Today (May 10th) we celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary. God has been good to us and my wife is an angel. But it hasn’t always felt this way.
Eleven years ago about this time, our marriage was in serious trouble, and I never thought we were going to make it. I never thought I’d look across the room and truthfully feel that I loved my wife deeply. But here we are now, walking in victory. It’s not that there are no challenges anymore. It’s just a sense of being on much firmer ground and much much happier where we are than way back then.
In a sense, I feel like I’ve found the secrets to a happy marriage. They all are rooted in one, but let me not bore you, so here goes:
1. The Gospel (Grace).
So, you’re wondering, how did we make it out of the woods? Well, a one John Katto joined and took us through Andrew Wommack’s Discipleship Evangelism Course at our then young church, helping us discover how deeply God loved each one of us, even when we were jerks. Without even knowing it, we started being gracious to one another and our marriage got healed. This was and remains the foundation. Grace.
Tim Keller defines the Gospel thus; “you are more sinful than you’ll ever admit and yet you are more loved than you’ll ever fathom!” Paul teaches that husbands should love their wives the way Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). But how on earth is that supposed to work for people who have never experienced the love and grace of God, or those who even oppose this perspective? How does this work for someone who has an angry and vengeful perspective of God? If you think Christ punishes the Church (His Bride) to teach her a lesson, what do you think you’re going to do to your bride? I’ve learnt that you can’t give what you don’t have.
We love better, out of the overflow of God’s love for us, that we allow to receive.
Around the time of our troubles, we made things much worse by starting a church! Never do that. However, it was within this same space that we found our healing. We did the Discipleship Evangelism course at church and I’m quite sure we’ll never have found it at our previous church. About a year later, friends of ours, the Nsubugas joined Worship Harvest and started Fireplace, the couples’ ministry. It was (and still is) so much fun. There wasn’t much of an agenda. We’d just gather, eat, share and laugh at our issues.
When you listen to people share their stuff and the great attitude they have towards each other and laughing at it all, you have no choice but to repent for making mountains out of the mole hills of your own marriage. I stress this to every young couple; marriage was not designed to work in isolation. Find other married people and just talk. Be vulnerable and laugh at each other. Don’t be too serious. You’re not as holy as you think! James teaches us to confess our faults one to another, pray for one another that we may be healed (James 5:16). It’s that simple!
We love better with the support and accountability of those God has placed in our lives.
The other day, some guy wrote a book titled; The Things Men Know About Women. All the pages are blank! We spend several years in school learning about subjects that we rarely apply in real life. West African History or Organic Chemistry may have felt like a nemesis in school and yet you stuck it out and got some respectable grades – hopefully. And what do we do when it comes to this important life aspect of marriage? We jump right in, with both feet and blissful ignorance. Both the bliss and the ignorance don’t last long. We soon realize with incredible clarity the mess we are in and its capacity to create displeasure!
I have learnt that the same way you can’t just jump into a plane and fly it is the same way we should never jump into a marriage without learning how stuff works. Trust me, there is nothing new under the sun. People have been marrying since time immemorial and the joy and stability of it has depended on knowledge and wise counsel. Peter urges the husbands to dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel (1Peter 3:7). Not weaker in strength but more precious. You can’t guess your way through this stuff. You must know your spouse’s needs and their love language. There is lots of resources out there to help.
We love better when we do exactly what makes our spouse feel loved, not what we think.
John Maxwell teaches that you don’t choose your success. Instead, you choose your habits and your habits choose your success. Why do we all (mostly) struggle with weight issues? Because we have made eating a habit. We eat in the morning, at noon time and in the evening. We don’t eat because we are hungry. We simply eat because it’s time to eat! Mike Murdock states that habit is stronger than desire. If we know that habit is that powerful, then we’d better plan some habits into our marriages.
The weekly date is one of the most underrated marriage savers. We need to set aside a time where we are not distracted by anything to talk to our spouses. Whatever aspect of your marriage is important, schedule it if it’s not happening naturally until it starts happening naturally (including… you know what). Whatever we do repeatedly, we become good at. We must guard the time when we can talk to each other and see into each other’s souls. There are things that can be done daily, like texting. Others are weekly, like dating. You could even plan some annual stuff away from the usual, to connect and be together.
We love better when we schedule the things that are important to us and guard our time together.
Every family needs to be on mission. Every family needs to be about something bigger than themselves. Adam and Eve were made for companionship, but beyond that they had a mission. The Bible declares that God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Just gazing at each other can’t be the overall mission of your lives. If you have nothing you are pursuing together, you’ll soon be bored and then think that the problem is the other person.
People who approach life this way know that their marriage is not about themselves. Your marriage is a stewardship. God has entrusted both of you with this relationship for a purpose that is bigger than that relationship. Until you find that purpose, you’ll fight about petty unimportant things. Spouses, stop for a moment, take a retreat and ask Him who created you and brought you together the big question; why!
We love better when we understand that it is not about us!
Remember, the default settings for marriage are wonderful. We wish you one full of wonders!