Marriage has been on my mind a good bit lately. Partly because I’ve been reminded recently just how awesome my husband is. In the last two months, while I’ve been pathetically lying in bed for days on end, he has been grocery shopping, cleaning, and caring for Jeremiah. He is wonderful.
I’ve also been thinking about marriage because I’ve been reading through Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage. It’s well documented that I love Tim Keller (someone even went so far as to say that I have a theology-crush on him.) And so it should come as no surprise that I love this book. I mean, it’s one of my favorite authors/speakers writing on one of my favorite topics.
One of the things that has struck me as I read through Keller’s book is how grateful I am to have a husband who really gets what it means to be a husband. I wish I could say the same about myself– that I was always on his side, encouraging him and loving him well– that I had actually had one clue about how to be a wife when we first got married. Friends, I think I might have one of the happiest marriages of anyone I’ve ever heard of… but I will be brutally honest and say that it has had embarrassingly little to do with me. In many ways I have been my own worst enemy; I’ve learned lessons the hard way about forgiveness, grace, and the Gospel.
As we enter the wedding “season” I thought it would be interesting to try and compile a list of things I wish I had known about marriage. You know, when I was 22 and thought I knew everything. So here it is– my advice to young folks who are about to say, “I do.”
- Seek out couples that have strong marriages and learn from them. Guys, look for other men that treat their wives tenderly and with compassion. Ladies, find women that respect their husbands and speak about them with adoration.
- Read good books on marriage. What Did You Expect and The Meaning of Marriage are excellent places to start. Be discerning in your choices– a book that talks mostly about sex instead of the Gospel isn’t going to help your marriage.
- Learn what it means to give someone the benefit of the doubt. In moments of conflict when emotions are high, keep in mind that this is your person who loves you more than anyone else. Learn and repeat often the phrase, “Baby, I am for you. I am on your side and we are going to work this out.”
- Husbands, do not be afraid to be leaders. God has placed you as the leader of your family and it is a role that you must embrace. If you know my husband, you know that he has a gentle and gracious spirit. He is humble and kind and takes seriously the command to “count others better than yourself.” And yet he is an excellent leader of our family. Leaders do not need to crush their spouses and children in order to lead. Instead, leaders need to have integrity and believe in the course they are charting.
- Wives, do not be afraid to submit to your husband. I’ve written about submission before and have so much more I could say. Ladies, if you are waiting for submission to feel natural, I am afraid you have missed the point. We do not submit to our husbands because it feels good or even because they are worthy of our submission. We submit because we trust in our Father. We trust that His way is better than our way, and part of His way involves us submitting to a flawed, sinful man called our husband.
- Love the Gospel more than you love your spouse. I cannot tell you how important this is. I am convinced that the only reason Michael and I have had a good marriage all these years is because he has always deeply understood the Gospel. And as he has helped me understand it more fully, I’ve seen it change my life and change our marriage.
Marriage is such an intense thing– as Keller says, when your marriage is going well everything else in life can be difficult, but you still move out into the world from a place of strength. But the opposite is also true. You can have all the material comforts/success you’ve ever wanted, but if you are struggling in your marriage it can feel like the world is falling down around you. And so my final piece of advice to young folks is to do whatever you need to to protect your marriage. Falling in love was wonderful and, dare I say, the easy part. A strong, beautiful, long-lasting marriage isn’t necessarily difficult, but it’s unlikely that it will just “happen” to you. It is, however, worth every ounce of work you put into it.