Last week at a friend’s bridal shower, I had the awesome opportunity to share what I’ve learned about marriage. I haven’t been married all that long, but I have been married long enough to learn a thing or two. And I’m learning that when God teaches me something, it is a blessing to me each and every time I get to honor the Teacher by sharing it with others. So, I thought in addition to sharing that night, I would post it here to share with the rest of you.
Besides that, when I want to remember lessons God has shown me, I write them here as my reminder and re-read them later – revisiting this altar of stones. It’s a way of reminding myself of a personal and loving God who is continually molding and shaping me, refining me to be a bearer of His image. And it’s a way holding myself accountable to what God has already taught me. So… lessons on marriage? Um, yeah… that’s one I need to visit often…
Lessons I’ve Learned about Marriage
So… 11 more days! You’re almost there. I bet you have been dreaming about this day and the days and years to follow. It is a wonderful time. A time to plan and to look forward with excitement! All of us here are so excited for you, too. It’s a time of great expectations.
I have to be honest, when Michele called me and asked me to pray about doing the devotional for tonight, I was hesitant. I told her that yes, I would pray, but that no, I wasn’t sure this was something I could do. Then I got off the phone and cried. This year marks just 9 years for Matt and I… I am certainly not the most experienced wife here. We’ve had lots of ups and downs and have made plenty of mistakes through them… I’m certainly not the wisest wife here, either. And you deserve the best. I almost said no, because I felt inadequate, like I couldn’t fulfill expectations for a marriage devotional. I thought others would have expectations of me that I couldn’t possibly fulfill. I had expectations of myself that were impossibly high.
Thankfully, I calmed down from my panicked cry and was reminded that this time here isn’t about me and what I can do or say about marriage. It’s about what God has already said, and what He has taught me in my short time of being married that I can share with you. I almost missed out on the blessing of sharing the things I’ve learned because I had misplaced and impossible expectations.
Here’s the thing… I’ve learned marriage is a lot like that. No, it’s not about lowering expectations. It’s about putting expectations in the right place. God gave me an incredible gift when he gave me Matt. We’ve had some great times in 9 years, and we’ve had some tough times too. For me, some of the hardest times were not about the actual circumstance we were facing, but about the expectations I had that were not met.
It’s not that I needed to lower my expectations for Matt, it’s that I was looking to him instead of to God to fulfill all my needs or to make me happy or feel secure. And while there were plenty of times he did those things, I was placing a God-sized burden on human-sized shoulders. I had placed Matt on so high a pedestal that my dependence on him began to surpass my dependence on God. Heartache and failure – for both of us – were inevitable. Psalm 118:8-9 says this: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”
You have a great prince in your life. Just like I do. But if I could share just one piece of advice with a new bride, it would be this: Don’t ever let that prince take the place of the King.
The King of Kings, who knows you best and loves you even more than your fiance does, more than you can imagine, has given you an incredible prince to spend your life with. And while your new husband isn’t and won’t be perfect, he is the perfect gift for you because he is from your Heavenly Father, who knows you so well. This is a gift you get to unwrap each day as you wake up next to the man God picked out just for you and spend your days getting to know the gift and the Gift Giver even more.
Marriage is wonderful. And hard and beautiful and crazy and exhausting and confusing and exhilarating and a million other things. But God is steady. A solid rock. He never fails. He always keeps his promises. We can expect that and never be disappointed. And He has given us His Word full of promises He will fulfill in our lives and marriages. All you need to do is to first love the Lord your God, and then love others, your husband included. As you obey those commandments and unwrap this gift of your prince, here are 6 of God’s promises, Great expectations you can be sure of…
- Expect to be blessed when you serve your husband with a humble heart. When Matt and I were first married, people told us, “Always remember, love is a verb.” A verb is an action word. That means you can show your love for your husband by serving him. Think of ways to bless him. Iron his favorite shirt. Make him his favorite meal. Leave him a sweet note on the mirror when you head off to work first. Or get up a little earlier to send him off with a good breakfast. Proverbs 11:25 says, “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” When you bless your spouse, you will be blessed in return.
- Expect to have fun when you maintain a joyful heart in Christ. Fun can come in big ways, like when you plan a surprise outing doing something you know he loves. Or it can come in small ways, in the daily grind, by keeping your heart joyful, especially when you don’t feel like it. These are the times where it’s a lot harder to have fun. You might feel a little less joyful and a little more irritated over dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is empty, or when a pair of white socks continually end up in the dark laundry divider in the middle, no matter how many times you’ve told him “white on the right.” (Not that that’s ever happened in our house.) But allowing your heart to be irritated over things that are minimal will only eat away at your joy and his, and will eventually lead to bitterness. I’ve done this. It snowballed to the point where I’d be irritated for how he put pillows on the bed after making it, rather than being thankful that he made the bed. Maintain a joyful heart in the Lord. Think of these times as opportunities to be a humble servant, and as reminders of things to be thankful for. Dirty dishes means you’ve had plenty of food to eat. (I haven’t figured out what white socks in the wrong laundry divider means yet, but instead of getting mad about it, I had Ari hold the bag open so I could take a picture and send it to him with a joke about the kids switching his socks over again. His response was perfect and caused us to laugh, “I’m such a moron.”) Proverbs 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Keep your heart light and find ways to laugh with each other, especially when you make silly mistakes. It will make your relationship fun, and it will draw you closer together. Sometimes when I mess up, I make Matt a cup of coffee and bring it to him in a mug that says “I love my wife.” (Just in case he needs the reminder.) We already know you make a mean cup of coffee. Now all you need is the mug…
- Expect your friendship to grow as you make time to communicate. Don’t expect your husband will be able to read your mind (because after 9 years of marriage, I’m more convinced than ever that men cannot do that). Instead, share with him your thoughts: your gratitude, your concerns, your dreams, your frustrations. Be his confidant and closest friend, and let him be yours. For “this is your beloved and this is your friend.” —Song of Solomon 5:16. And James 1:19 “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Friends listen to each other. Take the time to really listen to him. Learn what he likes, what makes him feel loved, what empties him and what fills him up. As you seek to know him more, use that knowledge to find more ways to bless him.
- Expect your love for each other to grow the more grace you give. Marriage provides lots of opportunities to forgive and show grace. It can be hard to let go of hurtful things that are said or done, especially if they happen more than once. You may be tempted to bring up past mistakes and hold on to repeated mistakes when they happen yet again. Remind yourself of these verses. Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” When you argue or have wronged each other, instead of expecting your spouse to be the first to apologize, soften your heart towards him. Pray that your heart will be softened. Be humble and quick to forgive, and forgive as many times as is required. Know that showing grace will increase your love for each other. In Luke 7, Jesus teaches Simon about forgiveness. Remember the woman who lived a life full of sin that washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair? She then poured perfume on his feet and kissed them over and over. Jesus pointed out that Simon’s reaction to seeing Jesus was much different. He did nothing but greet him. She had been forgiven more, and therefore loved more. In verse 47, Jesus says this, “I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Forgive BIG. And know that not only will you be blessed because you are obeying your King, but expect that the more you forgive your husband, the more his love for you will grow.
As a side note, my mom has said as long as I can remember, “Love isn’t always a feeling, but it’s always a choice.” There may be a time or two where Matt has told me he loves me and my response through gritted teeth was, “I’m choosing to love you too.” It’s easy to love when things are great and when others are lovely. Choose to show love in the hard moments. In the times when you don’t feel the love flowing, look at your husband and remember he is the perfect gift for you from the One who knows you best. Love him as Christ loves him, and forgive BIG, as Christ forgives. And in case you need a little help with that, (maybe when you’re just really not feelin’ the love), pour yourself a cup of coffee, read your mug, and breathe…
- Expect your relationship to be strengthened as you honor and pray for your husband. Proverbs 31:10-12 says this, “A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it.” Pay attention to all the good in your husband: his faithfulness, his steadiness, his servant’s heart, his hard work. Honor him for those things. Tell him and show him how much you appreciate and respect him for his leadership in your home. Pray for him in his role in your home, in his role at work and in other areas. Honor him in how you speak to him and about him. I love how Ephesians 4:29 reads from The Message Bible, “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” When you do that, Proverbs says your husband will trust you without reserve, and your relationship will be strengthened because of it.
You’ll notice each of these expectations isn’t about something your spouse should do or will do. They are about you. And they’re about God’s promises. They are about you being obedient to Christ, and God’s blessing being poured out in your marriage because of your obedience. Your spouse will see this and be blessed. Others will see, too. And you will point all of them right to Jesus by your words and actions. So the last expectation is this: #6 Above all, expect to glorify God as you continue to seek Him in your marriage. Because that is exactly what you will be doing when He maintains his rightful place as Lord of your life… when you first love the Lord your God – your King, and when you love, honor, and cherish the gift he has given you in your spouse.