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when sinners say “I do”

February 17, 2009

I was finishing up last week’s sermon at Starbucks on Saturday and saw this couple enjoying Valentine’s Day...



I stared at them like they were exhibits at the zoo.  They walked their 70-yr-old bodies into Starbucks arm-in-arm (maybe out of necessity), strained their eyes to see the menu, teetered over to their table, and sat and talked the entire time I was there.  And I sat and wondered the entire time I was there, “What does it take to have a marriage that ends up like that at 70?”

At three and a half years, Jana and I are practically newlyweds but we’re learning from the school of hard knocks.  Here’s a few things I’ve learned about marriage in our first 3 years…

1) Marriage is a lot more fun when you realize hard times are inevitable.  It’s really discouraging and frustrating to think something is going to be a 3 on the difficulty scale and then find out it’s a 6.  But if you’re prepared for it to be a 10 on the difficulty scale and find out it’s a 6, you’re blown away with excitement.  From experience, marriage is a lot harder if your vision of what it’s supposed to be like is based on romantic comedies and Disney movies.  The only people that think marriage is easy are engaged couples.  Jana and I have a TON of fun together, but there are some weeks (and sometimes months!) when it feels like every comment is about to be a fight and both of us are determined to win, dangit!  When two sinners live together, bad things are going to happen.  Don’t let hard times make you think your marriage is falling apart.  All that means is that you’re both sinners. 

2) Spending time as a couple seeking and talking about Christ and what He’s doing in your life is supernaturally powerful.  Neither of us can explain it, but Jana and I can be at each other’s throats all week, feel a thousand miles apart, sit down and spend 20 minutes reading Scripture together, talking about it, and praying for each other, and the clouds seem to part.  Like everybody else, I struggle to give Jana the quality time she needs.  Jana tells me that 20 minutes of time in Scripture together “fills her up” like 2 hrs of quality time doing anything else.  Seriously, if you’re having a hard time in marriage right now, try reading one paragraph of The Bible together before bed, talk about it for 5 or 10 minutes, and then pray for each other.

3) Commit yourself to finding out what Scripture says about how marriage is supposed to work and be willing to do whatever it takes to obey.  Being in ministry even just for a few years, I’ve talked to dozens of couples going through hard times in their marriages.  I’ve talked to 2 couples who ended up getting divorces.  The difference between the couples that stayed together (and were very glad they did) and the couples that didn’t had NOTHING to do with how bad the struggles were.  Some of the couples that stayed together had MUCH worse things going on than the ones that divorced.  The only difference was that the couples who stayed together saw what the Bible said about marriage and said, “I’ll do that no matter how hard it is” and the couples that divorced said, “I know what it says, but I will not do that for him/her.”

Everybody struggles and everybody learns.  Today’s a good day to help the rest of us.  What is the marriage tip you’d share with everyone from your time as a couple?



16 Comments leave one →
  1. Shi permalink
    February 17, 2009 10:33 pm

    Communication is key!!!! We’re still new to this,(it will be one year on the 23rd!!!!) so we are still figuring each other and learning to support no matter what and that marriage is about selflessness and giving to the other person. I try to always remember that after Christ, my first commitment is to my husband and putting his needs first. When I do that, (and he does the same for me) our home is a very happy place to be! 🙂 I look forward to hearing advice from those who have been doing this a lot longer than we have…..

  2. February 17, 2009 11:55 pm

    Oh my goodness I love old couples! I think they are the most precious inspiring things ever!! Here is my best story:

    While walking into a Chik-Fil-A with my mom a few years back, there was an older couple walking out at the same time. I opened the door for the older lady and continued to hold the door for the older man (who was, by the way, wonderfully precious). He stopped for a second, looking very confused; he was contemplating whether or not he should grab the door and hold it open for me and my mom, being as how we are ladies. I simply smiled at him and he smiled back, shrugging his shoulders. As we walked out, he turned to his wife and said, “Honey, we know we’re getting old together when the pretty young ladies start holding the door open for me instead of the other way around.”

    And as for a marriage tip…hmmm… sure to share lots of laughter with each other 🙂

  3. Cassie permalink
    February 18, 2009 1:12 am

    I think that a lot of times married Christians try to push single friends into marriage. We tell them that marriage is wonderful and great and all pie in the sky type stuff and yes, it is amazing, but there are going to be struggles. We’re not doing them any type of service by setting them up with unrealistic expectations. Maybe it’s along the same line of always saying you’re fine or good when a friend asks, even though you’re not.

    My advice would be to keep God in the center of your relationship and to always try to put each other before yourself.

  4. Becky permalink
    February 18, 2009 1:36 am

    I agree with all the previous advice, most importantly keeping Christ at the center of the relationship. Also, realize quickly that your way isn’t the only correct way to do things. Pray before speaking with your spouse about something that upsets you…I’ve found that when I do, I usually end up realizing the problem is more with me than him. Laugh together often and just have some fun. Be willing to try new things ~ I never thought I’d enjoy drag racing, camping, and fishing but I do!!

    One of the biggest things I had to learn was to ask for help and not just expect Jimmy to see it on his own. We think differently and I now know that if I ask nicely (not drop loud, rude hints) he is more than willing to do what he can to help me with anything I need.

    Wow, 14 years of marriage in May. They’ve flown by and I think he’s a keeper even more so now than I did back then!

  5. brian permalink
    February 18, 2009 3:05 am

    When married couples read scripture together and pray together the odds of them getting a divorce is 1/1051. This seems to be the best way to stay married.

    Number one marriage tip, die to self!

  6. Sue permalink
    February 18, 2009 7:43 am

    Most of what I know about marriage I learned from my grandparents. They were married for 63 years and were wonderful examples of what a Christian marriage should be. One time my sister asked Gramma how they stayed married for so long and she said “take it one day at a time, don’t look 50 years down the road.” My mom said that she and dad lived each day so at the end of it they had no regrets. (They were married 30 years when dad died.)

    Keep Christ at the center of your marriage, have fun together, don’t concentrate on the kids to the extent that you forget about your spouse – he/she will still be there when the kids are out of the house.

    And Shi – you and Alan have our original wedding day. in fact, Steve’s wedding band has 2/23 engraved in it. We moved our day up to the very romantic day of Ground Hog day after I had already purchsed his ring.

  7. February 18, 2009 8:46 am

    1. Have a short memory – Nothing good comes from remembering the things argued about or, in your eyes, your spouce fell short on.
    2. Be friends and treat them like one! – Too often we are more forgiving, gracious, willing to help… our friends than our spouce.
    3. Don’t expect them to be what you want but love them for who they are.
    4. Value them and chereish them. – I got this advice from my bride and once I began to own it and live it our relationship has never been the same. The best advice I ever received and it was from her.

    Thanks Susan for being patient with me. We are in our best years and want to be the couple in Josh’s story one day! I am not that old yet!!!

  8. Tammy permalink
    February 18, 2009 10:21 am

    Something I know is helpful for me, is understanding that there is NO back door in marriage! You enter through the front door, and you need to give your spouse the key to that door. Knowing there’s only one way in, and someone else holds the key to that door really motivates a person to problem solve.

    Secondly, make your entire marriage about the other person. If you BOTH can make this commitment, then BOTH your needs will always be met. This is so VERY difficult, but when it happens, you both feel so loved, desired, wanted, needed, and you walk around with a real sense that you truly matter. In today’s society where it’s supposed to be all about “ME”, giving to someone else without the attached string of “what’s in it for me”, is so refreshing to the “giver” and the “receiver”.

  9. Mary Bea permalink
    February 18, 2009 10:23 am

    I think the only thing I can add to the really meaningful advice already given is…marry someone who cheers for the same SEC team you do…or at least outside of the conference…no sense in living in a house divided!! 😉

  10. Sue permalink
    February 18, 2009 11:41 am

    Mary Bea – everything always comes back to the SEC, doesn’t it? Gotta love it!

    P.S. I’m still waiting for my Valentine SEC season tickets (but the Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream was delicious!).

  11. josh permalink
    February 18, 2009 11:56 am

    @Sue – “Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream”… you have to explain this to us. Phish Food!?!?

  12. Sue permalink
    February 18, 2009 2:44 pm

    It’s chocolate ice cream w/ chunks of chocolate and marshmallow creme! It’s either that or New York Super Fudge Chunk.. Give it a try!

  13. Mary Bea permalink
    February 18, 2009 3:05 pm

    Sorry Sue, I couldn’t resist…everyone else had said all the things I would have said so instead I went there!

  14. Jana Howerton permalink
    February 18, 2009 3:07 pm

    There were a lot of great tips posted! One I’d like to add is, try to out-serve one another. There is so much more joy to be found in marriage when you are focused on how you can serve your spouse rather than what they can be doing for you!

  15. February 18, 2009 5:26 pm

    Ditto on all the above plus… When we marry we are not who we will be 50 years down the road (thank goodness!) so we need to …
    – be willing to listen and grow, even when it hurts.
    – be flexible and teachable.
    – be humbly and tenderly honest.
    – be always prayerful and hopeful…. never giving up!
    – risk to love at all cost!
    – be willing to do what it takes (counselling if needed)
    – always be grace giving (because that’s who Jesus is and
    because you will be grace NEEDING too)

    I’ve been blessed with my sweet, crazy, Lance, for 22 years now and it honestly gets better every day (not saying all days have been a piece of cake ’cause I’ve had a lot of growing to do). But on those hard days we try to remember that the great days make the hard days worth it. It took me a while to realize that Lance was not supposed to meet my every need (physical, emotional…) – that is God’s place in my life. And God should always be in that #1 position in my life allowing every other relationship to be a healthy, fulfilling balance. Our love for each other has grown and changed over 22 years to be so much more than either of us could have ever thought or dreamed on our wedding day. I love you, Lance.

  16. shelley permalink
    February 21, 2009 2:09 am

    So much wisdom already posted, esp sharing B&J’s ice cream! I would definitely say that, (besides spending time working on spiritual unity via the Word & worship) placing solid boundaries around your union is vital to a strong and lasting marriage. I think that our society (media, our culture) really “casualizes” male/female relationships, and the danger of that is seen in tragically high divorce & infidelity rates. When I am married to one man, I really have no need for close friendships with any other men. That may seem old-fashioned, but so are 50 or 60yr wedding anniversaries, right?

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