“Do any of you like being married?”
My husband asks this question to all of the years-long-married couples in our premarital class at church. I sit there embarrassed because it’s my question that he’s foisting upon the group.
We had been engaged for a few months and were participating in a class in which married couples of 30+ years go through a workbook with engaged couples. Then each married couple is paired with an engaged couple to be marriage mentors.
So far, much of the advice we had heard in this class, whether filtered through advice on finances or childrearing was this: Marriage is hard work.
The thing is, my husband, born in 1982, and I, born in 1983, already knew that. We had seen almost half of our friends’ parents split, and often, the ones that stuck it out were doing it for tradition’s sake. Our parents’ generation could have been called the Divorce Generation. While the marriage mentors had surely been shocked by how many of their peers’ marriages fell apart, to us, marriage failure was all too normal. If marriage was easy, then certainly this would not be the case. The question we had, was, if it’s so hard, then why do it?
Fortunately, there was one husband in the class who spoke up to answer the question. “My wife and I are best friends,” he said. “We have had a blast.” He and his wife became our mentors, and seven years later we still get together for dinner to talk and share wisdom.
Our mentors don’t have a great marriage because they have had an easy go at life since they tied the knot. Not at all. They have trudged through many serious and scary heartaches with their three kids, finances, and the like. Our mentors have a great marriage because they have had to fight for it the whole way, trusting in Jesus. They were forced to be proactive and nurturing in their marriage, even to the point of delighting in dates to Wal-Mart. “Fall forward,” they taught us. In times of crisis, fall into each other, not away from each other.
Today, with their children grown and thriving, they still work together at the church, they take cruises, and they have developed a shared hobby of running in timed races. We have bumped into them cheering each other on at more than one 5K. (What a metaphor that is!)
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
One of many things that this couple has taught us is that marriage is hard work, but it’s the kind of hard work that produces a deep friendship and understanding of the other person. At each turn, we, like them, should choose not to despair. We should choose Jesus, choose joy. With their example as our guide, my husband and I choose not to be mired in the myriad of hardships we’ve faced: potential cancer and surgery, military deployment to a war zone, job loss, and moving again and again.
To put it simply, my husband is my best friend. And we work every step of our journey to have a blast, too.
Though we did the traditional premarital counseling and found it helpful, Stephen and I tell all engaged couples that the real work starts after the wedding. It’s when you’re finally, finally, a Mr. and Mrs. that each person’s sin meets the other’s sin in a kind of explosion. That boom of potential destruction, though, can be turned into one of a thrilling experience, more like fireworks than a thunderbolt. For this reason, my husband and I kept meeting with our mentors and got a year of nontraditional Christian post-marital counseling. As we fought through the thorny brambles of petty disagreements, our love grew. We started to laugh more at our foibles than get frustrated.
In the book Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas writes, “In a society where relationships are discarded with a frightening regularity, Christians can command attention simply by staying married.”
If we want to be a witness to the world, one of the most powerful things we can do is love our spouse and keep loving our spouse. We can show the world what it looks like when best friends use trials to bring them closer.
The real challenge is not just to stay married; it’s to persevere in forgiveness, friendship, and love. Therein is found a great adventure, more worthy of poetry and novels than any forbidden romance.
May God bless us on our quest.
Lindsey M. Roberts spent years writing exclusively for secular journalism, including such outlets as The Washington Post, Architect, and Gray magazine before she first tried to write about Jesus. She’s thrilled to explore in words how everything from cleaning the kitchen three times a day to delighting in the maritime history of Nantucket is an opportunity to meet and glorify God. Lindsey lives with her husband, a pastor and U.S. Army Reserve chaplain, and two children in Wisconsin.