When you said “I do”, did you really believe you knew everything about your spouse? As I reflect on my state of mind eighteen years ago I guess I probably did think that. I knew what was right in front of me – a man who was loving, kind, compassionate, fun, faithful, carefree, intelligent and eager to be my husband – all shining qualities. In reality, it was impossible for me to know “everything” about my mate. The fact is many of us who marry young barely know ourselves! Most likely, life has not yet had the opportunity to broadly present itself to us and definitely has not revealed its design in the framework of marriage, the addition of children or the challenges of maintenance and upkeep in building our covenant home. As we begin our days as husband and wife we have little frame of reference to base our reactions and emotions on in relation to life as a couple. We are still establishing our individual place in the world and the castle in the sky we will reside in as bride and bridegroom is only imagined at this point. Usually the only tangible thing we bring to the table is a blueprint that was created from our experiences as children observing our own parents marriage. This blueprint can be a beautiful template or a faulty rendering of what a strong relationship looks like. In either case, what God truly calls each of us as couples to do is re-design the blueprint and make it our own – incorporating the good, dismissing the bad and reformulating a drawing that is based on a shared vision for the future.
The problem is many of us don’t do this – usually by no fault of our own. My husband and I would be the first to admit that any pre-marital discussion of our “future” together consisted only of simple proclamations along the lines of “we’ll be in love forever and nothing will come between us.” Ignorance is bliss, especially in young love. And believe me, we were ignorant and bliss quickly evaporated when challenges creeped into our fairy tale. We say our vows with presumed conviction; promising to love one another in sickness and health, in good times and bad until death do us part. Even as the words leave our lips, do we really comprehend their meaning at this point? Or are we simply reciting empty promises; going through the motions? Do the pronouncements really have invisible strings attached to unspoken expectations? It seems fair to say the answer may be yes on all accounts – again, many times because we don’t know any better. It’s called immaturity and inexperience. We love what we have experienced up to this point with very little regard or vision towards what is yet to come. This naiveté may work for awhile, but as soon as the other glass slipper drops any unmet expectations in the relationship may suddenly become excuses for not adhering to our marital promises. Then what?
If we have made a choice to follow a Christian life our faith reminds us that we can love what we know about Christ and trust what we don’t. But can we also love what we know about our spouse and trust what we don’t? In faith we can hold on to the truth that Christ’s love is steadfast. He proved that by sacrificing His life so that each of us may have forgiveness of sins and share an eternal home with Him. Christ’s love for us is constant. It does not ebb and flow. The tide remains high at all times whether we recognize it, choose to receive it or even believe it. His love abounds when we don’t deserve it. Even if we don’t understand or know everything about Christ, He is going to be there for us no matter what. You would think that knowing these things about Christ would help us overcome the struggles and challenges that come our way throughout marriage because we can count on Him to help us through. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy because life tends to bend these truths; forcing them out of focus. We tend to look at our circumstances through our own eyes instead of the eyes of Christ. And if we choose to navigate through our marriage this way then when we don’t see what we want or believe in the promise of what we don’t see then disillusionment is sure to follow.
Maybe the hard questions we must ask before we say “I do” are: Can I truly appreciate what I know going in and accept what I find out along the way? Am I willing to continue to love on my spouse even when he doesn’t deserve it? And more humbling, do I expect the same in return? Our love as husband and wife is destined to ebb and flow. To insist on continuity, duration and permanence is futile. God created us individually with unique personalities, varying gifts, and purposeful talents. We come from different backgrounds, carry our own luggage, beat to our own drum, have the right to make personal choices and are filled with a spirit of free will. Therefore, when we come together, as two totally different people, choosing to become one, how likely is it that we will love each other exactly the same way at any given time in our relationship? Not likely at all. Because of our human nature, circumstances will either cause us to ride joyfully on the tide of contentment that filled our hearts on our wedding day or push us out to sea on a current of disillusionment when times get tough. The question is, will we stay in the waters regardless of the flow of life drawing in or fading out? Will we stick to the covenant promises we made –whether we knew what we were committing to on the altar or not?
God doesn’t give us the luxury of an easy journey. That is one of His greatest gifts to us. He doesn’t force us to love Him nor does He force us to love one another. Both relationships stem from personal choice and both require growth and freedom – creating a life both rewarding and enriching. In marriage, it is embracing the freedom to be ourselves and allowing our spouses the freedom to be themselves. It is the desire for growth as a couple and growth as an individual as we teach each other who we are and learn about ourselves along the way. It is a desire to believe in what we see and what we don’t see; to accept what we like and what we don’t like. These choices allow for the natural ebb and flow of a marital journey. Sometimes the choices are easy, other times impossible. But one choice we can always make is to hold on in faith to the buoy of God’s love as He helps us love what we know and Trust what we don’t.
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