My husband and I just wrapped up our 8th round of teaching a 9-week Marriage Preparation class at our church. Over the last five years, our shared passion for teaching biblical marriage to the modern world is played out every season as we meet these couples. Some young, some old. Some being married for the first time, some looking for a second chance. All very much in love and seeking to beat the odds, the depressing statistics of marriage in our world today, and find the happily ever after.
A longtime friend is getting married this summer. She recently asked for some direction and resources to help her feel prepared for all that awaits after that special day. I’ve been thinking about the key tidbits of wisdom I’d want my friend to know, because like every one of those couples in our class, I truly want them to find their own joy-filled “ever after”.
And I want you to find it too. So, if you are preparing for marriage, here is what I’d want you to know.
1. Don’t just look for a church, look for Truth.
Couples who haven’t walked into a church in decades, will find themselves sitting in the glow of stain glassed windows searching for that perfect location to say their vows. Why? Is it tradition? Trying to please our parents? Or is it because we all have this innate sense that marriage is beyond ourselves? Because it is. Marriage is holy. It is the only thing I’ve every promised in front of rows of loved ones and God himself that I would do. So, take this opportunity to begin to explore your spiritual life. Ask yourself what you believe about God. Find a church that has more than the date open for your ceremony, but their ears open to your questions, and is willing to help you discover answers. If you’ve never given your spiritual life much consideration, now is the time.
2. Communication is not the key to a thriving marriage. Selflessness is.
This goes against the cliche answer given by countless grey-haired couples at the their 50th wedding anniversaries. Communication is a tool, an important skill, that helps a marriage to thrive. But if all you are communicating is your needs, your feelings, your way – you, you, you – then that key is only going to open up a doorway of marital misery.
My experience is that the key to true happiness in marriage is in thinking of your spouse before yourself -their needs, their feelings, their way. It is the daily laying down of ourselves for the sake of the union. This goes against what our human nature might say or the culture promotes, but it is based in truth…
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4
As risky as it may seem, when two people truly strive towards this, it creates something beautiful. Something beyond this world. Maybe the world will never grab this truth, but you and your spouse, the little – world, family, life – you are creating together. You can capture it.
3. Drop whatever preconceived notion you have about biblical marriage.
“Uh-oh. She just quoted the bible. I’m not looking for that type of marriage.”
Hold up. Don’t click away just yet.
My favorite couples in our Marriage Prep classes are the ones who show up to the first class, arms crossed in defiance, eyebrows angled in skepticism. They are the ones there because their fiancee’s parents expect them there or because they are following the church’s prerequisite to be married by a Pastor.
A biblical marriage in not necessarily the same as the “traditional marriage” you may picture. If you think “biblical marriage” and immediately set a stage from the 1950’s …husband coming in suit and tie from his 9-to-5, housewife in dress and apron with dinner set, kids in line, and his collared shirts pressed, you are mistaken.
The Bible does talk about marriage, and it does lay some ground rules, some guidelines. I can speak as one with arms crossed and eyebrows skeptic, that gave it a good look for myself, and found that it can be totally relevant to 2014 and still be in God’s design…and it works.
That is only the beginning of what I would say to my dear friend as they walk towards their wedding day. There is so much to say. It would take more than one visit, more than one cup of coffee, so please, return next week and I’ll tell you the rest.
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