On July 4, I married my best friend, my beloved and my partner-in-crime. And, it couldn’t have been more perfect. Really. It couldn’t have. The setting was perfect. The weather was glorious. The company was fantastic. It was all-around wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.
So many memories were made in such a blurred period of time. I probably can’t do it justice. Suffice to say—like many other brides—it was the best day of my life.
Of the entire day, the ceremony itself was my favorite. We chose to stray from “love-is-wonderful” wording that many weddings portray, favoring instead a hard-hitting, “marriage-is-work” message similar to one we heard months earlier at another friend’s wedding. The words spoken were as much for those gathered—many married for many years—as they were for the two of us just starting out.
Before close friends and family, and through vows of our own, we promised to constantly work at loving, honoring and cherishing one another. To stand by one another. To laugh with one another. And, to always do life with one another.
Because they so touched us, I posted the words here. May they be meaningful to you as well.
Words to Live By
The Bible defines what God intended marriage to be in the book of Genesis. It reads, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
Marriage involves a twofold commitment. In the first place, it is a moral commitment I make to my Creator to grant to my wife or husband my highest loyalty—a loyalty that is second only to my loyalty to God himself. Secondly, it is a moral commitment I make to God to share my life so completely with my wife or husband that it is as if we were sharing one and the same life together. It is to live one life jointly together; rather than living two independent lives that intersect.
Other than salvation itself, there is no greater gift that God will grant you than that of a marriage partner. The shared life of marriage is a very rewarding and delightful blessing. It is the most substantial and meaningful good that we will experience this side of eternity.
Yet, on the other hand, there is likely no greater and more persistent challenge that you will face than making your marriage what God wants your marriage to be. The same thing that makes marriage so rewarding is what makes marriage so difficult.
It is hard, even painful, for two self-centered creatures to share one life together as intimately as marriage requires. Marriage is very possibly the most important curriculum that God has devised for us. It is within the context of marriage that you can come to understand God, yourselves, others, and the meaning of your existence. It is up to you to pay attention and learn.
If you want to learn and grow in wisdom from the challenges of your marriage, you will. If you insist on remaining clueless and ignorant, you will. And the pain of marriage will be of no avail to you.
What is the most important advice I can give you today? Want wisdom! Want it more than anything else in this world. As you prepare to commit your lives to one another, I want to take just a brief moment to highlight some of the things you need to do if you are to profit from the difficulties you will encounter in your marriage rather than see your marriage destroyed by them.
First, strive to respect one another. A–, Jill is a woman. She is quite different from you. But, she is your equal, created by God in his image, with all the glory and dignity that that involves. Treat her with the respect that she is due. Jill, A– is a man. He is different from you. But he is your equal, your partner, and your peer. However baffling he will seem to you at times, A– is created by God in his glorious image. Treat him with the respect that he is due. And remember, respect must be granted as well as earned. A–, if in your evil you refuse to grant respect to Jill, she will never be good enough to earn it. And Jill, if you refuse to grant respect to A–, there is nothing he can do to compel you to grant it. Granting respect to one another is not something that just happens. It is a duty that you must perform. It is a duty that, today, you are vowing to accept. Always strive to perform this duty.
Second, A–, accept Jill for who she is; not for whom you want her to be; not for whom you hope she will become. You must accept her for who she is. And the same goes for you, Jill. You must accept A– for who he is; not for that image you have of what you hope he will become.
Third, be humble. Be diligent to embrace the truth about who you are, and also the truth about who you are not. You are not God. You are not the most important creature God made. You are a humble, limited creature—made to serve his purposes and humbly submit to whatever role he has given you. You are magnificent—reflective of the glory of God himself. But you are merely a creature, having derived and dependent significance. Honestly acknowledge and accept who you are before one another and your children. Don’t allow yourself to think more highly of yourself than you should. Don’t try to get your family to support you in your delusions. Rather, walk humbly before your creator, being just the magnificent man or woman God is creating you to be. Not more, and not less.
Number four, don’t be self-centered. At least, don’t allow yourself to pretend that your selfishness is anything but what it is. Always call it what it is and refuse to defend it or justify it when it inevitably shows up. You will never be able to eliminate selfishness; it is too deeply ingrained in us for that. But you mustn’t excuse it, rationalize it, or defend it. Commit yourself to acknowledging it for the evil that it is and repudiating it. Rather, learn to serve one another. God did not create marriage for you to have a partner who meets your every need. God created marriage for you to have a partner whom you humbly serve. Strive to be gracious servants of one another, just as God intended.
Next, commit yourselves to learning what it means to be kind; and strive to always act out of kindness. God has been exceedingly kind to us. We must learn to be kind to one another. And there is no “other” more important than your wife or husband. So, you must learn to be kind to your wife or husband. The one who is kind is like God, his Creator. The one who is kind is a deep, substantial, and attractive person—a person who reflects the beautiful glory of God himself. The husband who is kind to his wife will open up the psychological and spiritual space for her to choose to love God and to love him. The wife who is kind will create the space for her husband to choose to love God and to love her. Learn to be kind and you will fortify your marriage.
Additionally, commit yourselves to having the courage, wisdom, and humility to admit when you have done wrong. There is no more important preserver of the marriage relationship than the simple, truthful acknowledgement that you were wrong to do what you did or wrong to say what you said.
Next, strive to forgive one another. You are both sinners. Both life experience and the Scriptures bear witness to that. I guarantee that you will sin against one another and hurt one another in the course of your marriage. But God has forgiven you. So you must forgive one another. A–, you cannot expect God to be merciful to you, if you are unwilling to extend mercy to Jill when she sins against you. And Jill, you cannot expect God to forgive you, if you are unwilling to forgive A–. Also, always remember what human existence is about. You were not put into this world to find fulfillment and satisfaction from the things of this world. You were not put here to find happiness; you were put here to find eternal Life, to work out your salvation, to grow in wisdom. You were put here to learn to love goodness and to hunger for righteousness. You were put here that you might come to know, to understand, and to value the Truth. You were put here to live in eternity; not to pass away with the world.
For that reason, I urge you to make a personal commitment to invest your lives in what is eternal. Invest in what is substantial, in what is important, in what is ultimately real. Forsake sensuality—no matter how much it might be the obsession of everyone else around you. Forsake the materialism that threatens to totally trivialize the culture in which we live. Determine that the marriage you build together will be a monument to substantive, interesting, important, and eternal things—and not to trivial, transient, earthly things.
Finally, enjoy the gift that God is giving you today. Take delight in one another. Have fun with one another. Find satisfaction in the rich and rewarding relationship that God has created marriage to be. At the same time, don’t run from the difficulties that you will face. Face them and learn what God wants you to learn from them. The blessing and reward of marriage—when it is fun—is a wonderful source of joy. But the difficulty and pain of marriage—when it is hard and bitter—can be a wonderful source of wisdom. Of the two, wisdom is the greater; for without wisdom we will never enter into Life. So don’t run from that which can make you wise. It is your salvation.