Today we celebrate 14 years of marriage.
It seems like it all went by so fast.
One day I was holding a bouquet, the next I was holding two babies.
So much has happened in the course of fourteen years, which isn't really THAT long.
But with today's marital climate, it sorta is.
Divorce has become more common, and even acceptable in Christian circles.
Enough life happens to people that you start to "understand" why divorce was an option.
Let me be clear, I am very PRO-MARRIAGE.
I'm pro-restoration, pro-working it out, pro-counseling, pro-endurance.
But even with all my pros, I understand the cons.
And sometimes the cons put people in positions where they are unable to move forward together.
I'm pretty sure that you see us smiling on the wedding photos that I selected to share.
I chose those for a reason.
But I wish that I had some of us crying.
I wish that I had some showing us lost, or in conflict.
Because I'm trying to bring a balance to an idea that just because people are smiling, means that they are happy, or have had years of happiness.
The truth of the matter is:
We were ready to get married, but not ready for marriage.
We were eager to start our lives together, but unaware of the challenges that would come.
We had to learn endurance.
We had to learn forgiveness.
We had to learn a lot, and are still learning.
As pastors we are almost always counseling people weekly regarding their relationships.
I realize that much of what we've gone through in our marriage has prepared us to help others.
We don't consider ourselves professionals or experts in marriage counseling, not by any means.
But we are people that follow the Holy Spirit.
We follow the Lord.
And much of the conflict in marriage dissolves when the Lord and the leading of the Holy Spirit is involved.
It's impossible to fellowship with The Holy Spirit and walk away without his fruit.
But if there is anything that I'd like to share to help dispel some of the myths concerning marriage it is these few things:
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS COUPLE GOALS
To look at other couples and be inspired by the pieces of their relationship that you are able to gather from afar is harmless. To create a pattern and guide based off of third party observation is dangerous. Even if close, you are not privy to what their relationship truly consists of. You have no idea the things that they've gone through, are going through, or what it takes, or had taken to be them. It's foolish to desire to be JUST like people that you have no idea what they are really JUST like. If you have not had good marriage patterns or examples in front of you and are looking for one, I do not suggest using people that you do not know as guides. Ultimately, your relationship and marriage is not like anyone else's because a marriage is comprised of INDIVIDUALS that come together with their own INDIVIDUAL conditions that create a marriage that is very much still being defined and will continue to with life's transitions. To feel as if you are succeeding or failing based off of another's example will leave you without true results. YOU are your own couple's goals. You get to decide what you want and need, and how to plan to fulfill that vision together. Patterning yourself after others......especially people that you do not know, is not a good plan.
BEING "READY TO BE MARRIED" IS A MYTH
When you ask people if they are ready to be married, most will tell you "YES" or "NO". But after being married for 14 years, I think the response should be: "In what way?" I think that you can be ready to take the leap to enter into marriage, but not truly ready for what that means. It can be quite alarming to get married, and come face to face with two different upbringings, personalities, communication styles, ways of managing money, and that's just to name a few. For me, this was ABSOLUTELY the most alarming thing. I felt completely unprepared for the challenge. Because like most people, I had on rose-colored glasses. And not being prepared for a challenge left me feeling like a failure.
I believe that pre-marital counseling is necessary, but is the equivalent of taking a daily probiotic. If you get a case of food poisoning, a probiotic won't work. Instead you will need Pepto Bismol, charcoal tablets, a colonic, a bucket to throw up in, and Gatorade. All of those things that I named are POST-marital counseling. You will need the most advice AFTER getting married.
It's not that everyone gets married and is faced with conflict. But even with the best relationship, LIFE happens. And you often find that your life circumstances were not addressed in pre-marital counseling, OR AT ALL. Because there is simply no way to know in advance that they will exist. Because again, this is a INDIVIDUAL based relationship of pre-existing conditions coming together. It would take a prophet or fortune teller to give you a PRE play-by-play.
However, let me share that statistically marriages that do not face any type of hardship that they have to work through together in the first 7 years of being married do not last. With no problems at all, they simply decide to part ways. The difficulties that you are able to endure actually bind you together. It's almost as if things being too good creates a boredom. And people find that they don't need one another. While some run because of the conflict, there are others that run because of the lack of it.
YOUR BUSINESS IS NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS
I have a very high value for privacy and discretion. Maybe it is the way that I was raised. Or maybe it's my experience in seeing what people do with information that does not belong to them. But I am completely ANTI-OVER SHARING.
There were times in my marriage that I needed wise counsel and advice. Before going to anyone to share what I was going through (my family included) I prayed. I sincerely asked God who was a safe place for me. He spoke someone's name to me that I did not even know well enough to tell my own personal business, let alone things about my marriage. But when the Lord spoke their name to me, I knew that he was leading me to a safe place. I called the person and asked if we could go to dinner. Within seconds of sitting down, I knew that I had followed the Lord. They spoke to me in love and shared their wisdom with me. It was like getting a drink of ice cold water in the middle of the desert. Years and years later, I have never heard my business repeated, they have never mistreated my husband due to the things that I shared, and they are still a safe place for me to go if needed.
When we share unnecessary details of our marital dilemmas with people when we are not led to, it opens us up for opinions that God never intended for us to have. There are often people that mean well that will give you the worst advice. There are people that love you that do not love your spouse. There are people that love you, but do not love God. There are people that are bitter because of their own marital issues or regret. There are people that follow culture over Christ. ANY one of these people have the potential to steer you wrong. This is why you MUST ask God for guidance on who, what, when, where, and HOW to share your marital dilemmas. If God did not direct you, DO NOT GO.
MARRIAGE IS NOT HARD. LIFE IS HARD.
Marriage is not hard. Life is hard. Things that we've gone through is hard. Trauma is hard. Gaps and voids that we are left with before getting married is hard. As a result, when we come together in this type of COMMITTED relationship that requires our endurance we start to believe that marriage is hard. The fact that you cannot run is what is hard. Marriage is a mirror. It shows you yourself. And that is uncomfortable.
Without endurance, you will not stay married. Without the ability to weigh ALL things with wisdom, you will not stay married. Without forgiveness, you will not stay married. The list goes on. And if you do stay married without these things, you will be married wishing that you were not the entire time. ENDURE is the root word for endurance. Nobody has to endure anything good or easy. Endurance is possible when you have hope that it will lead to something on the other side of what is hard. To give up when enduring is to never get to what is good.
GOD WON'T CHANGE THEM BECAUSE YOU PRAY
I know that this sentence rubs people all the wrong way. I remember praying and praying and praying for my husband when we first got married. I prayed so much that I was angry with God because I was not seeing the results I wanted. One day God spoke to me and asked me: "Who told you that when you pray for someone I change them?" The question stopped me in my tracks. I searched and searched scripture for passages on prayer. The only thing that I came up with was that God promised peace that goes beyond our understanding. Nowhere in scripture could I find that we should pray for people and God will change them. As this truth settled into my heart, God further went on and said:
"Shaunee, whose prayer should I answer? Your husband is also praying that I change you."
The truth is, our prayers for other people change us first. And when we change, our marriage experiences the fruit of this change. Praying about how YOU can aid the change in your marriage provides faster results than praying that THEY change. THEY will change when they are ready to change. You can certainly influence and persuade it. But God does not answer prayers for him to change people so that we can no longer be inconvenienced. He gives us choices to change. He will give you what you need to endure while they decide to change or not. Hard truth....but still the truth.
IF AT ALL POSSIBLE MAKE IT WORK.
I cannot tell you how many people I know that would tell you that if they could go back in time, they would have stayed married and done what they could to get through the hard times. And I'm sure that will stand and tell you that divorce was their best decision. I understand that there are times that divorce is necessary. TRUST ME. I know this. I have counseled with a lot of people that were not given another option. But a hard option to divorce is usually due to the worst of conditions. It is not because of light afflictions. It should not be because of anything that can be salvaged. If there is any way possible to make it work, even if it will cost you everything, including your pride, DO IT.
Many move on with the belief that they will find better, and to see how green the grass is elsewhere, and find out that they have attracted worse, and that the grass is brown. We do so much in the name of wanting to be "happy". And you will find that happiness is overrated and fleeting. Commitment brings joy, even if it's only commitment to endure. Anything worth having requires work. Nothing worth having comes easy or without maintenance and sacrifice.
GOD CARES ABOUT YOUR MARRIAGE.
God cares about your marriage. Invite him in. Ask for his counsel and advice. It matters to him that you come together as a reflection of his love for us. He cares that your love blossoms. He cares that you heal. He will never give you poor advice. He will never endorse mistreatment, vengeance, pride, or selfishness. He is restorative. He is in love with you both. He is the safest place to lay your lives as individuals and together.
He is why we have fourteen years in.
God Bless You All,