I blinked, and summer vanished! What the heck happened? I’m still wondering why it’s not 100 degrees outside, and every time I look at the calendar and see it’s October, I am surprised! This summer was full of firsts for me, one being I got to marry my husband’s best friend and his wife.
As I prepped for a meaningful, non-canned ceremony, Scott and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary! 12! I spent a lot of time thinking of what marriage is, what it looks like, and even remembering what it doesn’t look like, through my own failures and mistakes (and triumphs) as a wife. One thing for sure, comparing this day 12 years ago and today, my marriage is vastly VASTLY different. Twelve years ago, I didn’t think we’d make it. We even had a christian marriage counselor tell us to get divorced because with our strong personalities, we had over a 99% chance of divorce. To which I said, “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!” And then I thought, “We have a chance!!” (We never went back. And we are learning that we typically don’t go with the grain. I think God designed us this way, that we’d be the living testimony of the 1%.) I KNEW God was saying to stay in it and fight for the marriage I’ve always dreamed of having, because that’s what God does for us. Fights for us and sticks by us through it all. He leaves the 99 just for us. So I’ll take that 1% chance and give it my all.
In the last 12 months, there has been more movement and depth in our marriage than we’ve ever experienced together. And while I used to tip my chin up and say “I’m not a crier,” I have cried every single day for the last four months at the goodness of God. God has been answering prayers that I have been praying for over 10 years. Scott would say the same. It’s like all this time we’ve spent praying, fighting for great, pressing in for the more, and things are starting to bear fruit like we’ve never seen thus far. We’ve had a good marriage thus far, but I feel like we are dipping our toes into great. I keep saying to myself, “I never knew this could be SO good! And God, I don’t think I’ll ever get to the end of Your kindness!” I’ve learned a few things along the way, as we tend to do when we stick with things that are hard. God has taken what was a shredded thread of hope in my heart 12 years ago and strengthened it into a cord that even a chainsaw would have a hard time severing. ONLY GOD that can do this. I often pray that in 12 years I’ll be saying the same thing and still be in awe of how far He’s taken us. We need to be constantly changing and growing as people, especially in our marriages. One thing I know, is HE IS FAITHFUL. And His love never fails. I’d place my bet on Him annnny day.
As I spent time prepping for this ceremony, I was thinking about great marriages. What are they? What do they sound like, look like, feel like? How do they become great? Some marriages are mediocre or lukewarm, where things are working but not thriving, where two people are living, but maybe not cohesively. Some marriages are good. Things are going well, and it’s good most of the time, but the thriving just isn’t there, the vision isn’t there. And it’s yet another thing to have a great marriage, where there’s unity and both are thriving and running their races. The tipping point to great? Two people with their lives laid down to and hearts fully alive to God. Only God can create great marriages. Note: I didn’t say things are perfect in a great marriage (and please don’t buy into the illusion that my marriage is perfect!), I said they’re thriving. Conflict is actually normal. It’s in how we handle it that makes all the difference.
No bride or groom stands at the altar wanting a mediocre or even a good marriage. Every person that joins hands with their bride or groom-to-be deeply desires something great, something profound in their partnership. We say yes to a lifetime, and we want our lives to be filled to the fullness.
The thing is this: no great marriages just happen. They are cultivated like a garden. (Disclaimer: I don’t garden, but admire people who do and hope someday I will have my own little produce sanctuary!) They take time, water, care, attention, weeding, planting, re-planting, tilling, weeding, and then weeding again. We all know what our front lawn looks like when we’re gone for a week. It doesn’t care for itself, and neither do great marriages. God set it up so it would take all we are to cultivate a great marriage. Marriage is designed to show us what oneness looks like. As we are one with God, we are one with our spouse. Selflessness, servitude, sacrifice. Passion, persistence, promise-keeping. Everything we are, all of our experiences in life, are shared with this person. It’s no wonder it’s such a wild ride!! (Wild rides don’t happen with the cruise control on, either.)
Here are some qualities I believe will cultivate a great marriage. We are all growing in this, so pick one or ten, and go for it/them! (I said these things during the ceremony, with my kneecaps shaking and sweat dripping down my back!)
- aren’t 50/50, but 100/100.
- are captured and captivated by, enveloped in God’s love for themselves and for each other.
- work harder on marriage than anything else! It is the top priority, and priorities are shown by where we spend our time.
- love God with every fiber of their being, and are learning how to live like a much-loved daughter/son. (I find the more my hubby is changed from the inside out by God, the sexier he is to me! He says the same about me!) We cannot love without being first filled by love. (I know it’s cliche, but it’s cliche for a reason!)
- fully submit and surrender to God and His love. (A fully surrendered husband and wife are UNSTOPPABLE–even if just one person is in this place, thriving can happen!) When two people are truly trying to live “as He is, so are we,” it’s hard to step on toes because it’s not our will but HIS be done. (I’m learning this one now!) 1 John 4:17
- consistently do the things they WANT to do when they don’t want to do it. (Can I get an amen?)
- try to understand where the other is coming from. Husbands, live with your wives with understanding. (1 Peter 3:7) Wives have a LOT going on!
- speak to the king or queen in them. (I’ve said this before, but what we speak to comes out.)
- quick to overlook small things and to celebrate small things. Pastor Mark Gungor says to celebrate even the pathetically small things. That makes me laugh every time! But it’s so good.
- talk about hard things. Disagree and still love. Work to resolutions quickly.
- practice humility even when right.
- are quick to forgive, and quick to receive forgiveness. And then pray that God heal any hurts that may be residual effects from the actions. No grudges, no avoiding, no silent treatments. Turn the page and embrace the new day.
- love sacrificially. Day after day after day after day.
- pray for each other, day after day after day after day.
- make their homes a slice of heaven. They have homes that are a safe place to share hearts, celebrate, share laughter, share fears/concerns/dreams/hopes, and they’re a place of worship.
- keep the record short and the love tank full.
- laugh often and laugh loudly. (It’s good medicine. Proverbs 17:22) Smile when they think of or see each other.
- know where they’re headed. They have vision for each other, and together, from God.
- stay connected!! There are lots of opportunities to disconnect, but great marriages make connection and re-connection a top priority.
- live in AGAPE, unconditional, never failing, never-give-up, never-lose-hope, fight-for-each-other, die-to-self love.
I pray that our marriages are seasoned with grace, all the more day by day. I encourage you to ask God how to make your marriage even better. He is the only one who can make our marriages great. Fight for your marriage, and put your hand fiercely to where God is pointing. Allow Him to work on you from the inside out, make room for Him and TRUST Him with all you are. God is perfect love, and in marriage we have this opportunity to be perfected in love, and to cultivate healthy dynamics and healthy families. I pray often for marriage to thrive, for an awakening of destiny in husbands for wives, and wives for husbands, and that these partnerships would be strong and rich, with both running their races with endurance. If you are one who feels like you’re hanging onto a thread of hope, I am praying that you not grow weary in doing good and to hang onto God. Keep giving Him your every breath, and He will make straight your path, and He will restore the parched and desolate places. Lastly, I pray that what God has joined together, let no man separate. (Mark 10:9; Matt 19:6) (If you’re single and reading this, keep heeding God’s voice and praying; He is faithful!)
Be blessed today in God’s gigantic love!