My wedding shoot taken by Erin L. Hubbs, 2013
So, You're getting married? You have the ring that you've been waiting so patiently for... you've got your girls all lined up, your family behind you in support, the date, the honeymoon plans and the expectations of every Bride that ever came before you. You're in love. You're excited. You're ready!
But wait... are you REALLY ready???
Before I was married, I thought I knew a thing or two about marriage. My parents are ministers and have a beautiful marriage that I've had the privilege of observing over my lifetime. I'm an avid reader, so I stocked up on all of Gary Chapman's literature, to help me navigate my decisions and my future. Jarrett was insistant that we participate in Pre-Marital conferences, even before we were engaged. So, yeah, once I had that ring on my finger, I figured I was prepared. Then I got married.
Marriage is one of the most beautiful existence that one can experience—but it will challenge everything you ever thought about yourself. It will bring to surface areas of your character that you were never aware of when you were single and it will position you to seek a wisdom beyond yourself. Yup... marriage is work, as they say. But most of the work consists on reshaping you!
Although I am thankful for my parent's wisdom and for accessible mentors that took Jarrett and I under their wings and have patiently guided us in God's principles, in order to build a harmonious and loving marriage, there are so many lessons that can't be covered over coffee or between the pages of a book. A two-hour conference won't be able to address every area of marriage or point you to every scripture that is needed to help you navigate towards healthy, harmonious love. But I can assure you that marriage, when done God's way, will mature into love that goes beyond mere happiness.
This is the first concern we must get over, "happiness"... because our purpose and concern for marriage should not be focused on such a self-centered goal. According to most research, more than 50 percent of people who "happily" say “I do” will not be sleeping in the same bed five years from their wedding day. This has been an astonishing reality in my social circle. Between 2011-2014, Jarrett and I attended 6 weddings, including our own. Today, only 2 out of those 6 marriages are still standing; this number includes our own marriage. So, that means, unfortunately, my husband and I have witnessed 4 different divorces in our 5 years of marriage. It breaks my heart. What happened?
I believe that most of the struggles and irrevocable differences that arise in so many marriages, secular and Christian a like, is the result of unawareness, lack of preparation and ultimately, an absence of God's presence. Most people jump into marriage with mentalities full of misconceptions, selfish ambitions and shaky spiritual foundations. But Marriage, although it can try your very soul, is unmistakably beautiful and profound and those who are willing to stretch and grow and mature- enduring every situation; weather happy or hurtful- will find the paradoxical euphoria of a thriving marriage, as God ordained.
Below, let's explore some aspects of marriage that every Bride-to-Be should guard her heart and her prayer life with.
1. Strive to Make Him Happy, Not Yourself
What's it like being married, you ask?
The truth? It's one big lesson on self-denial. Day in and day out, I find myself making choices that will either please me or please the one I vowed to cherish above all others- including myself. Sometimes, it's hard, for sure. Sometimes, I don't care about the budget we're supposed to be exercising, because those shoes are cuter than he could possibly understand. Sometimes, I don't want to go visit my in-laws, because I don't always feel included, so I'd rather relax in my own living room and paint my toes. Sometimes, I don't want to hear, "no", because I'm an adult and I want to do what I want to do. But these struggles (some petty and some serious) are always a reflection of what is in my heart and the Lord uses these situations to show me who I really am in light of who I am supposed to be.
Listen, Love is never about your agenda. Never forget that. And if you are hopeful to have a healthy and thriving relationship, we must learn to be women who are more interested in giving than in getting. Scripture says it best:
"…the righteous gives and does not hold back" - Proverbs 21:26.
When we insist on being served, being made happy, being attended to, being heard, being considered first, being respected first.... that's a result of simply refusing to be giving. And a lack of giving is simply an indication of a selfish heart. Remember, our marriage is not for our happy-ever-after.... but for our joint opportunity to thrive, together. As long as we focus on ourselves, then guess who gets left out? He does. And if he is being neglected, it's only a matter of time before you begin to get neglected. Marriage, done God's way, requires us to pour out of ourselves and into one another. When a husband denies he's selfish urges to please his wife, then the effect will result in his wife abandoning her selfish ambitions to pour into him. This results in both husband and wife being fulfilled and harmonious. I guarantee you, your husband deserves the same acknowledgment and consideration that you feel you deserve. So the beauty of marriage is that you both are giving to EACHOTHER- giving in, giving up, giving out. This results in marital bliss and joy- beyond mere happiness that is only satisfied, momentarily, when self is being served.
2. Marriage is Meant to Change each of you, so Don't refuse to Grow
There is a cultural misconception that we shouldn't have to change for anyone. That people either take us or leave us and that if someone isn't completely accepting of who we are, flaws and all, than that's their problem and not ours. This mentality is great if you are a song writer and desiring to go platinum, but in marriage, such a stance will eventually leave you standing alone.
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us"- Ephesians 5:1-2
There is no denying it: Jesus gave Himself up for us. He allowed Himself to change from glory and into a mere human being, because He loved us. He chose to through all the earthly difficulties of hunger, rejection, mistreatment and lowliness, because He loved us. He allowed Himself to be whipped beyond recognition, because He loved us. He was willing to go through so many changes, that He didn't have to go through. As He himself said, "I could call down legions of angels" (Matthew 26:53) to rescue Him from having to do through uncomfortable, self-altering experiences, such as the cross. But He chose not to. Why? Because you were worth it.
Let me ask you, is your husband worth it? Is he worth your love to be willing to grow out of your comfort zone in order to establish lasting love and fulfillment? Or are your opinions of yourself more important than the compromise it takes to please one another?
When we are faced with going through character alterations and refuse to do so, how can we honestly say we are loving our spouse to the best of our ability? If Jarrett tells me that it's hurtful to him when I walk out of the room during an argument, and I refuse to work on that, then I can't honestly say that I'm concerned for his feelings. Maybe, that's just my way of cooling off- but if it's something he needs me to change, then I must be willing to do so in order to show him love and respect; just as there are areas and habits in his life that I will sometimes need him to work on.
Of course, marriage requires sacrifice for both parties involved, but unless you are willing to grow, you will remain unwilling to sacrifice- thus jeopardizing the health of your relationship, as well as your own health. It's unhealthy for things to stay the same. Things that are alive will grow and growth is a result of something that is flourishing. Don't be afraid to change- it's inevitable. However change that occurs from intentional desires to love on another can be profound, both for the marriage and also for you as an individual.
3. Marriage is a Ministry
Our first three years of marriage was a breeze. We had occasional disagreements, but nothing serious. then came year four... whoosh..... misunderstandings seemed to surround us. What was going on? Oh, yeah... the "working" part started showing up. So, why is marriage work? Well, honestly, it's because marriage, as intended by God, is a ministry and ministry is all about serving.
Every New Bride and Bride-to-Be must understand this, full well, upon entering into her marriage, that serving is a main attribute of holy matrimony. If you don't know it, you will soon find out. That's why selfish people don't stay married long, because they are unwilling to serve.
The fact that marriage is an act of service makes it a ministry and when we serve our husband to glorify God, well the immaculate and the miraculous will take place!
So what does serving look like? Well, it could be dozens of things: domestic work, such as cooking and keeping a clean home, taking stress off of his shoulders by running an errand for him, being creative with gift giving, looking for ways to include his family on some of your plans, being considerate of his down time and allowing him to get some "me" time, pampering him after a long day with some affection and TLC. These are a few ideas but not the totality of ways in which we can serve our men. But the biggest on each of our lists, honestly, should be to drop what we are doing and get down on our knees... to PRAY for them. (Did I scare you? lol)
Remember, since every marriage is deemed holy by God (Malachi 2:14) then understand that you serve God in your marriage by loving your husband. This service is practiced by living out your vows to cherish, honor, obey and love your spouse. These are vows you have devoted yourself to, before God and each other. Second, you serve your spouse by also actively loving him or her. I use the word "actively", because love requires intentional decisions, not flailing happenstances. Love is always a choice, NOT a FEELING. Your actions toward your spouse such as listening to their concerns, supporting them in their goals, loving them in their highs and in their lows aare a few examples of ministering to them and to God. And, let's not forget the sex! The closeness between husband and wife further establishes trust, mutual giving and one of the highest forms of worship, which, according to 1 Corinthians 7:5, which instructs husbands and wives to not deny each other. Sex is amazing and is a necessary service for the marriage.
The point of marriage is to point to God's love. And though it's a scary leap of faith, when done God's way without selfish ambition, a willingness to grow and an understanding to minister and serve, you will find your marriage thriving and will position yourself to be an example to other couples and singles that want to get married. Remember, our lives- including our marriages- are always on display; weather we want them to be or not. Your show of love and respect, service and growth will be watched by family, friends and even strangers. Most importantly, your future children will be impacted by your marriage- either negatively or positively. How you choose to love and live your life will shape their hearts towards God and even towards the institution of marriage, their identity and their security; so love intentionally. Doing your part to keep your marriage strong can bring satisfaction and enjoyment for all those involved, including yourself!
So, as you are choosing flower arrangements and Bridesmaid gowns, purchasing new furniture of your joint home or simply settling in after the honeymoon, remember that marriage is not an extension of dating. It's a new and awesome existence, established by God, but completely you and your spouses responsibility to uphold and to grow. When we return marriage to its rightful place in our priorities, it can quickly become the greatest asset to every area of our spiritual and physical lives. So, chin up, Bride, and walk with confidence... know that God is with you and it is His desire to bless you with a prosperous and beautiful marriage!
Do you have any suggestions on what a Bride-to-Be should be aware of before her big day? Share your thoughts with me! I'd love to hear about the lessons God has taught you or is teaching you in your marriage! Hey... we have to be willing to learn from one another! I'm all ears and hope to learn from those of you who are willing to share.
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