April 16, 2014
Some of you reading this are married and some of you not. Of those who are married, some of you are quite happy and others may wonder if this is all it’s cracked up to be. Of those who are or have been married, if you had the opportunity to speak to a young couple considering this long term relationship, what would you say? Do you have any words of advice about things at which they should work hard? Or words about things they should avoid? Seriously, what would you tell them… again assuming they were willing to listen.
My experience with doing pre-marital counseling for young couple is that they frankly don’t really have the life experience to “get” the things being said to them. And truthfully many of the elements of marriage are not understandable until you are there. I was no different.
Two weeks ago the pastor who married Ellen and I over 39 years ago died. He was a great man. He was loved by people all across the theological spectrum which is saying something. Often liberals and conservatives in the church have little respect or appreciation for one another, not unlike politics. I remember some of the things he said to Ellen and I as we sat in his office all those years ago.
First, he required 6 counseling sessions before he would perform a wedding. Since I was in the military and had not been home for 18 months that was difficult. Especially given the fact that I only got home 3 days before the wedding. That was fine with him it just meant we met with him twice a day for 3 days. I’m not sure why we couldn’t string two hours together on three separate days but he didn’t do it that way so Ellen and I drove into and out of Oakland twice a day for those sessions.
I was only 20 years old and a little more than intimidated by this “Holy man.” At one point he asked me why I wanted to marry Ellen. I told him that “I loved her.” His reply: “That’s not good enough.” I panicked thinking, “That’s not the right answer?!?!” He then asked me a string of questions. “Do you enjoy being together?” “Yes.” “Do you enjoy similar activities?” “Yes.” “Does she make you better than you make yourself?” “Double yes.” “Well” he said, “That’s why you want to marry her.” He was right.
I’ll tell you one thing that I mention to young couples. I tell them that marriage is surely about “love” but it depends on how one defines that term. One of the words used for “love” in the New Testament means a “self-sacrificial” kind of love. A love where we are willing to set aside our own desires so that we might serve and care for another. In marriage it’s a husband and wife both sacrificing for the other. I then go on to say, “My generation knows little of sacrifice, and yours (to a young couple) knows less. You better learn quickly if you don’t want to become part of the 50% who don’t make it.”
Tragically we too often confuse lust, infatuation, fascination and maybe even obsession with love. They are not. And too many young couples have gone down the road to disaster because of that mistake. And truth be told… I know folks who had a wedding years ago but never had a marriage. They live together, have children together, exist in the same house… but “love”?? One wonders.
How do we learn the art of sacrifice when so few of us have had to experience it? I don’t really know. I just know that going into a marriage wanting to be pleased… wanting what I want… expecting the other to capitulate to my needs is indeed a formula for disaster. When you think about the concept of love, what does it mean to you? And does “sacrifice” factor in?
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Have a blessed Holy Week.