Marriage was meant to be a blessing. To have a partner that you can share in this life with, walk alongside of. But, just like every other good gift from God, we’ve twisted and distorted it. Our culture says to “follow your heart” and “you deserve to be happy” so if you aren’t feeling that way in marriage, culture says to move on with your life. Marriage is hard, but marriage was meant to be worth the fight. I believe that marriage is under attack. More people get divorced than stay together and that doesn’t exclude Christ-followers. We need revival, we need marriage revival in our country, and I want to be on the forefront of that battle to take it back. In the words of 311 (I’m a 90’s kid), “nothing good comes easily, sometimes you’ve got to fight.”
I know people always said that marriage was hard. I’ve heard it my whole life, but I honestly never really understood it because our marriage had always been relatively easy. Daniel and I went through some really hard stuff only a year or so into our marriage, so we had to learn to rely on each other very early on. We had to learn to love each other under the best and worst conditions. And our trials only drew us closer and made us appreciate one another more. But, what about in the good times, the times of life where there’s nothing making you cling to one another, where things are just “as is” and normal rhythms of life? I think that’s when it can get hard.
There are a few things I’ve learned in my own marriage and also some words of wisdom my mom shared with me growing up that I think we could all put into practice to fight for our marriages:
Don’t take them for granted. I think this is probably the easiest one for me to do. We get so comfortable with our spouse that we can take our person for granted. We forget the reasons we fell in love and chose them in the first place. Maybe they become complacent or just a fixture in your family. But hear me when I say this, (I ‘ll never forget my mom saying this to me) if they aren’t getting it at home, I guarantee there is someone at work willing to give it to them. Your husband never tells you that you’re beautiful, but next door neighbor Joe tells you that you look nice everyday. Or you never give your husband respect at home, but Sarah at the office treats him with admiration and laughs at all of his jokes. You may be wrapped up in your own world and forget that loving your spouse requires action, and in the mean time, someone else is making them feel loved or respected instead of you. SCARES THE HECK out of me to be honest. I never want Daniel to feel like the things he needs aren’t getting met by me, causing his mind to wander down a path as to someone else making him feel valued or like the man. I have to make this a priority, especially when it’s hard because we are in a season of life that’s all about our toddler, leaving Daniel with seconds or thirds of my time. This can’t be the case. Kennedy will be okay, and Daniel will feel more loved, so I need to make me making him feel loved a priority. And, maybe do a better job of showering and looking cute when he gets home from work from time to time – something my mom always did for my dad that my sassy high school self thought it was ridiculous, but I now realize my mom was a smart, smart lady – if we never try anymore, that probably doesn’t make them feel very loved either.
The Grass isn’t greener. When we get married, our spouse is the one person who knows us inside out, every flaw, every quirk, every weak area, every blind spot. Our spouse is often the person who makes us see our own sin and selfishness. And, especially after many years of being married, if there is any distance between the two of you, it’s easy to ONLY see the flaws. Then, we can start down a road of comparison when we’re around other people. But I’m here to tell you, or remind you, the whole grass is greener thing is complete crap. Someone else may seem like they have all you are lacking, or give you all you are needing that you don’t get at home. Someone else seems mysterious and fun, but at the end of the day, they are just as flawed as anyone else. You just only see their highlight reel or how they make you feel in that momentary encounter. When your mind starts going there, remind yourself of the truth. Stop comparing your spouse to someone else’s highlight reel. Your spouse is your only standard of husband or wife, period.
Guardrails. I’ve heard several pastors talk on this and they have been the most impactful sermons ever. Putting up guardrails for your marriage isn’t crazy or over-protective, it’s just smart. A friend recently asked me if she was being crazy because she didn’t want an attractive nanny to be in her house around her husband every day taking care of her kids. And I said, “GIRL! You must protect this house (insert Under Armor song)!” Pastor Joby often quotes Coach Bull Lee by saying “If you don’t want to fall down, don’t walk in slippery places.” Which means, we are all human, falling into something you never intended is something we are all capable of. Oftentimes, the pride comes before the fall and all of that. SO, be proactive about your marriage. Make commitments together to not be alone with someone of the opposite sex. Set your own parameters. You know where you’re weakest, so start there and make some personal rules around that. If you get flirty when you drink wine, never drink wine without your spouse. If you’re in fight with your spouse, never confide in a friend of the opposite sex. Find a friend who will speak truth to you and hold you accountable, which if often super hard because we don’t want someone to hold us accountable. But do it. Find someone that you can be completely honest with and someone that will care more about you and your marriage than your friendship. Pastor Joby, Andy Stanley, Matt Chandler often say that you never wake up one day and decide to ruin your marriage or the trajectory of your children’s lives, it’s a series of small decisions you make that get you there. So start now with making small decisions so that you don’t end up in that place one day that can ruin your entire marriage. WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE!
Capture your thoughts. I think every bad decision first starts out in your mind. Isn’t is the case that once we let ourselves start to go there in our minds that eventually it starts coming out of our mouth? And then once it comes out of our mouth and we talk about it, then it becomes an action we stumble into? And then once we stumble into something we never intended, isn’t it then that it becomes a habit because it gets easier and easier to justify the more you do it? Well, I think more than ever, we have to put 2 Corinthians 10:5 into practice (take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.) John Piper does an amazing commentary on this (click here). Don’t let your mind go there, period.
Pray. Pray. Pray. I’ve already mentioned it before, but we are in a season that’s all about the kids and work. Daniel and I both love our jobs, and we love Kennedy, so that takes up most of our thoughts on a weekly basis. Most everyone reading this probably is in the same season. What that means for me is that I pray a lot about my kid, about work, about a bunch of other things that do not include my marriage. I started realizing this one day and it started to scare me (AGAIN), because I had come to a place where I felt like our marriage was so good, so “not an area of need” that I hadn’t even been actively praying for my marriage. Prayer is POWERFUL. I’ve seen God do some AMAZING things through the power of prayer. Prayer is also purifying, so even if you don’t need any huge revelations about your marriage, just the act of praying for your spouse helps align your heart to see him/her the way God sees them, therefore making your marriage even better.
Pray, Don’t Say. I’ll never forget some middle school moms telling me a story when I was doing youth ministry. One mom said you have to pray, don’t say. It came from another mom who had been desiring to adopt another child. She wanted it so badly and kept bringing it up to her husband so often that it turned into nagging for him. She decided one day to stop saying, and start praying. And then, one day out of the blue months later, he came to her and told her he wanted to look into adoption. WOW, just wow. So I do that often in my marriage. The same Holy Spirit that lives in me lives in Daniel, so if I pray for Him to transform Daniel’s heart or convictions or mind on something, I truly believe God will either transform me in the process or bring Daniel to the same place as me. I’ve seen it happen OFTEN. One day I had a major conviction about something, but nothing I SAID would change Daniel’s mind, I’m not His Holy Spirit. So I started to pray, and then I’m not kidding, a few days later he had coffee with a friend and came home and almost verbatim told me what I had been praying. PRAYER works. And even if your spouse isn’t surrendered to Jesus, prayer works. Prayer is powerful, and I’ve seen God transform and change even those I thought would NEVER surrender to Jesus. So keep on prayin’ momma. Make praying for your spouse and your marriage a TOP priority.
“If the tomb is empty, anything is possible.” (Another Joby Martin quote) If God can raise people from the dead and move mountains, He can bring back to life your dead marriage. I’ve seen God do the IMPOSSIBLE. We may think it’s un-savable, it’s over. We’ve tried everything, but it’s just not working. Your sex life is struggling, the distance is just too great, whatever it is, God can redeem that. He can bring those areas back to life for you. HECK, He WANTS to do that for you if you would just ask. God made marriage, God loves marriage and He wants to see your marriage flourish. He’s a good dad and wants every good thing for His children.
Love is a verb not a feeling. Choose to love. We think of love as a feeling or emotion. But Biblically, love is a verb. Love does. Something about the feelings inside of us should make their way to the outside in how we treat others, especially our spouse. But, oftentimes loving those closest to us is the hardest, and the people we neglect or mistreat the most (sadly). So if this is true, then we have to actively CHOOSE to love with our words and actions and eventually our feelings (or theirs) will catch up. Choose to love when it’s not easy. Choose to love especially when it’s hard. Choose to love when you don’t think they deserve it because God loved us even though we were certainly undeserving. The Bible says they will know we are His disciples by the way we LOVE, and I think that starts in our home. Do your non-christian friends see something different in the way you love and treat your spouse that they wonder about you? If not, they should. And believe me, after over seven years together, this convicts me more than you know. Part of being a Jesus follower is dying to ourselves, everyday. I pray about my selfishness every…single…day, that not only can I love others better, but more than anything, the person I share a home with and children with. I pray I can die to myself and love him better. So at the end of the day, there are tactics we should put into place in order to protect our marriage, but we have to CHOOSE to do them. Love is a choice and because of the covenant we all made before God and others, no matter what they do, we choose to love.
So, you all as my witnesses, Daniel Gilham….Through thick and thin (literally and metaphorically), through plenty and strict budgets, through laughing and crying, through fights and cuddles, through sickness, hospital visits, health and climbing mountains. I choose you. I choose you always and forever, and forgive me if I’ve ever made you feel otherwise.