I can sometimes be a slow learner —but this is ridiculous! We’ve been married for 45+ years. And with all of our life experiences, you’d think I’d have understood what married love was all about a lot quicker than I have. But I have to confess. I’m still on a real learning curve on this one. Yes, I’ve learned a lot, but I still have a long way to go.
It isn’t until more recent years that I’ve started to come to understand the bigger picture of what married love is all about. So really, you could re-name this message, “A Few Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All.”
I’m Not an Expert
I’m not saying, that I even now know very much on the subject of true marital love (the Lord, Steve, and I know the truth of that all too well). But I do know that Steve and I finally have committed our lives to continually be “students” of each other and students of what we need to learn so we’ll live a life of marital love that exhibits the love of Christ, bringing honor to God.
We now know that’s part of what we committed to do on our wedding day. On that day we pledged before God to “love, honor, and cherish each other until we’re parted by death.” We now realize we didn’t have a clue as to what that really meant. I guess it’s better to know that now than to never understand that at all.
What I DO Know
With that in mind I’d like to pass along some of what I now do know (as I reflect back on our lives together). Even though I’m still learning about marital love, I hope that what I’ve learned so far might be helpful to you. If it can prevent one tear, or short-cut any of the growing pains couples experience as they grow closer to each other, prayers will be answered. I give God all the credit for that.
I acknowledge, that without the Lord’s continual guidance and counsel, we wouldn’t still be together as husband and wife. Our marriage also wouldn’t be healthy and strong as it is —one that exhibits the love of God.
I’ve come to realize that when I married my husband Steve, I didn’t have a clue as to what I was getting myself into. I now see that in order to truly have a loving marital relationship, there’s a lot of buried “crud” in our emotions that will rise to the surface. All of this has the potential to destroy our love if it’s not dealt with properly.
Earlier in our lives together, my love for Steve was actually quite selfish. I wasn’t even aware of it at the time. But it was more of a love for who I thought he was and how he made me feel when I was with him. It’s sad to say, but I now realize I was more in love with “love” than actually I was with Steve.
It Started Out Fun and Exciting
Right from the start, my love for him seemed to come pretty naturally. There was something in the mix as we were together that was exciting and fun. I thought that was love —but actually it was more of infatuation, mixed in with expectations and fantasies.
I came into our relationship wounded in so many ways and I felt that Steve was a “soft place to fall” when I needed one —and I needed one a lot. Somehow all the garbage of my past and who I was when no one was looking seemed to disappear into the illusion of “love.”
He Became My “Mr Right”
Steve was my sweetheart —my “Mr. Right”, someone who became bigger than life in my emotions. Like Superman, he could “leap over small buildings in a single bound”, as far as I could see. And I felt I needed someone like that, which made for a very unhealthy situation in our marital relationship.
I never realized that my feelings and perceptions of Steve (and his feelings and perceptions of me) were so superficial and that our marriage would unravel when the reality of life events crashed against it. It challenged that which we thought to be “true love.” And eventually we found that our relationship wasn’t as strongly grounded as we thought it was.
My Dream Image
What happened to us was kind of like it says in the book, Passages of Marriage (by Drs. Minirth, Newman, and Hemflet):
“Not even Clark Gable the actual man could equal Clark Gable the dream image. No matter how well the partners think they know each other, when courtship becomes marriage, disillusionment sets in. So many things transfer from courtship into marriage. So does every unresolved issue. Conflicts the couple thought would disappear, little things in their engagement, blossom into big things in marriage.”
That certainly hit true in our relationship. After we married, reality started to set in big time. It didn’t take long before the storms of life, both large and small, started to come upon us. We were totally unprepared for what it would do to erode our marital partnership with each other. Our “love” wasn’t tried and tested as to the strength it needed to have to withstand that which invaded our lives together.
Our Home Was Built on a Shaky Foundation
The Bible talks about the importance of building your home upon a solid foundation. When the storms hit —which they do for everyone (See: Matthew 7:24-27) the damage it can cause can be devastating.
For us —our foundation wasn’t really tried until after about a year into our marriage. It was then that the immaturity of our individual personalities rose to the surface. Someone once said, “You don’t know what’s in your cup until it’s bumped and it spills out all over for all to see.”
Our maturity began to be challenged after the birth of our first son David, and the reality of caring for an infant and all the neediness that comes with it. And even though we were elated to be parents —the strength of the foundation of our commitment began to show its weaknesses.
And then in 1974 when Steve was diagnosed as a “Type 1” Diabetic, our world turned upside down. The “love” we had for each other began to be challenged. Steve wasn’t taking care of himself physically, so all sorts of changes came into our relationship that I wasn’t prepared to take on.
We Almost Called It Quits
I now realize how close we came to ruining our lives together forever. How thankful I am that the Lord opened, and continues to open my eyes. I also know that at any point, even with all the wonderful things the Lord’s brought into our relationship, we could still mess it all up. We’re two head-strong individuals, who need to be continually taught how to love each other as God would want for us.
With each passing day, we’re learning to “think together.” We know we won’t always think alike, but we need to press on to “think together” so our marriage reflects the love of Christ.
Proactive, Not Just Reactive
I could go on and on with so many things that the Lord’s teaching us. As you read the “Marriage Insights” you’ll see some of them. But something I want to pass on to you is to be “PRO-active” in pursuing a living relationship with each other. We are not just supposed to be re–active in trying to put out the little fires as they arise.
Love isn’t something that’s stagnant. It has the potential to grow or recede with every passing moment. It’s made up of hundreds of little choices you make everyday. Every day, in large and small ways you have the opportunity to “choose” each other as a priority.
Here are a few ways you can “choose each other”:
• Make sure you build the foundation of your home upon the solid love of Christ.
And don’t forget to keep up with the maintenance that will be required of you to keep it sound and solid. Don’t allow yourselves to be blind-sided by the circumstances of life, which are bound to cause trouble. Those “unexpected storms” can cause even the best of marriages to crumble if we’re not careful.
• Become “students” of each other.
Learn to communicate love to your spouse everyday with words and actions that shows your commitment. Look for ways to show that you “love, honor, and cherish” him or her for the rest of your lives together.
• Keep your marital relationship strong and healthy so it reflects the love of Christ.
You can start by reading Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 13. This is a great starting point to get a glimpse into some of what is required.
• Make it your mission to do whatever it takes to make your marriage a good one.
Allow your marriage to be an arena where others will see how you lovingly treat each other. As a result, it is possible that they want to know more about your God. Pray that they’ll want to know God in a personal way —a God, who can take two very ordinary people and lead them to live such Godly lives —that others will think to themselves, “If God can do that for them, He can do that for us. I want to know their God. He must really be something.”
• Do all this because of your love for God.
Honor the vow you made to your spouse and to God that you will keep your promises!
• And then pass what you’ve learned along to others.
Don’t keep it to yourself. You don’t have to have a perfect marriage to do this. (The Lord knows we don’t.) People want to learn from real people who aren’t perfect but are willing to share what God is teaching them.
To be truthful, we’ve never had a better marriage ourselves, than in more recent years. We’re learning ourselves, and applying these truths to our own marriage. It’s a great learning experience for us all.
I Pray for You…
How I pray the Lord will show you how to truly reveal and reflect the love of Christ within your marriage. Whatever it is that you need to know, I pray the Lord reveals it, as you lean into His wisdom.
Please know that my heart and prayers are with you,
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement
give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,
so that with one heart and mouth
you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!