I have gone through some wild changes in my life.
There were the awkward puberty years where I was afraid to even talk for fear of my voice cracking. There were those emo-kid myspace years where I tried to write poetry and painted my fingernails. Then there were my rebellious teenage years where I pierced my nose, grew out my hair, and pretending to like Bob Marley’s music…even though it was pretty boring. With every new year, there is change. Change is hard at first, challenging in the middle, but rewarding in the end. When I got married three years ago, everything changed. When I look back at that first year, the amount of change I faced put puberty to shame. Every single day I learned something. Every single day I got overwhelmed. Every single day I realized that there is so much I didn’t know.
If I’m being honest, I wasn’t remotely ready for marriage. I don’t think anyone ever will be.
The church really talks up marriage. We love marriage. We love family. In some ways, we can even be a little too idealistic about marriage. I feel like I was fed a lot of unrealistic expectations from youth group, Christian books, and church conferences.
Here are three things I really wish I learned about marriage in church.
There is not just one person on earth I could marry.
I grew up in the era of true love waits, youth lock-ins, and awful contemporary music with hand motions. I still remember sitting in around a bonfire as a youth leader taught me to wait for my soul-mate. He explained (very convincingly) that the Bible teaches that there is just one person out there for every person. You will meet them, then you would know. This really played harmony with the Disney propaganda in my adolescent brain, so I just adopted it as my worldview. I was waiting for that soul mate…the fireworks…the symphony to swell up when our eyes first met.
Everyone on earth has a soul mate, right? It’s so simple.
But, then I broke up with the person I thought was my soul-mate. Then I broke up with my next soul-mate again. Then again. I would develop head-over-heels feelings, and I translated those to mean I had met my soul-mate. Here’s the thing, feelings come and feelings go. If you build your relationship on feelings, you will fail. The Bible teaches to walk by faith, not feelings.
I realized I had been wrong about this whole soulmate thing. What happens if just one person marries the wrong person? Then their perfect person marries the wrong person, then those people’s perfect people marry the wrong person. And BOOM. With one mistake, a young couple has thrown off the entire romantic future of all mankind. That is so much pressure.
Do not get me wrong. I believe Liz (my wife) is my soul mate. Her soul and mine have been made one (Genesis 2:24), but this was developed — it wasn’t there at birth. Liz does not complete my soul, she does not make me a full person. There is no such thing as a person who completes your soul, because we are only made complete in Christ — Christ alone.
My wife has learned how to help me draw closer to God. She knows just what to say to encourage my spirit and she knows how to help me in my struggles. She knows how to minister to my soul. And I have learned how to do the same to her. That makes us soul-mates.
Sex is a gift from God. it’s meant to be enjoyed.
I was never given the traditional “sex talk.” One day a pastor at my church took me out to lunch and told me abut sex, but it just made me more confused. He hunched over his sweet tea and fried okra and whispered every word without making any eye contact. I swear he made up half the words he used. He spoke of sex like it was so dirty and shameful.
I needed to learn about sex in God’s context. That he designed it to be enjoyed under the covenant of marriage. That is helps couples become more intimate and vulnerable with each other. It gives them an incentive to have children.
Sex does two things: It binds and blinds. In marriage, this is a major perk. It binds the couple closer together – helping them experience an even deeper connection. It blinds them (even temporarily) of all the stress and anxieties of life and just lets them focus on their spouse and their love.
This goes to show that the church must teach a Gods-eye view of sexuality, because too many single people are getting caught up in the lies of the legalism and the gospel according to Cosmo.
Sex is a gift from God. Married couples are welcome to explore it and enjoy it.
The First Year of Marriage is Really Hard
I gave been married for almost four years. Even though I don’t consider myself a newlywed, I still get asked: “How’s married life?” This question always perplexes me. What on earth are they asking about? Do I talk about how my wife had a really hard time adjusting to my snoring? Do I go over our three most recent fights? Do I mention how depressed I got when we got a puppy and realized our apartment didn’t allow dogs? Do I talk about how hard it is to divide chores when both of you hate doing them?
I never knew what to say, because our first year of marriage was been really hard. Finding the alone time you need to recharge is hard in a tiny apartment with another human in it. I suddenly had to consult someone before making a big purchase on my credit card when I used to impulse buy expensive things all the time. Not to mention you realize that you are each combining your student loan debt into one super-debt. That’s a math problem no one wants to do.
The first year had a lot of fighting, a lot of surprises, and a lot of setbacks. But, we have survived. We have become stronger. We learned to fight fair, live with each other, and communicate in a way that works for us.
I am not saying we are perfect, but things are way different today than they were a couple of years ago. And things got better — but they got worse before they got better.
Learn to embrace the struggle, because there is strength in the struggle. Stick it out.