Forty-seven years ago this coming Monday, Connie and I were married in Bridgeton, New Jersey at the Berachah Bible Baptist Church. My Dad performed the ceremony and Connie's pastor gave the charge. Since that time I've officiated at many wedding ceremonies and attended countless others. There have been a lot of lessons learned in those years, but let me mention just a few:
#1 Marriage is a sacred and holy institution.
We call marriage "holy wedlock." It belongs to God and He instituted marriage and owns it. It's a permanent union between a man and a woman and is not to be changed, altered or redefined.
For it to be successful we need to follow His advice and avail ourselves to His power and strength.
#2 God is not going to force a great marriage on you. The choice is yours.
God gives to His people the choice to obey or disobey and we make decisions every day of our lives. Husbands and wives choose each day how their waking hours will be lived. Ideally, we who are married choose each other, we choose to honor our vows, and we choose to humble ourselves before the living God and to serve Him.
Marriage is about making wise choices every day of our lives.
#3 Marriage is not about love it's about commitment.
Don't get me wrong. Love is an important element of a good and lasting marriage. But what makes a marriage last is commitment. The reality is that we can just as easily "fall out" of love as we can "fall in" love. In a marriage ceremony for his niece, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "Love will not sustain your marriage; but marriage will sustain your love."
Marriage is about commitment.
#4 Struggles and hardships are part of God's plan in every marriage.
Asking God for a stress free life and marriage is something God never promised. James says that "the trying of your faith works patience..." (James 1:3). Connie and I learned a long time ago to abandon the notion that we would never have difficulties and challenges. What's more, struggles are not a sign that you married the wrong person. Problems are not par for the course; they are the course. God allows those challenges to make us stronger and better.
Marriage is about facing obstacles together and growing stronger.
# 5 Rule out the divorce option from the beginning.
Someone has said divorce is like an escape hatch on a submarine: If you plan to descend into matrimonial waters, you'd better close it or you are sunk before you start.
As long as divorce remains an option in one's thinking, the marriage is never secure. Far better to say: "We're going to stay in this marriage and make it work or die trying."
Divorce should never enter our minds.
#6 Renew your vows daily.
At the time Connie and I got married, I had this brilliant idea that we should memorize our vows - which we did. Dad had them in his notes in case we had a "brain freeze." But, I still to this day can recite our vows and while I have not repeated the official vows of marriage daily I have renewed my commitment every day.
Marriage is about choosing each other every day of our lives.
#7 Make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life and head of your marriage.
Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Billy Graham once said, "Many wives expect their husbands to be to them what only Jesus Christ can be." It works for husbands too.
Put your eyes and hopes and dreams on the Lord Jesus Christ, the only One capable of meeting your needs.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.