Marriage Advice, part 2

Just after I wrote the blog entry “Marriage Advice, part 1”, Dave (my husband) left for Germany for two weeks. For some reason, it felt odd to write about marriage while my spouse was gone (plus, I run nearly every blog entry by him before I post it), so I decided to wait.

Well, he’s back (has been for almost two weeks), and here is the Second Most Important Piece of Marriage Advice I would give to young women about to be married:

Understand the true purpose of your marriage.

This sounds un-romantic.

But the truth is that romance is a horrible purpose for a marriage. So are children, companionship, sex, fulfillment, even “love.”

Those all fall abysmally short of the true purpose: to honor God and make Him known.

If that seems a little too “spiritual” or dry, hang on. My contention is that when we make romance or “love” the ultimate goal for our marriage, we are aiming far, far too low.

To honor God and make Him known: that is a purpose that is sacred, amazing, practical, mystical, adventurous, and, yes, incredibly romantic.

Every marriage, including yours, is meant to build a love that is like the love Christ has for His own bride, the church. This has two major implications:

First, this means that you are focused on meeting the needs (emotional, physical, social, and spiritual) of the other person, not on the needs of self. To do this consistently and well requires the power of the Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ; there is no other way to accomplish this. (Marriage was the first major tool God used to expose and combat selfishness in my life.) This results in true romance, a marriage that has others saying, “There’s something about that couple. They love each other differently.”

Second, God has good works planned for the two of you together. He has adventures mapped out for you as a couple. He did not create your marriage only to impact you and your spouse. This is a really, really cool thing. You get to be a team. You get to do ministry together. You get to develop and then share God passions. When Dave and I look back on our marriage, we don’t point to weekend getaways or candlelight dinners as times of growth; no, it was moving together to Okinawa—and the difficult decision to move back. It’s been having children together. It’s been feeling the nudges of the Holy Spirit separately and then realizing He’s guiding us in the same direction (like to take in international students or make one of our many moves or adopt or simply befriend a particular neighbor).

Your marriage has a big, BIG purpose. It’s part of a big, BIG plan! That’s exciting! And when the two of you are more focused on this—on your marriage being an agent for the Gospel—your love and romance will deepen in ways that make movie romance appear shallow.

Marriage Advice, Part 1

DSC_0806When I’m at bridal showers and the hostess asks all the married women to write down their most valued marriage advice for the bride, I blank. Other women begin scratching almost immediately but not me. “The most important?” I think. “On this little card?”

A few days ago Dave and I celebrated our anniversary. Son Jake kept reminding me of it throughout the day, hugging me and whispering in my ear, “Happy 21 years of marriage, Mom.” (It was a welcome change from the zerberts on the cheek and burps in the ear I more often get from my eight year old.)

We’re amazed by the 21 years. We went into marriage young; we’ve never been organized or systematic about it; and plenty of couples we thought were stronger or more compatible have been split apart. We were reminded of that not long ago when Dave saw a picture on Facebook of a friend from long ago with someone other than his wife. The “someone other” turned out to be a relative, but there were certainly no signs—on either his or the wife’s page—that the two of them are still together, and this was a couple we had really looked up to.

(Side note: Their lack of “together” pictures made me think about my own Facebook account, so I checked my photos and info page for evidence of our marriage. Dave must have been doing the same because a message popped up in the middle of my checking. “Dave Underwood has posted that he is married to you. Is this correct?” “Yes,” I clicked. “Jennifer Underwood is now married to Dave Underwood” became my new status—which several friends “liked” and one of my former students commented on: “About time!”)

Last spring Dave and I walked through pre-marital counseling with a young couple. We re-discovered that every bit of advice we gave—about finances, family differences, personality types, love languages, disagreements and fights—has its roots in grace.

I think that’s perhaps the “most important thing,” though the purpose for marriage and a right view of it would also have to be on my “advice for the bride” card. Maybe I’ll write it down and put it in my wallet so I can copy it at the next bridal shower I attend.

Part 1: “Cling to grace—hard! Require daily that your soul be nourished by God’s boundless grace for you. Then let it overflow for your husband. Let grace bridle your tongue and season the words you do say—and how you say them. Let grace be the undercurrent of your actions, your silences, even the looks you give him. And never, ever think you are past your need for it.”