Dear younger, unmarried Self,
On October 4th, 2008, you will begin that hard and wonderful journey called marriage. Over the next eight years you will learn countless lessons about relationships, God, your husband, and yourself. Here are just eight of them…
1. Marriage problems start with you.
Let’s be honest. Self, you are extremely selfish. Living and bearing with someone else day after day will reveal just how much you want your happiness, your desires, and your expectations to be the number one priority. You will often manipulate, sulk, rationalize, and stubbornly dig your heels in, completely blind to how hard you are fighting just to get your way. Even on the occasions when it’s “all his fault,” you will reject patience and forgiveness and become resentful, blow the offense out of proportion, and wallow in self-pity. Yes, Self, you are a mess. And you must accept this starring role your sin and selfishness plays in the tensions of your marriage before any real growth or progress can be made.
2. He’s not your soulmate.
At times, the blunt truth is that you will regret marrying him. He will fail to be the husband of your dreams. But guess what…sometimes he will regret marrying you too, and much of the time you certainly are no great prize! You will both learn to deal with this disappointment, to awkwardly admit it aloud to each other, and in doing so, crush the insidious lie of “the one” that causes the death of so many relationships. You will find freedom in honesty and gratitude to God for the many things He is teaching you both through this imperfect union.
3. Communication is a marathon, not a sprint.
You will initially think that good communication is the ability to state your position clearly from the get-go so that the resolution will be obvious and painless to the both of you. But getting through an argument will mean stating your perspective “clearly,” then rewording, rephrasing, rethinking, and most importantly, listening as the conversation continues. You will learn to pick through the minefield of your emotions to explain the nuances of what you think and mean. You will learn to persevere and keep talking to each other even when it seems like “there’s nothing more to say,” making your way through the misunderstanding until you come out the other side, a little bruised (figuratively, obviously!) but more humble and more patient.
4. Marriage is hard work.
It’s so much easier to not talk about things, to keep the dark places of your mind and heart hidden, to continue in the same ruts because change is too hard. Marriage (or at least a good marriage) is hard work, plain and simple. Learning to ask good questions of each other to get past the surface conversation takes work. Going out of your way to help him accomplish what he needs to takes work. Hearing hard but good and necessary rebuke is really hard work. Roll up your sleeves because you are in for some hard labor.
5. And yet…marriage is fun!
There is almost nothing better in this earthly life than having a best friend to do life with. You will be traveling buddies, you will be unhinged crazy goofy with each other, you will have late night conversations about everything from the meaning of life to the shape of your daughter’s poop, you will be be make-out buddies, you will build an impressive repertoire of inside jokes, you will enjoy lots of pizza and movie evenings at home…marriage is such a fun and wonderful blessing from God!
6. Your identity is not in your husband.
As beautiful as marriage is, it cannot complete you, it cannot fulfill you. If you tie your identity to your husband you will be whipped to and fro by the ups and downs of your relationship, and you will be continually disappointed. Not only that, but there is the hard reality that Michael is a temporal human being who may not always be here. Instead, root your identity, joy, strength, and purpose in Christ, the only one big enough and worthy enough to bear that load. This is much easier said than done!
7. You never “arrive.”
Yes, it gets easier in time. You will learn to argue without crying and falling apart every time. You will learn to love sacrificially and press on when things are rough. You will grow in patience and enjoy your husband more and more, the good with the bad. But life will continually present new challenges that you’ll have to learn to navigate. You will think you’ve achieved awesome wife status after making it over one hurdle and then be immediately humbled by how poorly you weather the next challenge. Don’t ever think you have nothing left to learn.
8. Grace, grace, grace.
And we come to the most important lesson of all. Grace. You desperately need it. How will you accomplish any of this? Grace. How will you continue on after you fail miserably at all of this? Grace. Anything and everything good in you, in your husband, and in your marriage is God’s undeserved grace. You only know what love is because God loved you first, sending Christ to bear the punishment you deserved for your sin and brokenness, rescuing you and making you new and clean. Marriage is intended to exemplify this greatest love, forgiving and loving each other unconditionally like God does, and it is only by His grace and with His help that your marriage succeeds at all.
So what about you? What has marriage taught you?