Blissed and Blessed: Advice for the Newly Married

September 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm Leave a comment

    I am either one of your best sources of marital advice or one of your worst. My emotionally chaotic early personal history suggests the latter, including as it did several mismatched spouses and little evidence that I was capable of learning from my own mistakes. But when God finally got exasperated enough to take me by the shoulders and march me in the direction of an eminently suitable former classmate at our 20 year high school reunion, it was the first wave in a sea change that swept through every element of my existence. It was also the first phase in a long-term relationship that last May marked its 23rd wedding anniversary. 

Having finally discovered what a blessing married life can be, you’d think I’d be a fount of profundity on the subject. Yet at my nephew’s wedding reception a few days ago, I told his bride how moved I was by the loving looks the couple shared during the ceremony, and she replied, “I just hope we’re still looking at each other like that years from now.” My response? “From what I’ve seen today, I’m imagine you will be.” 

How insipid! I might as well have said, “Well, based on appearances, your chances are pretty good.” What I should have had the presence of mind to say was, “That’s not up to chance, it’s up to you.” 

Settled into my easy chair later that evening, I indulged further in the luxury of hindsight and a few gems tumbled out of the treasure chest of experience.  I’ve gathered them here in an imaginary “wish I’d said” monologue, because it truly is all about making choices and setting priorities. “Loving” is itself a choice, not a fluttery feeling in your stomach. It’s a decision you make – and then remake every day of your lives together. 

Of course, the sooner you invite Christ into your marriage, the sooner you will discover what true wedded fulfillment can be. What it cannot be is some idyllic landscape where no arguing ever takes place, or where a 24/7 feeling of security and contentment exists. And what it cannot do is cradle you in a state of consistent rapture over everything your spouse says and does, or provide for having all of your wants and needs anticipated. 

It’s more about telling yourself, in those moments when the other one is being “impossible,” that you have your moments, too; about reminding yourself, when you want to run out the front door in tearful frustration, that we cause God that kind of heartache on a regular basis with our flares of temper, selfishness, foul language, or lust for material excess, yet He forgives His repentant children unconditionally. It’s about searching our own hearts for forgiveness, even before an issue has been resolved or any apologies have been proffered. 

Your officiating minister somewhat incredibly stated that God’s greatest gift to the pair of you is each other. A nice sentiment, if he was thinking of earthly gifts, but it seems to me a rather self-centered view of the world. If you remember, always, that God’s Greatest Gift is the offering up of His only Son to die on the cross to purchase eternal life for you, then you have discovered a second Great Gift: the inspiring model of Christ’s spirit of compassion and self-sacrifice. 

Much is said today about taking care of yourself. Certainly, you’ll want to see to it that you stay healthy and fit, and you needn’t deny yourself in the process of over-indulging others. But according to Oswald Chambers, a prominent early 20th century Scottish minister, “God teaches self-expenditure not self-realization.” 

There is no better context for the application of that specific teaching than the marriage relationship. For if we become preoccupied with our own needs, we ironically deprive our spouses of that which we expect them to supply to us. You will have unmet expectations within a marriage. You must learn to express them, and then you must learn to sometimes be disappointed in the results of that discussion. But you will also learn that there are brilliantly illuminating alternate ways of looking at things, if you really listen to the feedback of a caring partner. 

Know that there is a grave danger in taking your needs outside of the marriage to be met. With Christ at your sides, walking with you, guiding your steps as a couple, the centerpiece of your life together, you will always have a trusted someone “in the family” to whom you can carry your burdens. 

Finally, don’t believe that giving freely of yourself is not possible without “giving yourself away.” Before you married, you were independent and self-supporting. Our spouses are an enriching factor in our lives, but they do not, as the movie cliché goes, “complete” us. Oh, but how they may “replete” us, making our lives more abundantly full. In return, we must teach ourselves to love selflessly, as if we were commanded to do so – because we are:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1 Corinthians

You will never be perfect in your exercise of such devotion, but it is clear that when love becomes an action verb, that decision you are committed to making every day of your lives together, you can design for yourselves a future in which you will still be exchanging the same adoring looks “years from now.”


Entry filed under: Advice For Life. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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