Before I got married I thought I had it all figured out. I knew the right words to say. I knew how to be romantic. I even thought myself to be a pretty sensitive guy. How's that verse go? Don't think of yourself more highly than you should? Well I was definitely on my high horse, and now I know what it feels like to get knocked off. Side note: I've only been married for six and a half years, so I won't pretend to know it all. However, having other marred couples in my life as examples of what a successful marriage looks like has given me hope and a little bit of insight.
Marriage has to be one of the biggest challenges we will ever face in life. It's not something you can just set on cruise control. It takes work, a lot of work. It will break you down and build you up. It will expose the most selfish of desires. It will test your patience, kindness and grace all in a day. And as a man, it will offend your pride and test your integrity.
My friend Ben said it best when speaking about his wife of more than 18 years;
"My wife is more interesting to me than anyone else. She is also a great problem for me because of the continuous challenge she poses to my instincts that are not toward intimacy and trust."
I love reading that last line over and over again; "The continuous challenge she poses to my instincts that are not toward intimacy and trust." Dang! That shines a big fat spotlight in my heart. I face the same challenge every day with trusting and loving my wife. But the other part that really struck a chord is this line, "a great problem." I love to solve problems. In fact, I make a living solving problems. But the heart of a woman is anything but a problem to solve. It is a great mystery. I don't want to think of my wife as a problem to solve, but I know it's in my nature to try.
Real love comes in the form of a choice. It's not a feeling. What the movies and books don't tell us about love is what happens after the happy ending. The part where you have to roll up your sleeves and do some work. The purest form of love I know chose to be humiliated and die. I think Jesus endured physical pain, to the point of death, because he knew a love that was greater than a feeling. That's the only kind of love I want.
Intimacy with another person. When you trust someone enough to let them see your dark side, and they still love you, that is something to cherish and protect.
My friend, let's call him Ed, said it best; "I failed my way to success in marriage." That's a bold statement, but then you'd have to know Ed. He's overcome a lot in his life by the grace of God to speak those words. I love his testimony and getting to watch now as the Father rewards him openly for the many battles he's had to fight in private.
So now I continue on in my marriage. Not led by my feelings or how the world says a husband should act, God help us, but by the Spirit of Truth. Confident in the hope I have in Christ to keep our marriage on solid ground. That our common bond is found, not on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.