In Truly Better as One-Doing Life in Groups, I shared the blessings of being in a group. God blesses us with others who encourage and point us to Him.
Twenty-Five years ago, I was blessed to marry one who continuously encourages me. This year we celebrated God's Love and Grace in our marriage.
We met at the age of 15, through a transition in both of our lives, God served to draw us together. His family had just moved to Georgia and mine had just moved from a home where I had spent most of my childhood.
Some would say, 15, that’s too young. And perhaps it was, but God knew what He was doing.
After three years, we would find ourselves at another crossroads which would lead to the birth of our son. We did everything backwards and some would say out of God’s Will.
At the age of 19, we would marry. With a baby in tow, we became a young family of three. God served to place people in our life who would help us, mentor us, love us. Even as we faced the consequence of our action.
Oh the grace upon grace upon grace. It was overflowing, although we were yet to recognize it. The thing about grace is that it is a free gift. God has grace for us all, but we choose whether to accept or not.
Over the course of the first five years of our marriage, so many things obstructed our view from our Father’s grace, but it was always there. Through the turmoil of military separation, brain tumors, and bankruptcy, we would receive an out-pouring of God's Grace in our life and marriage. We were young and immature, but it was the love of a Father which kept us together.
I wish I could tell you that marriage is easy. It is beautifully not- EASY. It is challenging, requires effort, and thrives in forgiveness and grace. Marriage is a beautiful journey. Proof that nothing good comes easy.
After the first five years of marriage, we would find ourselves at another crossroads, post-military life would serve to be a challenge in that we had to learn to live together again. Military life brings with it separation requiring re-integration back into family life. This would prove to be one of the most challenging seasons in our marriage. Tony had grown up, Eve had grown up and while we didn’t go in completely different directions we would find parts of ourselves had grown distant in our maturity.
But once again, God’s grace was sufficient and the empty places we would find in ourselves, He would fill with love and grace as He drew us to Him.
Marriage is an opportunity. Proverbs 18:22 says “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord. Genesis 2:24 tells us, "A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, they become one flesh." Mark 10:9 shares “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Let NO ONE SEPARATE.
Marriage is an opportunity, an opportunity to be part of something greater than yourself.
Over the course of 25 years, I have learned many things. But there are five which I would like to share today.
Love lavishly. Paul shared with us what love looks like in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Sounds like a huge undertaking! Perhaps impossible? It is, on our own power. However, with God at the center, it is not only possible, it is promised.
In the moments that you are having trouble loving, ask God who is love to love through you. Translate 1 Corinthians 13 replacing “love” and “it” with your name. Pray that God will love through you and teach you how to serve your loved one as Jesus served us.
Hint: Find one small way to serve your loved one every day.
Communication is key. You can never over-communicate. Your spouse is your best friend, your partner and you must know how to communicate. From parenting, to budgets to sharing the deepest thoughts and dreams of your heart, God has given you someone to share all of these things and more.
Are you having trouble communicating? Ask God to open up the lines of communication in your marriage, to give you ears to hear and wisdom to speak.
Hint: Take one day per week to "debrief" the week. Activate fair fight rules to keep emotions from getting in the way.
Forgive, grant grace and be merciful. When Peter asked Jesus how many times we must forgive, Jesus answers, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” He goes on to share a parable of the master who forgave the servant a debt while same servant failed to forgive another who owed him a debt. The servant who was originally forgiven found himself in hot water with the master leading him to jail when he failed to forgive his fellow man. Jesus shares with us the gravity of not forgiving others when we are forgiven.
Having trouble forgiving, granting grace, giving mercy? Pray for God to fill you with grace and mercy, just as He forgave you, He will give you the strength to forgive your loved one. Forgiveness will set you free from bitterness and resentment.
Hint: After prayer, say the words "I forgive you" to your loved one, then let it go.
Let go of unfair expectations. We all have expectations, both of ourselves and our loved ones. Expectations are a normal human response created by experience, need and societal pressure, but in a marriage unfair and unmet expectations are bitter to a willing heart.
What is an unfair expectation? Anything not committed to or communicated by your loved one. If it is “expected” by you and has not been committed or communicated, then it is unfair to expect your loved one to fulfill. Ask God to shine light on unfair expectations and lay them at His Feet.
Hint: When you find yourself saying "Why doesn't he" or "Why does she", stop and ask God to show you what in your heart you are expecting and if it is fair. If not, ask for peace to accept, if it is ask for strength to communicate.
Be thankful and laugh often. The Holy Spirit blesses us with a fruit called “Joy.” And I believe that gratitude and thankfulness unlock the Joy in marriage. Laughter takes our Joy to a new level.
How can I be thankful? Lift your loved one in prayer every day. Thank God for the beautiful person He has given and His Love for you both. Thank your loved one for the little and the large. Find freedom in laughter together.
Hint: Dance in the kitchen. Insert moments of fun and laughter which your children see daily. If you child says "Ewww mom dad!", you are doing it right.
The only scorecard you should ever keep is the one which lists the things you are thankful for.
Twenty-five years later, as I look in the rear view mirror I see beautiful memories and tragic heartbreak. I see moments when we fought God’s Hand and moments when He carried us through. I see a husband and wife molded together by strands of love interwoven with The One who gives grace upon grace.
God is continuously molding us into a strand of three with Him at the center.
He will do the same for you.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Father, thank You for the amazing man that is my husband. Thank You for his servant heart and for the love which He has so extravagantly blessed me over these last years. Thank You for marriage. I pray God that You will pour into each of our marriages, teach us how to love as You love, help us to see our loved one as You see them, and draw us closer together as You draw us closer to You into a strand of three.
We Love You Lord,
In Jesus' Name