Things you learn in your first year of marriage:
Roll with the punches.
Protect connection and rest above all other things, let no circumstance or fear convince you it matters more than the person by your side.
Celebrate and delight in what God has done -- even when it rains on your wedding day or football games delay your guests; even if your eye mysteriously swells up and bathrooms break.
This actually happened and it’s not what I remember when I look back to our wedding day. What I remember instead:
The hushed, pregnant pause as we said our vows, the feeling of God’s presence filling a small stone chapel, tears we both cried as our pastors read a poem I am penned two years before about a wedding day I didn’t even know would come.
Time did not exist. We had promised to notice and savor moments, and we did. I felt as though all of heaven surrounded us, cheered us, gave witness to the promises at hand. We danced into the night and cried joyful tears and no one cared about a broken toilet or two, in the end.
That stuff is just a joke to be told later, shared over meals with future children huddled around the table of our future house. They will grow up knowing they are people of joy that can withstand. We did not build a marriage upon the disappointment of a rainy day. We built it on unshakeable joy.
After the wedding day, celebrate every milestone, small or large -- no matter what the budget looks like or if one of you gets sick and you have to pack an entire separate bag of cold remedies for your anniversary night away. This also actually happened, too, but what I’ll remember most:
Hearing my husband speak his vows to me — again,
feeling the presence of God — again,
letting those promises wash over me — again,
And the refreshment that came when we set aside the time and space to acknowledge God’s goodness and our own exponential growth. We already learned to roll with the punches, our joy not hinged upon circumstance.
In all moments: Choose not to wait for the blessing to come, but to appreciate the blessing that is — while keeping expectations open and high. Write the romance story you want to have and watch God make it even better. We get to choose what love looks like when it pours out of us. (And out of the overflow of our hearts something will, always, pour out.)
Seek wisdom, but then go full force ahead. You will do the very best you can and sometimes you will still find yourself apologizing profusely and asking for forgiveness because you both know your best was not enough. Sometimes you will know there is a better choice and you won’t choose it because you’re angry and have to apologize all the same. I still do this. But I am learning, every day, that it’s okay to have to learn — to apologize profusely and ask for forgiveness often. Make your marriage a safe space to learn, not a place to perform.
Be fearless and love hard and don't take the bait that you're ever on opposite sides of the table. We sit side by side and unite against the common enemy: not each other, but divisiveness, control, and fear.
Marriage is the safest place God has made for you to be broken and ugly. Be broken and ugly. Don't hold it back. Let yourself experience the joy and acceptance of being your worst and being given love and forgiveness anyways. Don’t rob yourself of learning the great extent of God’s own love for you so that you can pretend to keep it together. The sooner you mess up and hurt someone the sooner you will experience God’s grace — and the stronger you both willget to be as you rebuild your connection with God’s help and kindness.
If you want great sex, build safety. Focus less on sex and more on being vulnerable. Vulnerability is sexy. Being vulnerable means dealing with your junk and being honest with one another— not just once or when things boil over, but every day. Every time you mess up. Every time you’d rather walk out then stay and talk it out. All of us have a tiny voice inside threatening that they will leave if they find out just how messed up we are. That voice is shame and it is the enemy of your sex life. The antidote is vulnerability.
Vulnerability builds trust, trust creates safety and great sex can only come out of a place where everyone involved feels safe. Figure out what “safe” means to one another and commit to building that place, first. The rest of it will come more easily when insecurity, fear, and performance aren’t around.
Marriage unlocks pieces of your identity and destiny you did not know existed. There is a special part of your story on earth that will not be revealed to you until you are married. It’s not antiquated or weak or sexist to believe this.
And one of the hardest lessons: Receive love when you don't think you deserve it. Let yourself be broken over and over again by the undeserved waves of love that will surely come at you from the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with. This is like life with God, too — letting him dismantle every lie you ever learned that built a block between you and his everlasting love. Your spouse will reveal to you new facets of God’s heart for you — this is not codependence, to discover more of the Lord through your greatest earthly friend. It will go both ways — some days a revelation of God will soften you towards your spouse; others, a revelation from an experience with your spouse will point you back to the truth of God.
And one thing I could not understand before I became a follower of Jesus, a truth that before would make my skin crawl and felt strange: it is possible to love the Lord your God with all of your heart before all things, and also passionately, fiercely, joyfully love a spouse with all of it, too. The more I learned to love the one, the more I could love the other. The more I surrendered to love and hope in my relationship with one, the more love and hope I experienced in the other. I think God made it this way on purpose, and it is also why a spouse is so much different than any other earthly relationship you will ever have. It is more holy, more divine, more able to connect you to spiritual truths.
Lastly: Decide the marriage you want and live it, every day, even when you're tired or mad or don't feel up to the task. It’s worth it.