It has become a tradition for me to write a marriage manifesto every year on our anniversary.
Two years ago, I wrote about the tendency for us to fight with each other when we should be fighting for each other. Last year, I brought forth this notion that marriage is under attack. Not just corporately, but individually as well.
Today, on the eve of our eleventh anniversary, I stand among the wreckage of life with four kids: constant noise, scattered toys, cold coffee, and dirty clothes. But as I come up for air, I’m beginning to believe that these things aren’t the signs of a battlefield, they are the fruit of our fight—His grace poured out on us.
The bombs of infertility, financial distress, and addiction left a desolate wasteland where our marriage once was. But God has remained sovereign in the midst of it all. Now that the trees have begun to grow back, I don’t see a battlefield anymore.
I see God standing there, victorious.
Here’s what I’ve learned from another year of marriage.
Love Lived Out
The one constant thing in our marriage has been our willingness to run to God—both of us.
But the church at-large has presented a very bland view of what a great Christian marriage looks like.
A lot of Christian couples think that a great marriage consists of going to church together or being in a couples small group. Or maybe they quote scripture about the husband being the head of the household or husbands loving their wives. Or maybe they rely on Christian counseling.
We tried all of those things.
For us, a great marriage looks a lot like biting your tongue until it bleeds. It looks like refusing to be selfish even when it’s justified. It looks like cleaning up the kitchen instead of trying to prove a point. It looks like never saying, “I told you so.” It looks like refusing to compare your spouse to that mom or dad from your kid’s school.
Small groups and counseling and quoting the Bible are great, but at the end of the day, a great marriage is lived in real life, not talked about in church.
In the midst of being tired and stressed out and hospital visits and financial struggles, are you going to choose patience and kindness and gentleness and self-control even when your spouse doesn’t?
That’s love lived out.
The Hierarchy of Marriage
There’s a hierarchy in marriage that a lot of people don’t agree with, but I’ve tried all of the other ways and realized (painfully) that they didn’t work.
As a husband, my first duty is to be fully in love with God.
You can’t fully love your wife if you don’t fully love God. Sure, you might get a glimpse of love, but if you haven’t understood real, pure love from God, you can never give real, pure love to your spouse.
The visceral response to that statement may cause some of you to cringe, but every time I want to question whether this hierarchy is true, I realize that everything in culture fights against it.
There’s a constant tension for my love for wife, my kids, and my job to take precedence over my love for God.
As husbands and wives, we will never love our spouse the way they should be loved if we aren’t first loved and continually loved by our Father. In fact, the moment we put anything in front of God is the moment we put everything in front of our spouse.
The Deep End
This past year has taught me that marriage takes work. A lot of hard, selfless, Christ-centered work. But it yields the sweetest fruit you will ever taste.
Eleven years ago, I was a giddy twenty-three-year-old kid diving into the deep end when I really didn’t know how to swim. It took almost drowning for me to learn what marriage is really about. But in the midst of four kids and all of our craziness, it finally feels like we’re doing backflips off of the diving board and I couldn’t be happier.
These last eleven years have taught me that love isn’t a battlefield, it’s an ocean of His grace that we must learn to swim in.
Sometimes that takes drowning in it.