I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase, “Many couples plan for a wedding, but not a marriage.” I have prolonged that dismal statement many times as I stand before couples gleaming with beauty, ecstasy, and hope at a wedding ceremony. Most of the couples I endure services with, have been hurt, are hurting, and will hurt some more as the days and years pass, only to cycle the hurt further off course with purposeful destruction.
Very few, if not rarely, do I stand before a couple who actually get-it; and when I mean get-it, I mean, they know who they are, where they’ve come from, and where they are going. They did not just plan for an elaborate wedding service: horderves with plastic pirate swords, or freshly dipped strawberries in chocolate, exquisite Bridal cake, punchy little grooms cake, fine silverware, delicate doilies, mysterious punch, ice sculptures, personality driven decorations, and family disparaged discussions over who sits where, all while a photographer captures the funniest and ridiculous moments of your special day to live in infamy. No… they realize that the wedding day is just that… a day.
They put thought behind their proposal, they gathered joy in the announcements, prolonged integrity in their preparations, expensed modesty in their arrangements, conducted an elaborate commitment in their exchange of vows, and prayerfully submitted to wise-counsel before, during, and after their “special” day.
I’ve counseled couples as much as a year in advance of their one day event, flourishing into a lifetime of vocational, familial, and spiritual pursuits. I’ve sat briefly with couples, individually, moments before their service. I can tell you… the ones who seek wise counsel, will inevitably last longer and grow stronger through the fires that will come.
I’ve conducted services for couples I knew would not last long… and you may ask, “Why did you?”
Each and every time I stand before a couple to admonish them, encourage them, and exhort them, I have a special opportunity to speak life into them. They must choose to listen and respond, or gaze into each other’s eyes for the temporary feelings they possess enlarging to eternal struggles they get messed up with. Some … again I say … some listen.
Most, want the cake and eat it too mentality, which lasts just about as long as the honeymoon.
Amazingly enough, there is another audience present: the family and friends. These are sitting still just long enough for me to share eternally wise insight with a couple, but overshadowing the event itself for those still long enough to reflect. I do receive some interesting comments afterwards. Some I could share… most I will not.
“That was a good service.”
“You’re right you know?”
“Thank you so much for sharing that insight with this couple.”
“My spouse and I have been married for umpteen years, and what you said was absolutely correct.”
“If you start with the Bible, you’ll end with revival … but if you don’t start there, you end with a scare.”
Then… most will turn their attention to the bar in the next room, drown out the sorrows, and prolong the agony of never becoming truly intimate with their spouse.
I have a few examples of blessed couples who have kept pace with me over the years. They are flourishing in their vocational pursuits, and family enlargements. They send pictures, notes, and gratitude for the relationship we’ve invested in together. It truly is amazing to see these young teens, who’ve I’ve invested in, have teens themselves today. Someday, I will enjoy seeing grandchildren of those teens who ventured into the world of intimate proposal and renewal on a daily basis. Though troubles visit, joy resides.
That would be my encouragement to you. Let joy move in for free; make trouble pay a hefty price to enter. Don’t become roommates with anxiety, depression, angst, and frustration. Let love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control be the dwellers of your abode, relationally and emotionally.
I also subscribe to numerous counseling, biblical, and spiritual websites which keep me abreast of the trends, changes, and cultural shifts occurring daily in our world.
I recently read this notice: “When you think of the word roommate, it doesn’t usually bring up images of an intimate, life-long partnership. But in today’s society many married couples are no more than roommates. By the time couples have a little down time from their busy demands they have very little gas left in the tank for real intimacy. Their focus is on paying bills, fighting traffic and chores around the house. They’re more like roommates than lovers.” [excerpt in email from Marriage Today, April 22, 2015]
How truly accurate and sad that picture paints for many of us… a word of caution: don’t let your marriage drive down this path. Don’t get stuck in this traffic. Don’t get busy with chores around the house that you lose sight of the people in your home.
I like to say, a house is not a place with people loving each other, but windows who need cleaning, dishes who need cleaning, floors who need cleaning, and bathrooms who need bacterial-fungi-Ebola-eradication!
Houses have garages, kitchens, and yards.
Homes have people.
A home is where you come together, eat-together, work together, and play together.
You will never rest well in a house. You can find peace in a home… even if the dishes are piled high in the sink.
Don’t fuss about the messed up house.
Fuss about the messed up lives.
Don’t get discouraged over doors which don’t shut properly.
Get discouraged over the hearts which have closed, and then do something about it.
Don’t invest in paint to cover the chipped base boards. Invest in the spirits, minds, and hearts of those relationships which will return someday – and hopefully many days – with grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and warm smiles of joy over the nurturing you provided.
I’m not advocating house deterioration, but I am advocating a shuffle in our mindset which promotes a journey of life as opposed to a nice, quiet, clean home with no laughter or joy.
As we age, we either find ourselves surrounded by family and friends who yearn for one another, or we live a life of solitude over memories spurned by broken-hearted and mean-spirited existence.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12
This is where the majority of weddings end up. They never begin with a proper concept of God’s plan, therefore they venture out on their own. The Bible, from the very beginning – and throughout – states the Divine infrastructure for successful and satisfying marriages.
God instituted marriage as a separation to submission staging. Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
Like it or not, the same is true for the woman… leave mom and dad, become one with husband. Jesus reiterated this original principle for marriage in Matthew 19:5, discussing the importance of submission to God and one another. Divorce became so prevalent even in Jesus’ day, that Jesus had to refocus their attention to God’s Divine purpose. “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” [vs. 6] That means, neither spouse, neither parent, nor grandparent, nor relatives, nor co-workers, nor friends. (neither Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, nor Oprah). Even the Apostle Paul reconvened upon the biblical principle of union; Ephesians 5:31, after emphasizing the importance of submission to one another.
Destructive and deadly marriages come from some beautiful weddings, as well as many hooked-up, and hatched-out rotten eggs from spoiled attentions to purposeful relationships. Romance never begins with media-driven personalities nor misplaced priorities. Roommates usually spend the night once in a while, but they never end up with meaningful relationships enduring the stress and test of time. Romance begins in the heart, where the seat of emotions spring forth into perseverance and prosperous decisions of submission to one another. Roommates makes fly-by-night decisions which come and go as long as the feelings remain constant. Romance happens even without the physical touch or proximity of persons, due to endearment. Roommates only exist for the personal fulfillment each gives for the enjoyment.
Money may pay for a wedding, but it never pays for a marriage. Children may come before a wedding, but they never solidify a marriage. Best men and maids of honor are many times present at the wedding, but never around for the marriage. Cake and punch are offered at the wedding, but usually a punch and desert occur ending the marriage. Lots of physical touch comes prior to and after a wedding service, but loss of touch comes in the marriage.
True intimacy begins with the One Who created us, provides for us, and keeps us throughout the journey. We make our vows, “so help me God,” but lose our place … “so help me.” Intimacy belongs to those who would truly understand the heart and soul of the person they pursue. And when we pursue “first the kingdom of God…” all other things find their purpose and meaning from Him, through Him, and to Him. He causes “all things to work together for good… to those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) True intimacy begins and ends with a Divine knowledge of who we are, and how we were created in His image for His purpose and yet our good.
Distractions will come.
Depression will invade.
Distress will rip apart.
Discouragement will divide.
Devotion will endure.
Determination will encourage.
Discipline will equip.
Dedication will engage beyond selfless measures to the fullest treasure.
One way ends in losing investment, but the best way propels in a heavenly treasure beyond these years and beyond this life.
My Poetry Pastoral Ponder for you: What are you planning for? How are you investing beyond the temporary? What else would you see as a benefit of marriage preparation vs. wedding planning/romance vs. roommate?