In our 12 wonderful years of marriage, we have been blessed with sound Biblical teaching every time we needed it. And did we need it! Wow; it’s amazing how much you can learn, no matter how much you know (or think you know). Here are the most important influences in our marriage as it grew and continues to grow:
Parents: Sometimes you wish you could change things about your in laws, but our parents celebrated their 39th(Jerry and Charlene) and 37th(Sam and Chrissy) anniversaries in 2011, and that says a lot. My wife and I always knew you just didn’t get to give up on your spouse, no matter what. We came into marriage with that attitude, and it has made all the difference. Plus, they continue to support our marriage and have developed healthy relationships with me and my wife, which makes our commitment even stronger. Great thanks to all four of you for sticking it out.
Friends: Couples our age who have been through the same battles we face, and haven’t given up are a source of encouragement(Jeff and Wendy, Drs. Nick and Christy, Jay and Amanda). Couples a few years beyond us who have faced new challenges, and found joy and satisfaction in spite of hardships help us believe in ourselves and remember to enjoy the seasons of life (thanks Dwayne and Dee). We draw particular inspiration from friends remarried who are determined to work it out and never give up (Aaron and Leah, Daniel and Betsy, you guys rock!). We also remember those friends who got married when we did, and divorced before getting where we are. We know we are not invincible and we have an enemy who hates a good marriage, and that keeps us alert. We don’t take our success for granted or for our own credit.
Church: We have been blessed to attend several churches in our marriage, and all of them have loudly championed marriage under God from a realistic and hopeful perspective. Marriages have always been celebrated, fought for, supported, and worked through in every body of believers in Christ we have seen. And we need it. We need the accountability, the vulnerability, and the examples that other marriages in the Church provide. You can’t do this alone. Your own strength, perspective, experience, and will are not enough. You need other people in your married life.
Books: Wow, where to start? Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, by Dr. John Gray, was a good general awareness book for me, especially about emotions and communication. The Act of Marriage, by Tim LaHaye, should be read by every engaged man days before his wedding. Reforming Marriage, by Douglas Wilson, frees the wife and empowers the man to lead. Wild at Heart, by John Eldridge, explains so much of why fairy tales and the Bible are the best pictures of man and woman. And it invites men to be men. Love and War, also by Eldridge, draws marriage deeper into the spiritual battles and triumphs of a marriage, with lots of practical tools and examples. Men are like Waffles, Woman are like Spaghetti, by Bill and Pam Farrel, explains even more about the sometimes frustrating-for-no-good-reason dynamics of married life. The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, helps your efforts to love your spouse be more effective and understood. Without these books in particular, we would not love each other as willingly nor understand our marriage as clearly. Proverbs 4:7 – “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Your marriage will change over time, and the uninformed will be unprepared, as our enemy desires.
Marriage Conferences: Nearly any large gathering of couples trying to improve and strengthen their marriages has to be a good thing. These are also great places to find books, movies, and other materials to maintain the momentum when you return home to reality.
Dates, Vacations, and Getaways: You need these. Life takes a lot out of you, and you must learn how to recharge together. You need stories to tell, memories to recall, funny and touching things that only the two of you share. These help you remember why you married them, and show you how much you and they have changed for the better. You must continue practicing the pursuit of each other. And your kids need to be around other adults…so they can appreciate you more.
Movies: If you haven’t seen Fireproof or Courageous in theaters, go rent them. They show examples of good marriages founded on Christ living in our world that Hollywood knows nothing about. It’s not about happily-ever-single-with-no-commitment, it’s about happily-only-after-the-wedding, and the adventures don’t stop there.
Our marriage is a direct reflection of the many people who have poured their knowledge and effort into us. We benefit from their work, their mistakes, their perspective, and their kindness in sharing with us. Thank you, God, for these, your faithful servants, and thanks to all of you who shared God’s plan for marriage with us.
We highly recommend marriage to all our single friends.