A couple of weeks ago I watched my daughter walk down a flower-edged aisle in crystal beads and lace, let go of her father’s arm and lock eyes with the man who captured her heart. She was radiant. And he was in awe as he gazed upon his bride. What a beautiful sight.
I sat there taking it all in.
For a few moments, I let myself wander back. Memories of her as a young child washed over me like a gentle breeze. How she lined up all her dolls in a perfect row. How she dressed in multiple outfits at the same time and declared it perfect when she gazed at her reflection.
When she awkwardly tried her hand at mascara and lipstick and vowed make-up was never going to be “her thing”. And when I first noticed the smile in her heart when she met the man standing before her under a canopy of fresh greens and blossoming hydrangeas.
I want so much for their marriage to be void of conflict, hurt or troubles. To be a lifetime of days as perfect as this one. Nothing but fresh flowers, romance, and great expectations. But, marriage is not a road without bumps and unexpected twisty turns. I know – I’ve been on that road. Sadly, my road ended in divorce 18 years ago.
Determined to understand what went wrong I did a lot of soul-searching and had some effective counseling. I know all too well the potholes on the road ahead so you could say I’ve learned a few things on that journey.
Things I wish someone had told me before I stood at the altar with my eyes locked on the man who captured my heart so long ago.
If I could have a wedding day chat with my younger self it would go something like this:
Determine to be determined. Begin with the end in mind. Just as you put thought, effort and planning into careers, retirement, and child-rearing, a successful marriage takes that same effort – maybe even more. What do you want your marriage to look like? Spend time talking about the characteristics of a Godly marriage, and then create habits and boundaries that will foster and protect this delicate relationship.
Don’t expect your spouse to meet all of your needs. Your spouse will disappoint you, and you will disappoint your spouse. That disappointment has the potential to steal your happiness and even impact your self-worth. Stay grounded in who God says you are so that when the you meet the disappointments in marriage along the road, your confidence won’t crumble.
Embrace the unexpected. Consider looking at the unexpected as an adventure. One that entices you to move out of your comfort zone. Just like our vision along a twisty-turny road can be obscured, our vision of the marriage road can be short-sighted. The unexpected provides opportunities to grow closer to one another. Thank you, Lysa TerKeurst, for that wisdom!
Fight for the love you have right now. Marriage is a battle and there are many enemies against your success. Put on the armor of God and take the fight to your knees. Become experts at conflict management. It’s not about winning, it’s about compromising and making sacrifices. A beautiful dance of two forgiving people fighting for the same end goal.
Pray for your spouse. A lot. It might not change them, but it will change you. It will make you fall deeper in love and deeper in your ability to extend grace.
Talk to each other all the time and about everything. Attend marriage retreats and seminars in the good times. This will help you maintain focus on your marriage and learn tactics t0 help keep your relationship strong and growing. Seek Godly counsel if the bumpy road tosses you off the track.
Little things add up. Whether they are good little things like thank-yous, flowers, love notes, and special dates, or not-so-good little things like forgetting commitments, too much TV, or coming home late one too many times, they all add up. Too many of the not-so-good little things have a sneaky way of canceling out many of the good ones.
It is my hope I have passed these hard-won learnings onto my children over the years. And I pray the legacy of divorce in our family ends here today.
As these new hopes and old memories fill my heart, it seems like it wasn’t that long ago she was slipping her small hand into mine. I hold on tight for I need her as much as she needs me.
Then I come back fully into the present. I see a beautiful young woman whose hands are slipped snugly into the hands of the man she vows to love and honor the rest of her life.
And I, too make a vow.
A vow to pray for them daily as they embark on this glorious journey. To entrust her to the man who holds her heart and to see her first as his wife. To point them in God’s direction with every twisty turn for He is the only unshakeable foundation.
And as they say their “I do’s” I release her into God’s embrace. And I watch Him weave their lives together into a sacred place. A place created just for them. A place of their own in His divine masterpiece. What a beautiful sight indeed!
How intentional are you in your relationships? What boundaries and habits have you put in place? Being intentional is important not just for marriages, but all relationships.
A Truth: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV
A Song: When God Made You (click to listen)
A Read: The Mingling of Souls, By Matt Chandler
A Prayer: Father, thank you for marriage. For your ability to join two imperfect people and sustain them on their marriage journey. For providing a solid foundation that can survive all the bumps and twisty turns along the way. In Jesus’ name, amen.