You have to be intentional in your love if you want it to last.
I often meet with couples who are planning on marriage and my first question for them is …Why??
Why are you getting married?
What is so attractive, so compelling and so all encompassing that you want to tie yourself to another human being for the rest of your life?
While you ponder that one for a moment let us consider what marriage really is.
Webster tells us that marriage is “the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship (historically and in some jurisdictions specifically a union between a man and a woman). I will leave the parenthetical part for another discussion at another time. For our purposes, we will deal with marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:24: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Hold that thought. “One Flesh.” The first thing a couple needs to understand is that through the covenant of marriage, we each give ourselves up and become something else. The celestial chemist uses marriage to create something entirely new.
Through the Lord our God, He mixes one part bride, one part groom and a third part, some of Himself. This creates an entirely new and amazing entity called a married couple. One as much a part of the other as they are a part of themselves.
This is not a thing to fear or to be apprehensive about.
You do not lose yourself in this union.
You find yourself.
You find meaning and purpose far beyond anything you can achieve individually. Your eyes are opened to understanding that eludes you if you never marry.
Next, let’s consider what covenant means. Once again Webster defines it as: “an agreement which brings about a relationship of commitment between God and his people.” Covenant is not a contract, nor is it an agreement or understanding between parties. It is an oath, a promise made to and through God to do a certain thing or act in a certain way.
Contracts are between two people. Covenant is between three. When you make God a part of your relationship, it becomes something that is immutable, unbreakable and permanent.
So we now understand what marriage really is. A covenant between a man, a woman and God. Let’s go back to the original question.
Physical attraction? Intellectual stimulation? Peer pressure? Obviously the list is as long and as complex as the human psyche. The very first answer I usually get from a couple is simply that they love one another. That is good and it is very necessary but it is not enough and it is often as misunderstood as is marriage itself.
In first Corinthians, Paul tells us that; “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
There is a lifetime of study in those simple words.
Jesus taught us in John "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
So love is as much a part of our everyday lives as breathing. It is supposed to be ever in our minds and in our hearts. But the love between a man and a woman is something unique. Something different. Something special. The problem is, we humans forget to keep loving as we go along. That or our love is somehow directed to other things.
Jimmy Evans, one of the truly great Pastors and a renowned expert on marriage tells us how his love of golf almost ended his marriage to Karen. In counseling I see people who have love for so many other things in their lives that they forgot the love that they once had for their spouse. Our love of sports, recreation or “things,” often takes the place of our love of spouse. Simply put, love is not enough.
So if love is not enough, what is? What can get you past those moments when you are so angry, so upset with your spouse that you truly wonder why you ever thought they were the one? When the love of first blush is replaced with … what?
First of all, love is like a flower. When it first blooms and is fresh and sweet, it is unlike anything in this world. But like a flower, the bloom disappears and the plant that is left behind is often drab and unattractive. Mature love is like that. You have to feed it, water it and nurture it if you want it to bloom again. It takes effort. You have to work at it to keep it alive. You have to be intentional in your love if you want it to last.
What, then, gets us through those times when love has faded? Friendship. Here’s a truth that most young couples don’t understand at first. Your spouse must be your best friend. They must be the person that you turn to in any moment of doubt or despair. They must be your confidant and your refuge. When you think of an activity, you simply cannot imagine yourself participating without your spouse involved. Oh they don’t have to actually be on the field with you or standing beside you, but they have to be with you every moment. Watching, waiting, supporting and encouraging. They are the one person in this world that you want involved it everything you do.
Finally there is this.
The Bible clearly lays out the hierarchy of marriage. God first in our lives, then our spouse, then our children and on and on.
Wives, Husbands, remember this. Your spouse is your first consideration after God. Your children will be with you for 18 years or so but then it will be just the two of you again. Empty nest syndrome is when you have devoted yourselves to your children and suddenly they are gone. Now you are living with someone who helped you parent, but is actually a stranger, because you forgot to put them next in your life right after God.
There is so much more to a successful marriage. Learning to fight fair. Having a servants heart. Seeing the other persons reality and looking out of their eyes. Intimacy and sex. Financial health. I will address many of these in later articles but for now consider this:
Why do you want to get married?