I can sometimes be a slow learner— but this is ridiculous! We’ve been married for 35+ years —and with all the life experiences that amount of time brings with it, 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.
It isn’t until more recent years that I’ve started to come to understand the bigger picture of what married love, in the God-honoring sense, 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 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 when we pledged before God to “love, honor, and cherish each other until we’re parted by death” —even though at the time 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.
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), and also what I’m still learning about marital love, with the hope that it might be helpful to you in some way. If it can prevent one tear, short-cut any of the growing pains that come with learning how to grow together as husband and wife, or help in any way possible to cause a married couple to grow closer to each other, our prayers will be answered and we 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 and our marriage wouldn’t be healthy and strong as it is —one that exhibits the love of God.
At this point in our lives, 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 eventually rise to the surface in how we’ll treat each other, which has the potential to absolutely destroy everything if it’s not dealt with properly.
Earlier in our lives together, my love for Steve was actually quite selfish —though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. 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.
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 with who I thought he was, mixed in with so many unfair 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.”
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.
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—as the storms of life, both large and small, started to come upon us. We were absolutely unprepared for what it would do to erode our marital partnership with each other. In the beginning and even well into our relationship our “love” wasn’t tried and tested as to the strength it needed to have to withstand that which invaded our lives together.
The Bible talks about the importance of building your home upon a solid foundation because when the storms hit—which they do for everyone (See: Matthew 7:24-27) the roof can cave in and 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 relationship and 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—all it took from us in just being parents—began to shake the strength of the foundation of our commitment with each other.
And then in 1974 when Steve was diagnosed as a “Type 1″ Diabetic, our world turned upside down and challenged the “love” we had for each other. Because he wasn’t taking care of himself physically, all sorts of changes came into our relationship that I wasn’t prepared to take on.
I now realize how close we came to ruining our lives together forever. How thankful I am that the Lord opened my eyes 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.
I could go on and on with so many things that the Lord’s teaching us. As you read the “Marriage Messages” 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 —not just re–active in trying to put out the little fires as they come up.
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.
In closing, here are a few ways you can “choose each other”:
• Together—make sure you build the foundation of your home life upon that which is solid—the 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 so you won’t be blind-sided by the circumstances of life which are bound to upset your home from time-to-time. 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 in ways that speaks to their understanding of your commitment to “love, honor, and cherish them” for the rest of your lives together.
• Do what it takes to keep your marital relationship strong and healthy — one that reflects the love of Christ. You can start by reading Ephesians Chapter 5 and 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 as a starting point to get a glimpse into some of what is required.
• Vow to make it your mission to do whatever it takes to allow your marriage to be an arena where others will see how you lovingly treat each other so that they’ll 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 with nothing expected in return because of your love for God and 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—those who aren’t perfect but are willing to be vulnerable enough to reach out despite their imperfections with that which God is teaching them.
To be truthful, we’ve never had a better marriage ourselves, than in more recent years. As we keep learning all it takes so we can help others to have a Christ-honoring marriage —we’re learning ourselves —and applying those truths to our own marriage. It’s a great learning experience for us all.
How I pray the Lord will bless you, keep you, teach you how to love, speak to you, and through you (as God’s colleague) so that He can show His love to your spouse through all you do for them —and that together we’ll work to make our marriages such that they truly reflect the love of God.
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!