So, I've committed to dedicating the month of May towards Marriages, of which I am a huge believer, supporter and fan. I love marriage, and not just my own! As I approach my fifth year of marriage (yes... what a milestone), I find myself in deep thought over the last few years: what I've learned, what I've had to improve on, what I've experienced in my personal life and what I've experienced, jointly, with Jarrett. Marriage is beautiful, when both partners are equal in their pursuit of cultivating love and devotion with one another. It can be overwhelming when one or both are not.
When a couple devotes to each other in marriage, they are promising to take on the good and the bad; and although most couples say "I do" with only the good in mind, it is amazing how those incredibly difficult times can help shape the more enjoyable ones. That, to me, is the true mystery of marriage.
It's no secret that our generation is quite skeptical of the institution of marriage. People are becoming more and more likely to co-habitate than to marry and those who do marry choose to do so at a much older age than the generation before us. Ask any 22 year old about marriage, and she'll probably reply that she's not ready or that she has other goals in mind for now. And that's cool. Marriage should not be our sole desire in this life. There are so many opportunities that we can only experience and accomplish while being single. But, should you ever come upon the desire or opportunity to marry, my advice is to do so with your whole heart, in light of Christ's love, for you both!
I have many friends who are in strong marriages and relationships, but aren't necessarily 'Christians'. They have wonderful, healthy marriages and they are happy together and prosperous. So I'm not saying that marriages outside of the Christian church are doomed or unhealthy. This just isn't true.
But what I do believe is that when a couple who follows Jesus decides to get married, they enter into a sacred covenant that involves a purpose beyond themselves. According to Scripture, this is the very mystery and transformation into Christ’s likeness while also ushering God’s kingdom here on Earth (Matthew 6:9-15). Thus, a marriage built on Christ is lived beyond the here and now. It's that particular couples' opportunity to express and experience eternity for the whole world to see!
Marriage is first introduced to us in Genesis, through the creation and joining of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2). If you are not moved by this story or if you don't believe in it, that's ok. Just use it symbolically, if you'd like. So, at the climax of creation, God created one man and one woman; very different, yet extremely equal. It was His good pleasure and ingenous idea to form us so that we fit together... yeah, take that statement literally. Our body parts (male and female) are a beautiful puzzle piece that fits just right into each other; creating physical and sexual unity in addition to spiritual oneness (Genesis 2:24). And, based on this formulation, it was God's plan to make one man for one woman. There was no Megan or Amina in the Garden with Adam and Eve. There was no Terrance or Dave either. Just Adam and just Eve- this points to a very vital characteristic of the virtues in Christian marriage: monogamy.
The decision to devote oneself to only one other person, for life, serves as an example and a reminder of God’s desire to be our only source and our only diety (Exodus 20:3-5). One God, one people. One husband, one wife. Beautiful.
As our marriage day approached, I was beyond nervous- I knew Jarrett would become my one and only lover- transcending my identity from a girlfriend and into a wife. I knew that my Dad would no longer be my ultimate source of security and that my future would be intimately intermingled with another person for the rest of my life. It was utterly exciting, and completely scary! But, we knew that Christ had aligned our hearts. I had some questions, but no doubts. Because of our obedience, we both were free and unhindered by regrets. And because we both knew God's love, we were free to exchange God's love in purity, in sincerity and in truth. This doesn't come as happenstance, it's cultivated by intentional faith. That's the difference between marriage God's way and marriage the world's way: It's a party of 3.
I was not always, however, focused on God in the beginning of our marriage. To be quite truthful, I was more so focused on myself, through expectations that I had placed on Jarrett to be my "knight in shining armor". Did I love him? Yes! Did I love Jesus? Yes! Was I keeping Jesus first and sacrificing my needs and agenda for the harmony of my marriage? No.
At the time, I wouldn't have admitted this because I wasn't aware of this. But, as Jarrett and I began to mature in our love for God and for each other, the Lord began to show me areas in my heart where I was not loving, selflessly. I was loving emotionally, but emotional love is not synonymous with the unconditional love of Christ. It takes Jesus to love like Jesus, so as we are venturing on in our marriages, engagements and even dating, we have to remember to plug ourselves into the unfailing love of Jesus so that we can produce the unfailing love of Jesus with one another.
The mystery of marriage is only revealed as it’s held up against the unfailing love of God. It's more than just a celebration of love: It's a celebration of God! Many marriages are unsuccessful by trying to do this marriage thing outside of God’s design and purpose. We forget that His presence is necessary in order to cultivate His blessings. We get so caught up in our time lines, in our biological clocks and in our Fairy Tale dreams that we fail to prioritize Him, and make our marriage about us instead of about Jesus.
Last month, Jarrett and I attended a beautiful wedding. The decor was lovely, the food was great, the music was choice and everyone was gorgeous. As we stood in groups and circles, watching the Bride and Groom cut their cake, I over heard a woman behind me say, "I can't wait to get married so I can have a wedding just like this one."
We think that marriage is about us, failing to realize how much it is really about God. It is not an extension of dating, but rather, it is it's own life and it's own existence, separate from any other relationship you have ever had or will ever have, again. It is sacred and it is holy.
Remember, the wedding day lasts a few hours and then it's over. Afterwards, there is a life to be lived. The life that follows the celebration must be rooted in love, not mere happiness, which is selfish at the root and very circumstantial.
A great wedding is not a guarantee for a great marriage. Too many Brides put more emphasis on the event than the actual vows, and though we all desire the grandeur of wedding celebrations, we must be wise enough to see into the future and count the cost of marriage: disagreements, disappointments, financial stress at times, in-laws, out-laws and every other area of life that we cannot control, even the dread of sickness, failed businesses, children and so on. This is real life. It isn't a fairy tale and those of us who desire maturity beyond social media pictures and honeymoons, will reap the benefits of an abundant marriage when we align our motives with pleasing God in our love, not pleasing ourselves. We can't become so blinded with temporary celebrations that we forget to invest in God's unconditional love for one another.
The primary goal of marriage should not be self fulfilling, but equal devotion and, at times, sacrifice. Happiness and great sex is important, but we mustn't that to over shadow Christ’s call to holiness and love (Hebrews 10:10 and John 13:34-35). As a result, you can guarantee your love life will sizzle with blessings and spill over into joy throughout your union. This is the aftermath of keeping God first; everything... and I do mean everything will be blessed- hearts and bodies, alike!
A marriage rooted in God references a profound spiritual reality: the joining together of Christ (symbolizing heaven) and the Church (symbolizing earth). This is the great mystery: that two imperfect people can exchange God's perfect love amongst one another, when Christ dwells in their hearts and in their marriage. This is one of the highest callings that anyone could ever embark upon in their lives, yet sadly, the purpose of marriage is diminished when individuals fail to recognize this reality.
The specifics of walking out such a high calling vary for every couple but if we hope to succeed in cultivating a Christ-centered marriage, each of our focuses must embrace these uniquely virtues: forgiveness, submission, sacrificial love and selflessness. This is the love God has shown us, through Jesus, and this is the love that we must show one another. It's not natural for any of us to operate our hearts in this fashion, so implementing Christ in our marriages is vital in order for us to reflect Christ in our marriages.
The best marriages I have ever seen were devoted to the desire and commitment to cultivate God’s bigger in their relationship. Marriage becomes so small when it’s all about us, but becomes immensely beautiful and magnetically effective when it is pursued for God's glory. There is no substitution.
My wedding day taken by Erin L. Hubbs
I don’t claim to have all the answers because I am still learning everyday. I'm learning how to submit, though I fail miserably more than I care to adit. I'm learning how to compromise, how to forgive, how to lift up my husband in creative ways and how to honor him as I honor the Lord. I'm learning how to die to myself, in order for my marriage to thrive, and I am learning how to trust God as I trust my husband's vision over our family. I am not a perfect wife. But, personally, I am praying that God continues to transform my heart and my expectations of marriage, so that I can experience the mystery and gift of marriage the way God designed my marriage to be.
I hope the same for us all. As we are planning our wedding days or hoping for engagements or celebrating another year of love and matrimony, may we remember that Christ's love is forever and it's His love that gives us our Happily Every Afters!
Cheers to the future, ladies! May we marry, if it is God's will, have beautiful babies and do it all to the glory of God!
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