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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Marriage Letter to Future Generations

As part of an assignment in a marriage Bible study Joe and I just completed, we were instructed to write a letter to a future generation regarding marriage.  This is my letter.  It’s not all-encompassing and I would surely have a lot more to say if I were counseling one of my children, but in an effort to be concise (I know I didn’t completely succeed), this is what I would tell someone getting married or who may already be married…

I don’t have all the answers.  Not even close.  I’ve been married 11 years and I know that I belong with the man that I call my husband with every fiber of my being.  I have no doubts about that.  In many ways that makes words like “commitment” and “vow” a little easier for me because I don’t think about any other alternatives.  Why would I divorce this man, when I belong with him?  Why would I look for someone else to satisfy my needs when I know he’s the one I’m meant to be with?  What could possibly be better for me than remaining with the one and only love of my life?

Our marriage hasn’t been easy and it isn’t perfect.  I’ve been heartbreakingly disappointed at times.  I’ve wondered if it wouldn’t be better for us to separate for a time until our perspectives changed, though that’s never actually happened.  I have spent many hours in prayer and sleepless nights in tears.  But I’ve never doubted my decision to marry him or wondered if it were the right thing for my life.  I know it was and is.  As a result, our marriage has also been one of the most rewarding and spectacular parts of my life.  When we’re working together and loving each other like we were meant to, then there is no better feeling.  But we’re both human and we make plenty of mistakes.  That doesn’t mean we made a mistake in pledging our lives to one another.

What can I say to someone who is about to embark on marriage?  I would tell them they need to feel the same way about the person they’re about to marry.  You have to know that this person you’ve chosen to spend of the rest of your life with is the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.  There’s no other option.  They’re the person who was created to be with you and whom you were created for.  If you’re wondering if there could be someone else out there for you, then stop.   Either stop thinking that or don’t get married.  You can’t allow doubt to be a part of marriage because once the seeds of doubt are planted almost nothing can prevent them from growing and spreading, like the most noxious, virulent weed.

Once doubt is planted you begin to wonder if you made a mistake.  You begin to wonder if there is someone else out there that you were meant to be with that isn’t the person you’re married to now.  You begin to wonder if you’re ruining not only your own happiness but that of your spouse and that mystery person that’s out there waiting for you.  You begin to justify why it would be better to leave—how much happier you both might be.  You begin to tell yourself that you deserve to be happy and to seek your own happiness because that’s what our culture teaches and ingrains in us.  “The pursuit of happiness” , we are taught, is one of our unalienable rights that we, in our nation, declared during our independence.  But God never said we had the right to pursue happiness, nor to expect it in this lifetime if that is our pursuit.

We are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, not our own happiness--that comes when we do what we're supposed to.  We are commanded to love sacrificially, just as he did.  Jesus is our example of what love is and he never divorced himself from any of his people, no matter what they did to him.  Marriage is supposed to be our living example of the love of our God for his children.

I’m not trying to be over simplistic or suggest that those who are being harmed should not consider divorce.  God knows we live in a broken, imperfect world with broken imperfect people, which is why divorce even exists—why it’s specifically addressed in the Bible.
I’m saying that what I have seen and heard time and again, is that people have the wrong perspective on marriage.  They rely on the feeling of love to sustain them and don’t delve deeper into action—the verb—of loving.  What happens when those heart-lifting, inspiring feelings fade?  Do you give in to the ebb of emotion?  If you do, you will be a victim of emotional whims and fancies.  Loving someone is more than a feeling, it’s a matter of commitment and devotion, coincidently, so is being married to someone.  It is also a choice.  You can choose to love someone, even when you don’t feel love for them and what’s so important about that choice is that by actively making it, those feelings will return.

What can I say to someone who’s embarking on marriage?  Choose to love, sacrificially.  Decide, without a doubt that the person you are committing your life to is the one and only person in this world that you belong with, because once you are married to them, it’s true, whether you believe it or not.  And ask them honestly to do the same for you.  Ask him or her to choose to love you sacrificially even when you are wrong, when you hurt them, when you mess up more than you ever thought you would.  Ask them to make sure that they believe you are their one and only, for the rest of their life.  Be committed to one another, not just in love with one another.

The last words I would leave you with are these: until you are married, it’s never too late to step away.  If you have doubts, postpone.  If you realize this may not be the right thing, don’t go through with it, no matter how much money has been spent, how many people are excited to see it happen, how much you think it may hurt those involved.  Marriage to someone you’re not committed to hurts those involved even more deeply.  

Don’t ever stop praying and seeking God for the strength it takes to love your spouse and be the husband or wife you are called to be.  More than anything, that’s what God wants for you because it illustrates in a real and practical way how he loves us.

Enjoy your marriage and the love that grows, blossoms and matures in it.  There is nothing in this world like it.  It truly is a miracle and little piece of heaven.

As I celebrate 11 years of marriage to my husband, I don’t regret for one moment taking this journey.  I am grateful for all we have learned together and how both of us have learned to love more than we ever thought possible.    

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