[notice]A monthly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
21 April 2001 was the day I got married to my beloved sweetheart!!!!!!!The moment the pastor pronounced us as husband and wife something shifted in our relationship. From that moment I was more than his friend I was his helpmeet. He was more than my best friend he was my priest and the head of our marriage. So many of us when we get married we do so much to prepare for the wedding day. We choose the colour; the bridesmaids; rings; THE DRESS; hairstyle, etc. All these can take away from the significance of the day, the sacredness of the vows; the spiritual aspect of the event.
Some can obsess about how the day has to be “perfect”. They will spend months preparing for their wedding day and not spare a thought about what kind of marriage they want. It has been said that people do not truly know each other until they get married. I was friends with Rest (my husband), for many years before I became his wife but I can honestly say I never truly knew him until I shared a living space with him. Many marriages these days do not even make it past the first year. It takes more than the preparations of the wedding to make a marriage work. A wedding and a marriage are two completely different things. So many young girls dream of their wedding day and do not think about the kind of wife they want to be or the kind of man they want as a husband.
With so many fairy tale stories that young girls are exposed to, they dream of their prince charming and no one cares to tell them that the happily ever after found in fairy tales does not quite happen in real life. The fairytale is a work in progress that one commits to daily.
This coming week at church the Marriage and Family Life department is hosting a mass wedding. It is an opportunity for us who are married to renew our vows to our spouses. Rest and I say our vows to each other every year to remind ourselves of our commitment to each other and to pledge once again before God our faithfulness to our love and our marriage. There is something about sharing this moment with other couples though. This you will not find when it is just a private affair. The couples who will renew their vows have been married for many years. The majority of us have been married for more than ten years and we are still choosing to say “I do” to the husband and the wife of our youth. When we said our marriage vows for the very first time most of us did not really know the reality of marriage and what it means to be there “for better or worse” We did not know the worse. We did not know what it would mean to care for someone and to be there for them when they are sick. We did not know how it would be to face financial struggles TOGETHER and to remain loyal through the storms of life. We did not know what it means to love in all seasons of life.
When I got married I was in my early twenties and in love. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with the man who was to lift my veil. I was willing to leave my family and my life in Port Elizabeth to be with the one I love. Although I read many books and indeed was marrying my best friend, a man I had known as a friend for a least four years, nothing could have prepared me for the reality of being a wife. I went from thinking only of my life to thinking of “us”. The reality that there was an “us” presented its own unique challenges, one of which was the fact that as much as I loved my husband and loved spending time with him , there were times that I wanted to be alone to take a walk, read a book or just have my own quiet time . Things that I had taken for granted when I was a single woman but things that my new husband took as rejection every time I said I wanted to be alone. The fact was that I had grown up practically as an only child. Although we were three at home there is a 13 year age gap between me and my sister. By the time I was in my teens I was “an only child”. My siblings had grown and were establishing their own lives. I was used to having my own room and being by myself.
My husband on the other hand grew up in a household of a family of seven children where there were always people around him. He had to share his time and space with others. To this day he can be working on a document and concentrate on it while our young kids are running around making a noise. I, on the other need peace and quiet. In the first few months of our marriage this presented a problem as I could not understand why we had to do things together and be together ALL THE TIME. He didn’t understand my need to be alone and thought that I was having second thoughts about being married. We had to have long chats about this to a point where we both explained where we were coming from. Now I enjoy my walks and reading my books without feeling guilty because he has embraced this aspect of me.
As the mass wedding approaches I am honoured to be organising it for these precious couples. Unlike the first time we all said our vows this time around we know exactly what saying those vows mean. We have all faced moments in our married life when our marriages were shaken. We were all challenged and some were tempted to end it all and seek for greener pastures but chose to stay and work through it. It has been said that marriage can be hell or heaven on earth. I have found this to be true. It can be both, depending on how you view marriage and your choices. The Bible says that Jesus is the way to heaven. He is the Way; the Truth and the Life. We have found that when we honour Christ and when He is at the centre of our marriage then we have a “Heaven on Earth” kind of marriage. When we choose the flesh though, and there have been many times when we have not submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ, we have had a hell on earth kind of marriage — the kind where there is screaming and shouting, where you are arguing about everything. When you make decisions based on what the world says and what the flesh wants to do, you forget to be pleasing to the Master when it comes to your marriage.
I have had to learn many lessons during my 12 (13 years in April) of marriage. These are the values that have enabled my marriage to survive the storms and which will continue to be a shield against the storms of life if my husband and I continue to uphold them:
1. Prayer. We are a couple and family that believe in the power of prayer. There is a shift in your attitude towards someone when you are praying for them. There is a certain tenderness and care that envelopes your heart when you lift someone up in prayer. This becomes a much needed value to practice…praying for your spouse as it evokes feelings of deep love as you cry to the Father to be there for your beloved.
2. Honesty. This is a pillar of a healthy marriage. You cannot afford to have your spouse question everything you say and not trusting it. When you honour him this will becomes a vital part of your relationship. You have to be willing to be naked to your spouse in all things and to trust him at your most vulnerable…
3. Oneness. Believe that you are in this together. Have a shared vision for your family because a house divided will not stand. It pains me to see that a spirit of competiveness has entered marriages these days. The Bible says that a man shall leave his mother and father and be united to his wife and the two shall become one.
4. Forgiveness. There will be many things that might irritate you about your spouse. Times where you might be betrayed. When you might not understand how your spouse can possibly do what he did. Even though it is not always easy, we are called to forgive. Forgiveness not only releases people who desperately need the forgiveness but it releases the one who forgives and renews your love for one another.
5. Trustworthiness. In the olden days people used to hold honour in such high regard. The saying “A man’s word is his bond” was an expected quality in relationships. In marriage you need to be dependable; to honour your word. If you say you are going to do something, do it when you say you will do it and apologise and communicate if you cannot.
6. Fun and Laughter. With the responsibilities and realities that come with being married so many couples do not focus on this very important aspect of marriage. They forget to have fun together. They forget to laugh together and to enjoy doing things together. They get so overwhelmed with fulfilling the roles of “husband” and “wife” and the responsibilities of motherhood and fatherhood that they forget that what defined their relationship in the beginning was the love between a man and a woman and in more cases than not they realised that they loved the other because of the fun times they shared. Make having fun and laughing together a key priority in your marriage.
7. Kindness and Gentleness. People in general have learnt to be so cruel to each other. Gentleness is often associated with weakness and in this “macho obsessed” world people do not want to appear to be weak, resulting in cruel words and actions even to our spouses. Practice the art of being gentle towards each other.
8. Respect. All of us want to be respected. This want is greater in men — even the Bible mentions it in Ephesians 5:33 — However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Respect your spouse’s time and energy put in the marriage. Do not take her or him for granted. If you have to say thank you my love for… then please say so.
9. Protection. Protecting one another should be an obvious thing in marriage but more and more people are willing to not protect each other‘s honour. Do not just talk about anything about your spouse that should only be about the two of you. Sharing details of your sexual life is not protecting your marriage bed and is hugely disrespectful. People should not be able to say negative things about your spouse in your presence without you standing up for him or her. Protection is more than the expected physical protection when one is threatened physically. Protection extends to his or her emotional wellbeing as them. Protect each other’s hearts. Do not just say hurtful words to each other for the sake of winning an argument.
10. Love. I have written this last because it is the Glue that binds all the above values and pillars. Love when practiced; true love as explained in 1 Corinthians 13 will keep our marriages strong. This is the pillar that will see all couples through the storms of life. My husband often says; “like Christ, we ought to love even when it hurts”. That is true love – “love as Christ loved the church”.
Let us commit to loving our spouse and to be found still loving even when it makes no sense to do so. Let us commit to have a “Heaven on Earth” kind of marriage where we listen to the Master and to have Him at the Centre of our marriages.