Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why did I get married? I'm glad you asked.

I don't even know where to begin. Marriage is such a hard topic to discuss, such a big part of our lives- whether we choose to get married or not, are married or not- and one of the things God has placed so heavily on my heart to discuss with other women. It breaks my heart that so many girls today are cynical about love. I know it stems from years of experiences- usually numerous experiences that have left them with that cynicism- whether that's from family or relationships. I know that because I was once cynical about true love and was so uninterested in marriage or afraid to get married. It was through my own experiences and relationship with God throughout them all that I slowly and gradually started to realize God's intent for marriage and the blessing (as well as high calling) that it is. Like everything else, it has its pros and cons- it's good and bad parts- and it's hard work but it's also so wonderful and worth it all! I'm going to talk about it from the perspective of one who not only believes in God but believes that God must be the center of our lives. Therefore, also the center of our marriages. Marriage was after all established and created by God. Marriage involves God- it is a covenant (a promise) made between you, another person, and the Lord. Marriage cannot be sustained and last for forever without God. Both husband and wife need his help to love the other person the way they need to be. We need God in our marriages in order to forgive, serve, respect and nurture each other. As humans, we are too selfish at our core in order to love someone unconditionally and selflessly (the way God loves us) without help from the only One who can!

I had every reason not to ever get married- by the world's standards and way of thinking. For a long time I even felt that way. My parents divorced when I was 11 and since then i've met many more of their friends or parents of my own friends who are divorced. I haven't exactly seen great examples of marriage in my life (I'm so glad Patrick did with his parents!) We all know the current statistics of divorce and how high they are. Divorce seems like a common thing. So I thought, as i'm sure most girls do, why even bother? Other than to throw an awesome party for ourselves, why bother getting married? Or even sadder are those who think marriage is no big deal to be honored at all and enter into it multiple times feeling assured that if it doesn't work out they always have a way out. Both scenarios are awful- fearing ever entering marriage because of doubt that'll it'll last or entering marriage numerous times leading to more emotional damage for yourself and others.

I'm feeling overwhelmed at this point because there's so much I want to say about marriage! I know I can't all in one post. Probably even a week. But if I say anything at all to the girls in my life and strangers who may be reading this, it's that marriage is a good thing! Marriage is not to be taken lightly. You should feel daunted by the thought of it. You should be cautious about who you enter into it with. But you should do it! Here's what I have learned is the reason why: Marriage is an earthly relationship that reflects our relationship with God and is how God can mold us to be more like Christ. If you're a Christian, this is what you want more than anything and it's something God has already started in you. I believe that marriage and parenting are the two greatest aspects of our life that God uses to bring us closer to Him and become more like him. Where else do you get the opportunity and face the decision every day to love another person(s) selflessly and unconditionally? Where else are we the most tested to be a better person and overcome bad aspects about ourselves (that are from the flesh, of course)? Where else can we experience even a little bit, the great love that God has for us? However much we love our husband and our children, we can magnify that by a thousand and that's how much God loves us and that person too! Isn't that amazing?! So one thing that always comforts me is that he knows better than me, better than anyone, what that person needs and how they feel loved. He can help me do that! And he can help your spouse love you. When that happens, you don't have to fear the marriage ever ending. But it all goes back to God being at the center of your relationship. You both have to be going to God for help when your marriage hits the bumps in life and one of you is tempted to give up. This is why the Bible warns against believers marrying unbelievers. How can your marriage work at all or last if one of you, or both of you, isn't getting God's help? I believe this is why the divorce rate is high. So many people aren't believers in God at all or they haven't realized yet how much they need him in order to deal with life's trials and be able to love someone else more than yourself, especially in the midst of the trials! But what a blessing to have someone belong side you in this life! 

As my wedding day to Patrick approached, one of my girlfriends asked me if I was nervous or scared. How did I have the desire and courage to get married considering the family I came from? It's a valid question. Because of God!!!! That's all I can say. That's all I could share with her and every other girl I know or will ever know. You're right, it's not natural for a human to be so vulnerable and step into a commitment (I want to stress that marriage is a commitment. Whether you feel love for your spouse some days or not, you choose to love them because you promised them and God that you would) without a reason for it. I would've asked myself the same question just a few years ago. It's amazing what God can do! He can change our heart and mind so fast and so significantly! I'm so thankful he did when I asked him several years ago to show me the meaning and importance of marriage. To show me why I should do it and how he intended it to be. He showed me why my parents' marriage didn't work out. He showed me how desperately we need him to be the center of our life and the priority above all other things. He showed me how, even more than an earthly love, I need a relationship with him and he alone can fill the deep emptiness inside of me to feel completely loved, accepted, forgiven, and worthy. For so long I looked to relationships with guys to fulfill me. Or to my dad- hoping everything would go back to the way it use to be and my parents would be there for me like I needed. I felt like I was unloved, abandoned, not worth it, not good enough, not fought for, not protected, not special, and so on because of the divorce and my dad leaving (as so many children and girls do). But one day I finally got it like never before. I finally got the gospel. What a wonderful day when I realized that God was my true and ultimate Father. He loved me like my parents couldn't and no human ever completely can. They just can't! As much as I want to love my husband that way and he wants to love me that way, we're human and imperfect. We just can't give each other that kind of love. And we shouldn't or we'd idolize each other instead of God. I realized based on scriptures in his Word that he would never abandon me, he would never let me down or leave me, that I was worth fighting for (look at what he did for me! He sacrificed his only Son to save me from the destruction of myself and from eternal separation from him, even if I had been the only person who chose to believe in Him. Wow!) and that he only wanted good for me. He could never be coming from a selfish or evil place because it's not in his nature. He alone is perfect. Therefore, I realized that the love, acceptance, worth and validation i'd been looking for in relationships was pointless and all wrong. I felt like a fool and like I had wasted so much time! I felt sorry for the people i'd hurt and it gave me a new perspective on my parents. I had too high of expectations for them. Sure, what happened was wrong. But we all sin and do wrong. I have to forgive them like God forgives me (we have to forgive each other in marriage too). He continued to show me that as long as I turned to him for complete fulfillment and satisfaction, that an earthly love relationship (marriage) was just icing on the cake. He would bring that person into my life at the right time and it would be the one he set aside just for me. He wouldn't bring us together until we both understood our need for him and that he comes first. But when he knew we were ready to step up in spiritual maturity and take on the responsibility of marriage, he would bless us with it. God designed Patrick and I for each other in such a way that no one else could fit us. Call it what you want- a "soul mate" perhaps. But I believe from the time we're born God has planned someone just for us and us for them. I believe the one God has ordained for me is the only person on this earth I have even a fighting chance of making it with! God is on our side to make it! He planned for us to be together, brought us together in the way we met (our story is so cool! i'll spare you the details for now but God's work in our lives leading up to our first meeting and how he wrote our love story is just amazing!), knows us better than we know ourselves, wants to help us carry out our vows in marriage and can help us do it!

Why would he want to do that? Well, like I said, because when it gets difficult it causes us to need more of Him. Marriage also reveals to us the bad traits we have and need to change to be a better person. But importantly, it also glorifies God and can further his kingdom. People need to see godly, lasting marriages to see the love and forgiveness of Christ displayed here on earth in the day to day. Children need to see it! So many of us are broken and hurting because of what happened during our childhood years and because of divorce! I'll share more on that later (I could write a whole book on it) but a loving, committed married couple can lead other singles and couples and the children they raise to Christ. We must show unconditionally love and selfless mercy to our spouse in marriage and to our children in parenting. When people see this, they just might realize it's all because of God! Then he gets the glory. And you get the blessings of marriage!

I don't want you to get the wrong impression since I mostly talk about the serious and hard parts of marriage, but it is fun and beautiful and brings such comfort and joy to our lives! After all, it is God who is loving you and giving you what you want and need through that person. That's why i'm so thankful for my husband! He is a blessing- a gift from God- that makes my life on this earth better. His companionship and love is wonderful. When he's treating me the way God would have him to, I can see God in him! I don't have to worry about all the things that could go wrong in our marriage. I don't have to fear divorce. Because for one, it's a choice. I can choose if i'm ever faced with the thought to not give up. Also, I know that no matter what happens I have God and that's who I need most! I also know that when he or I don't know what to do or a trial is staring us in the face, we have God to rescue us and guide us in the right direction. He already has! We have him to help us forgive one another and move on.

Oh, I could tell so much more right now! But i'll save it for another day. I just want all of my dear friends to know that marriage doesn't have to be something you fear, it doesn't have to be undesirable, it doesn't have to end. First, we must change how we think about it and approach it. It can't be as the world does. We have to see it the way God does with it's glorious intentions, lasting effects, beauty, sacrifice, and down right hard work. Love, true love, is always costly. It always calls for sacrifice. Just like God loves for us called for the sacrifice of Christ and cost God greatly. Secondly, we have to know our ultimate satisfaction and everything we need and want comes from God (including our spouse!). Also, we must trust God with our love life- with who we date and marry, with the timing of everything. We must rely on God for the ability to embrace the high calling of marriage and walk it out every day (it is only by his grace that we can fulfill our covenant). I have to add in right here that at our rehearsal dinner, Patrick's father gave us a simple but powerful piece of advice that i'll never forget. I think about it quite often and want to share it with whoever I can. I think it can be said not just with our spouse but with our children, our parents, and our family when times get tough:

"We say we'll love each other for forever. But forever can be too overwhelming for us to think about, especially on days you're not feeling it. Instead, just focus on one day at a time. If you wake up and ask God to give you the grace (and thank him for the opportunity to love your spouse) just for that day, then today turns into tomorrow which turns into forever." Well said!! So girls, don't get discouraged by the frequency of divorce or work that marriage entails or all the things that could happen. We can't live like that! We can't live in fear. We don't have to because we have God who will be with us, always. I'm not saying something bad might not happen in your marriage. I'm not saying that you won't have bad days together. In fact, I promise you you'll face trials, temptations, hurt and disappointment. You'll fail giving your husband what he needs all the time and he'll fail you- leaving you disappointed that you don't always get what you want. But the pros outweigh the cons- the joy outweighs the sorrow- in all parts of life including marriage- when we have God.

I love to read and it's been through many different authors and their books that God had spoken to me and increased my faith. I'm so thankful for God speaking through these various women, using their testimonies and experiences, to relate to me and change me. As I read each book, I couldn't see at the time how significantly my life was changing. But looking back over the past 5 years to when I was 18 I can really see the work God has done in my life since I started reading Christian books regularly. Here are just a few that were really influential in showing me God's love for me and the wonderful earthly love I could have through marriage. I'd suggest these to anyone of my girlfriends and just every young lady in general!

"Redeeming Love" A Christian fiction novel based on the biblical story of Hosea
"Authentic Beauty" Seeing yourself and your earthly relationships as God does; seeing His love for you
"When God Writes Your Love Story" Handing the pen over to God and letting him write your earthly love story
"Wilderness Skills for Women" Surviving heartbreak and trouble in this world

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