My husband and I were blessed to celebrate 13 years of marriage on the first of this month. We spent a few minutes reminiscing about our big day. I remember being so excited and at peace. I enjoyed every part of the day, from a brunch at my parents’ house to getting my hair and make up done to finally putting on the dress. My husband, on the other hand, remembers being the most scared he’d ever been. (LOL.)
When a couple enters marriage, they really have no idea what they’re getting into. We were the same way. Really, you just go with what you know, so each person brings a totally different perspective into the marriage. Add to that the fact that it is so hard to put someone else’s needs ahead of your own, and it is no wonder why marriage is so hard.
But marriage is a beautiful thing. God designed it with many intentions. As the oldest institution, marriage was designed as a way to populate the earth. Check out Genesis 1. God created man and woman. “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’” (v. 28a, NIV).
Secondly, marriage was designed for companionship and for cooperation. God saw that man should not be alone (Gen 2:20), so he created woman. Women are meant to be the helpmate for their husbands, and vice versa. Together, the man and woman were to “Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (1:28b).
Third, the marriage relationship is meant to be an example of how Jesus loves us. Let’s look to Ephesians 5.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:25-33)
Without getting into this too much, husbands must sacrificially love their wives because they are called to emmulate Jesus’ love for us, his church. Wives are supposed to respect their husbands, just as they respect the leadership of Christ. And when we do this well, our marriages are testimonies. God wants to use our marriages because they represent his great love for his people.
And now, perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned in our 13 years of marriage, is that God uses marriage as a key tool in our sanctification. Sanctification is just the Biblical word for the process of becoming more like Jesus.
Oh, how many times has a circumstance in my marriage whittled away at my selfishness! Let me tell you, a lot. When you live with someone else, there are bound to be conflicts, and mostly, they are a result of our own selfishness and pride. I want my way, on my time, and my husband wants his. That is human nature. But a Christ-centered marriage helps us become more Godly by working at those selfish parts of us.
And this year, I’ve finally realized that marriage is all about grace. The more I learn about God, the more I understand the abundance of his grace. I believe his grace overflows to us each and every day. (See Lamentations 3:23). John 1:16 tells us that, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”
We have been given so much grace by our loving Father. We are not meant to withhold grace from our spouses. In the times when we seemed to struggle, or when we weren’t connecting well (busy times for us like harvest), the situation could most often be solved with grace. We should always assume the best of our spouse and give them grace. Let the little things go. And the longer you are married, the more you realize what the little things are. When in doubt, extend grace. After all, that’s what God does for us.
13 years of learning. 13 years of becoming more like Jesus. 13 years of love and grace.