Last month, on November 22nd, Angela and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. I'm not an expert on marriage and by some standards I'm still a rookie. But I have learned a few things in these ten wonderful years. Here they are, in no certain order:
1) I'm not naturally a good husband. Before I tied the knot, I was convinced I'd be a great husband. Some lucky girl would be praising the Lord daily that she nabbed me. How wrong I was, really. Rather, I was the blessed one, having snared a women as patient and loving as my wife Angela. What I've learned is that I am not naturally a good husband. I have to really, really work at it. Naturally I'm selfish, proud, and tend to see things only my way. To be a good husband I must do two things: I must work at loving my wife intentionally and I must rely on the Spirit of God to change my heart. If you're not yet married, you won't realize this until you do get married. And then this reality will hit you in waves.
2) It really isn't good for men to be alone. Those words uttered by the Triune God in the Garden of Eden are actually true. Nothing changes a man quite like being married to a good, godly woman. I can say that for myself. When you commit to being and staying married for the long haul, you are committing to a relationship that will refine you as a man. It will shave off your worst instincts. It will domesticate you in a good way. It will mature you. Today I am dependent in many ways on my wife. Not simply for what she does for me, but the companionship, the togetherness. I don't like it when she is out of town or away. I feel like half of my life is missing. God designed life to be this way.
3) Love grows deeper over time. There is a richness to long-lasting marital love that is hard to describe in words. When you are married, you go through tremendous highs and lows as a couple. You will endure crushing defeats. You will enjoy soaring heights. You will suffer pain together. And you will laugh together. All of these times only add muscle to your love, they build your relationship. If you are willing to hang in there and suffer and laugh and cry and forgive and repent together, you will, at the end, find a love that is far richer than the plastic, Hollywood, fake infatuation you think you desire.
4) The gospel is the indispensable key to your marriage. And when I say "gospel" I don't simply mean, "Make sure you marry someone who shares your faith." Yes, yes, and amen to that one. But it's more than that. Marriage requires that each of you believe the gospel so deeply that you live it out. It means the husband is willing to die literally and figuratively for his wife. It means there is a oneness that is a small picture of the intimacy shared by the Trinity. It means you dig deep on forgiveness, extending grace to the one whose wounds can hurt you the most. And you quickly repent when it is you who is doing the wounding. It means you don't projet some kind of impossible standard on your spouse, but accept her as a sinner who is being slowly sanctified by God's grace. It means you, like Jesus, love your spouse at their worst because you will wand her to love you at your worst. Believing the gospel means you don't see your marriage as a happiness vehicle for your pleasure, but as a witness of the grand narrative of the Bible to a watching world.
5) Every day you spend with your spouse is a day for which you should praise God. If you are a husband, realize that your wife is a gift from God. If you are a wife, realize that your husband is a gift from God. Somedays it doesn't seem like your spouse is a gift. Maybe she wakes up cranky. And some days you are not so much a gift to her. But the longer you are married, for as many years as you are gifted together, you will thank God for bringing her to you. I think this way often, when I see the way my wife enriches my life, cares for our children, and does so many things in the community. I'm grateful for God giving her to me. And if you are married, you too should be this grateful for the one to whom you are united by God.
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