Sunday, August 25, 2013

i do

one phrase. two words. three letters. it doesn't get any simpler than that, does it?

i do.

23 years ago, rick and i, on a hot august evening, said that simple phrase to each other in front of our families and our friends and our future.

i do.

so short. so sweet. so simple.

except that sometimes it isn't.

sometimes in marriage it feels long and unpleasant and a little bit complicated.
sometimes we even feel more like, i don't. 

i don't want to put your needs first.
i don't want to have that discussion (again).
i don't want to forgive and forget this thing.
i don't want to argue over money or the children or the dog.
i don't want to see your toothpaste blobs in the sink.

i mean maybe y'all have perfect marriages. and maybe i'm going way out on a lonely limb here. maybe, right now, you're reading this and shaking your head and thinking "oh my, poor, poor girl ..."


or maybe, you're just like me, you love your spouse dearly and are completely committed to 'till death do us part.' but you still sometimes have those "i don't" kind of days.

while i'm out on my limb, i'm just going to go ahead and say, i think most people in most marriages do have moments when they aren't feeling terrifically excited about the great "i do." 

because, guess what? --- marriage is hard. it takes work. even if we find our perfect soul mate and the person who "completes me..." marriage is a whole lot more than two tiny words uttered at the front of a pretty church or chapel.

even if we are over-the-moon-in-love with our honey-pie-sweet-thing, we wake up some days with challenges and disagreements and different ideas.

because there is no perfect marriage.

because there is no perfect person.

and mostly, because the only person who can ever "complete me" is Christ. if we're looking to our husbands or our wives to round us out and fill us up, we are going to be disappointed. it just doesn't work that way. i mean, sure it might work sometimes. because sometimes we can have those glorious moments of isn't life grand and aren't you the best thing since sliced bread!

but only Christ is always, continually, faithfully, perfectly, unerringly, unfathomably,
                                                                     ... beautifully enough!

only life in Christ can complete us.

only life in Christ is complete.

"so you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. ~ colossians 2:10

maybe it has something to do with 23 years of marriage and being in the middle of my 40s, but i have never before been so surrounded by such a great number of crumbling marriages. i cannot tell you in the last couple of years the amount of couples who once walked happily down the aisle, but are now walking miserably away from each other after 3 years, 11 years, 19 years, 26 years of marriage ...


why are we at such a crisis level in our marriages today? why are those in the church almost as likely to divorce as those out of the church? what is going on here?

i am not at all an expert or professional on this matter. i don't, for one minute, pretend to be qualified to address such a serious and heartbreaking issue. but i do have some experience and a few thoughts:

1.  we live in a culture which doesn't value vows or hold us accountable to anything any longer.

pledges and promises, these days, are only important if we deem them important. that's the way the world works today. vows have taken on an emotional make up and therefore, have become entirely emotional agreements, based on feelings and circumstances -- which, of course, can (and will) change.
Groom: I,____, take thee,_____, to be my lawful wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.
Bride: I,_____, take thee,_____, to be my lawful wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.
that's some rather holy stuff right there, my friends. and it's also pretty darn clear. "till death do us part," doesn't give much wiggle room or leave much open for interpretation.

when the money is short
when the days are long
when the waist line is thick
when the hair is thin
when the problems come up
when the disappointments slam down
when the face is wrinkled
when the future is blurry ...

                                              that's when that little vow, "i do," kicks in.

if marriage was always full of roses and sunshine, we wouldn't need vows. i mean, no one needs a vow to finish their ice cream or to enjoy a sunny afternoon or to cuddle up with a cute puppy. right?

2.  we enter into marriage with expectations which are way out of wack.

i love books and movies. i adore a really good story. and i'll be honest, i love, love, love a good love story. (go ahead and roll your eyes). but, i have been convicted over the years in what i allow myself to read or watch. our world is so full of idealistic and unrealistic messages about love, marriage and romance. i believe it is one of satan's greatest tools today. we watch beautiful bachelorettes making-out with 12 different hunky guys and playing eneey-meeny-miney-mo and we call it family entertainment. we see perfect people, living lovely lives, with magazine layout homes, darling children, and passionate love and we wonder what's wrong with us. why isn't it quite so perfect in our own homes? why are we busy cleaning throw up off the couch or scraping burnt eggs from the pan? why did our husband leave his dirty socks on our pillow this morning? why is the man of our dreams teaching the boys (alright, and the girls) how to burp at the dinner table? why do our children bicker and whine and bring home bad grades? why is there more dog hair on the floor than on the dog?

i think this point really resonates with me because having slightly romantic notions and being a tad idealistic, i grew up just knowing it would all someday be perfect. when i was a teen girl i didn't plaster my locker or bedroom walls with pictures of teen heart throbs, instead i cut out pictures of pretty gardens and well-decorated homes. i kept them all in a box under my bed. i couldn't wait for perfect living to begin. i couldn't wait for the fairytale to begin.

twenty-three years and five children later, we certainly have some tales to tell, but i'm pretty sure most of them wouldn't exactly fall under the fairytale category.

3. we don't take seriously enough the devil's determination.

the evil one loves to mess with marriage. in fact, it is one of his favorite places to plan an attack.

i love what john macarthur says, "You don't even get out of Genesis before the enemy starts to tear at the fabric of society – marriage." the very first sin in the bible deals with a break down of communication between a couple. and adam and eve aren't the only ones struggling ... the bible is filled with examples of husbands and wives who face problems.

think about it: it makes perfect sense that the devil would mess mightily in this area. he gets a lot of bang for his buck. when he deals with marriages he doesn't just wreck the lives of two people, but through divorce, he often gets to devastate many lives all at once. and, what's more, he gets to pass on to future generations a struggle with this sin. you don't have to be half as cunning as the slippery serpent to realize why it is a good investment on his part to fiddle around with this holy union.

oh friend, please know, i have no desire to offend. that's never the goal of this blog. i am not writing today in a spirit of judgment. i have dear, dear friends and family members who are going through or have gone through divorce. some of my best friends are linked closely to this word. many of them didn't or aren't flippantly throwing away marriages because they are bored or looking for something better. many of them are limping away injured and wishing wildly that this wasn't their path. for many of them, divorce wasn't even their choice.

i would just encourage you to be careful. divorce isn't a time to stop loving people or to start casting grave judgment. often it is a time when people need most to be ministered to. yes, in malachi 2:16 God says, "I hate divorce ... so take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” God is clear: He hates divorce and we should "take heed." it's not that there is never a reason to divorce, but regardless, God hates what it does to His children. He hates the pain it causes. He hates the foothold it gives the devil. but it would be wise to remember, Jesus doesn't hate the person who divorces, He loves them as much as He loves the person with the perfect (looking) marriage.

Jesus, always had a heart for the hurting and the humbled. divorce often brings an (un)healthy serving of both.

i have never known an individual who has walked away from this kind of break up without some substantial wounds. can those wounds be healed? yes. can their life be resurrected? yes. does God hate divorce? yes. but, are we to sit in judgment? no.

when i was young, i used to find it odd that God used marriage terminology to describe His love and union with the church. but now, after two decades as a wife, i get it.  

a good marriage is a lot like the gospel message.

it's about surrendering completely. it's about dying to yourself. it's about making a decision - daily.  it's about putting another person ahead of yourself. it's about believing desperately in the "i do."

"husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." ~ ephesians 5:25

"for your Maker is your husband,  the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,  the God of the whole earth he is called." ~ isaiah 54:5

23 years ago, as a girl who hadn't even had her 21st birthday, i  stood at the front of my college chapel and said "i do." did this girl with the puffy bangs (and the even puffier sleeves) know exactly what she was doing? probably not.

did i know all that the future would hold? no.
did i doubt that my life would be just like those magazine pictures in the box under my bed? no.
did i ever guess at some of our struggles and issues and challenges? no.
did i know that when two became one, problems wouldn't divide, but might even, on occasion, multiply? no.
did i know that the beautiful love i had for my young husband would sometimes look a little bit ugly? no.
did i ever believe that i would at times, myself, be unlovable? no.
did i ever realize the sacrifice it takes each day to die to my own desires? no.

but, can i see how much more rick and i love each other today because of the hard stuff? YES!

a good marriage is one of God's greatest earthly gifts. with 23 years under our belt, you can be sure, we have had our share of challenges. but God has been unbelievably good in protecting our marriage and filling it, even in those hard times, with great blessing and beauty.

and today we celebrate!

we celebrate not only our "i do" ... but we celebrate what God has done. what God continues to do!

"though one may be overpowered, and two can defend themselves.
a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  ~ ecclesiastes 4:12

on a lighter note ... 
i found this poll online, thought you'd enjoy these thoughts on marriage:

 1. You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.   -  Derrick, age 8

1. Both don't want any more kids.  - Lori, age 8

1. I don't know which is better, but I'll tell you one thing; I'm never going to have sex with my wife. I don't want to be all grossed out.  - Theodore, age 8
2. It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.  -  Anita, age 9 (bless you child)

1. There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there.  -  Kelvin, age 8

and my personal favorite:

1. Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck.  - Ricky, age 10


Our Stories God's Glory said...

So agree with your post here. Without God I am sure I would not have made the vow I've kept (sometimes in His strength), and instead of I don't, I've been able to say, I will. It is HARD, but worth it to be married for the long haul. Bless you on your anniversary and many more. So delighted to meet you at She Speaks. (I wrote on how God rebuilt our marriage last week...) Bless you friend!

Simply LKJ said...

Happy Anniversary Jody! Mark and I celebrated our 25th in May, and I could not agree more with everything you've said. A friend shared something with me a few weeks back from a book she was reading, it said, "a marriage isn't perfect, it takes work because it is a union between two sinners." I had to laugh about the not being 21 yet, the puffy bangs and the dress sleeves...sounds all too familiar! LOL

Aus said...

Happy Anniversary McNatts!! Marie and I celebrated 30 years together on the 6th...and I'm pleased to tell you I couldn't agree with you more! Marriage is a CHOICE - and staying together is also a CHOICE...

All of your points are valid - the first one maybe most so - we live in a "disposable" world...if it breaks get a new one kind of mentality. But that doesn't work for us - most all of the things in our house are 30+ years old - broken things get fixed - and some of our most prized possessions are knocking on 100 years old...

That's not a brag - it's just evidence of our commitment to our past and using things from our past to shape our future...and hopefully passing that desire our choice for commitment onto our kids.

Keep on working - it's worth all the effort!

hugs - and great joy for you guys -

aus and co.

snekcip said...

Beautifully written! I loved it from START to FINISH. My husband and I celebrated 27yrs of marriage in March and I couldn't have said it better. Marriage is HARD WORK!!
Congrats to you and your husband on your 23rd wedding anniversary!!