmas to come when you were a child? We started school in the fall and Christmas felt as if it would never arrive. There’s so much to anticipate with a wedding. The celebration with those you love and who love you. The excitement of beginning a new chapter of life. It will change how you see yourself. How you relate to one particular human being from this day forward. How you plan your days, weeks, months, and years. Why would you want the vacation of your dreams to get lost in all of this?

The honeymoon may be the most important vacation a couple will take. But it’s more than just a vacation. Better to postpone the lavish trip for another time. Your future selves will thank you.

When you look back on your honeymoon, what do you remember?


Soul Mate

I’m a hopeless romantic. You probably know the type. I don’t enjoy a book or movie unless it has the proverbial happy ending. I appreciate it when hubby opens the door for me or holds out my chair at the table. Yes, I’m a hopeless romantic married to my soul mate…or maybe not.

How do you know if your spouse is your soul mate? Is it even possible to marry a soul mate? Worse, what if you meet your soul mate after you marry someone else?

I love my husband, but giving him the responsibility of being my soul mate is a burden no one should bear. Soul mate implies that his soul completes mine. That he is the only one capable of making me happy.

It sets him up for failure. Just as it sets me up for failure to be called his soul mate.

I do have a soul mate, but it’s not my husband…at least not my earthly husband. I, along with every other Christian, am betrothed to the One who truly is my Soul mate. The apostle Paul described this in his letter to the Corinthian believers:

“For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ” (II Corinthians 11:2 NLT).

Someday, I will join my Soul mate in a glorious marriage celebration:

“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7 ESV).

Until then, I’m grateful for the blessing I have in the husband I have. I wouldn’t trade him for anyone else on earth. Today is our anniversary. For 37 years he has loved me unconditionally…a living illustration of the love of my eternal Soul mate. It doesn’t get any better than this. Now…and for all eternity.

Wedding

 

 


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