Mairi and I have been married for just over three years now so we are by no means marriage experts. Month by month, year by year, we’re working lots of things out as we grow in love, learning to trust Jesus more and more and, rather than trying to figure everything out on our own, continue surrendering to Him as the One Who makes all of this work in the first place!
Back in 2013 in the run-up to getting married, one of the pieces of advice we heard time and time again was that the first year of married life would be the hardest. I understood what the advice was about – i.e. preparing us for the reality of living together and doing life well every day as a couple, rather than only dating and being engaged – but the advice also bugged me because it sounded a lot like the joy and wonder, mystery and celebration of marriage was being reduced to degrees of ‘hardness’ – a fait accompli that we needed to accept that this excitement and joy that we were experiencing was quickly going to be smashed to smithereens by the hard slog that married life actually was.
I didn’t buy that for our marriage and I really hope you don’t either.
Waking Up And Smelling The Real Coffee
It is definitely true that a happy marriage should never be taken for granted, that attitudes of complacency and entitlement should be guarded against fiercely. But it’s also important for you to know today that the gift of marriage is an incredible blessing beyond any blog post’s ability to adequately communicate.
Like Mairi and me, you most likely have no real idea of just how blessed you are to have been brought together by God, for the highways of your lives to have been merged into the one complimentary lane of comfort and challenge. How amazing is it for you to be able talk and dream and live for Jesus together in the bond of oneness that points to a higher, transcendent covenant between God and His people?
In short, you are a highly-favoured actor in a cosmic parable of infinite worth.
So, rather than the negative-slightly-depressing piece of advice Mairi and I were given, above, instead I’d like to give you 5 pieces of positive advice today:
- Cherish Every Single Day – You might accuse me of being too English, too romantic or too naive but a recurring thought that has come to me over the last three years being married to Mairi is that every single day with her is unspeakably precious and that I have no guarantee of another. Sure, there are crap days, irritating and rainy days and not-sure-what-we’re-gonna-do-next-days, but every night we get to go to bed together, waking up with each other by our side. That’s the seed of joy and hope and longing and the reason you hooked up together in the first place, right? The devil will do all he can to rob you of this but you need to know it’s your inheritance as an heir of Christ.
- Don’t Think Too Much About The Future – If you’re a futurist like me you may think a lot about the future possibilities of family or ministry or ‘what are we going to build?’. But every day in the present here and now with your spouse needs to be protected from the tyranny of ‘if only’ or ‘when will?’ or ‘how is that fair?’. Trust God for your daily bread as well as your eternal salvation and don’t allow an irrational anxiety of the future to kill the spontaneous possibilities of your present. The devil will do all he can to rob you of this but you need to know it’s your inheritance as an heir of Christ.
- There Are Internal and An External Territories in Your Marriage – This is where the experience of our first year of marriage didn’t match up at all or fit neatly into the advice we were given as an engaged couple: we actually found the first year of married life to be a walk in the park with each other – it was really great! Living together was easy, working and playing was easy, adjusting to being husband and wife felt easy. But all manner of hellish pressure, external to our core relationship as newlyweds, seemed to kick off in our life together: there were major and unexpected problems with family relationships that caused us much pain and heart-ache; employment stability was illusive for us even as qualified, experienced professionals and critically, in moving house for work as we had to, finding our spiritual family home at church was very difficult. In year one, Mairi and I suddenly learnt by painful experience that we were were involved in a war, not with each other but with an unseen force and a hidden enemy that hated the Christian marriage that had been formed from our lives. We learnt that we needed to nurture and protect our relationship from external pressures and even attacks while still reaching out and loving people. As it happened, while experiencing profound pain and confusion in some ways, we also experienced the incredible blessing of creating spiritual community in our home where deep and enduring friendships also grew. The devil will do all he can to rob you of this but you need to know it’s your inheritance as an heir of Christ.
- Seek To Refresh Others – It’s unbelievably easy to allow the isoalting ‘it’s all about us’ attitude to creep in to your marriage. We have found God to be so good to us, faithful as ever, but our joy has been most intense when we have sought to encourage and refresh others. Maybe you could invite a couple over to simply bless them with their favourite food, or keep your eye open for a single person, or struggling couple, who would be really helped by an invitation for a movie night etc. The devil will do all he can to rob you of this but you need to know it’s your inheritance as an heir of Christ.
- Don’t Worry about Money – I say this with the caveat of ‘as long as you’re not foolish with money or lazy with your time’. As Mairi and I have constantly set our hearts to learn to love God and people and each other as we should, to do our absolute best with what’s in our hands at any time, that God has always, always, always blessed and been faithful to take care of us. The devil will do all he can to rob you of this but you need to know it’s your inheritance as an heir of Christ.
Mairi and I really pray that this short post will help to refresh a sense of God-given expectancy of what He can and will do in and through your marriage, or in your marriage to come!