If you have ever watched the old television show, “Hogan’s Heroes”, you will remember Sargent Schwartz often declaring in his thick German accent: “I know nothing! Absolutely nothing!”
Sometimes, I can identify with him in that statement, especially in regards to marriage!
Just when I think I have all the answers for me, my hub and our marriage perfectly figured out, I am humbled to realize that I don’t. I am in a life long process of learning.
I think often of Ephesians chapter 5 and the mystery of marriage. I do believe that it is a union that is an unending journey of exploring and uncovering unchartered territory.
Although I would agree that many have paved the way, there are no two marriages that are exactly the same because there are no two people who are. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14).
So here are a few things that I do know and I believe are the most important lessons I have learned about marriage.
Some friends recently stated that the verse that has carried their marriage through is “Love covers a multitude of sins”. 1 Peter 4:8 What a thought!
This doesn’t mean that we can deliberately go around sinning against each other and expect our spouse to look the other way. Obviously, we need to deal with our sins against each other.
However, because we are not perfect but struggle with sin, I can testify that daily, I am sinning against my spouse to one degree or the other and him against me.
Imagine then, if I dug them all up, keeping a constant list going. “He said that he would dump the trash before he left and he forgot. Wretched liar he is!” “He didn’t kiss me goodbye this morning. He is not loving”, etc. etc.
We can find many faults throughout the day if we choose to look for them.
By all means, if one’s spouse is abusive, unfaithful or any of these huge issues, then these hard things need confronted and help must be sought out! However, there are so many little things here and there that just do not matter.
A couple of scriptures come to mind but one is the simple golden rule:
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12.
I certainly would not want my husband to be keeping score of all the little things I do to wrong him throughout the day or week! I cannot imagine how exhausting that would be.
Despite the overplay and weariness of hearing this song from the movie “Frozen”, Elsa singing “Let it go, let it go”, is not such a bad melody to keep in mind, is it?
As far as keeping lists goes, I would be totally amiss to not point out that 1 Corinthians 13, explicitly spells out that love does not keep a ‘record of wrongs.’ (vs. 5). We wouldn’t have enough paper for all of those little things anyway, would we?
I read an interesting article the other day that stated the number one destroyer of marriages is ‘hardness of heart.’
I had to think about that because I know people who loved their spouse but spouse had an affair, was abusive etc. However, yes, the spouse having an affair or being abusive, somewhere along the way hardened their heart to loving their spouse and it ended the marriage.
But even without the big issues, we can begin little by little to harden the heart towards one another. We begin with sighs, moving on to rolling our eyes, sarcastic remarks, little digs and then….boom! There we are with a hardened heart. Respect is gone, love is waning and without checking ourselves, we can find the heart of flesh has turned to a heart of stone.
What happened to that light hearted day when we chose to commit our lives to each other amidst friends, family and great hopes for the future? When did we exchange it for this heavy heap of baggage that we haul around too big for us to carry?
When I stood there on that covenant making day before God and man to recite vows, I needed to keep in mind that indeed one of us was God and two of us were human!
My husband and marriage fill many empty places in my life but neither one is a replacement for my own personal relationship with my Savior. Rick cannot fill them all, nor should he. Neither can I fill all of his empty places. We are life partners here, but my husband is not the life giver.
In being his partner, I am on mission with him to become all that our God has called us to be. Our marriage is not to be a constant enmeshment of romance with each other but is to be an outward giving of ourselves to others as well.
My desires and wishes as a wife do not automatically trump the needs of others. If I think that our marriage means my husband is to serve me above all others at all times or I him, I have missed that we are accountable to other relationships as well.
As a pastor, if there is a death in our congregation or a crisis, he needs to be there whether he and I have a date night scheduled or not. In May, we had a family gathering scheduled with our kids but his father needed heart surgery and fun with our kids could not be a priority over being with his parents during this time. As well, He has often foregone time with me or even finances when he has seen that I needed to be elsewhere to help a kid, a parent or a friend.
We work together in prioritizing marriage, family, others in light of living out the gospel.
Marriage does not automatically insure that we see life the same way. I have learned that if two people are exactly alike then one of them is not needed, so this is a good thing.
I do not always agree with my husband, nor he I on many different issues. We can decide whether this will divide us or make us more balanced.
The fact however, that we don’t always agree does not undermine that we have each other’s back and we are safe with each other. I know my husbands greatest weaknesses and he knows mine. We will not use that knowledge to harm each other nor to share it with those who would use it as ammunition for their arsenal or any other attempt to tear one of us down.
We strive to work through our obstacles and problems on our knees and with clear communication. At times when we have been stuck on resolving an issue, we share with those trustworthy ones who know us the best and love us the most. Every married couple needs those sort of friends and we could not go through life without their support, prayers and wisdom.
As spouses we can get very controlling of one another because marriage is so intimate and personal. It is exceedingly freeing for me to know that I will stand alone before God and give an account for my life and not my husbands! I will answer for how I treated him and he will answer for how he treated me, yet I am not responsible for his actions nor is he for mine. (Romans 14:12)
I learned long ago that if people had a complaint about my husband that I didn’t have to own it but rather have them take it up with him. Whether this be family, friends or church, I am not his God, his conscience or his mother. I am his helper and covenant partner not the one responsible to mediate all of the issues.
At times, we may need to mediate, especially with our children, depending on the situation but only as a helper and not a fixer.
To forget this can lead us to be like the speaker in the humorous video “The Cinderella Syndrome”. In it, the wife stated that when she got married and her husband was standing at the front by the altar, she walked towards him thinking smugly to herself, “I’ll alter you!”
It is truly a mystery that marriage makes us one, yet I am not him and he is not me. We are a reflection of Christ and the church and oh heavens, I have not the depth of understanding to even grasp all of what that means but I will encourage you to take a stab at studying it for yourself if you like!
Anyway, I have learned more than I thought, but less than I would like, and I continue on growing and learning with each new anniversary.
All I can say is that as the years have gone by, I know him more, know myself more and the love gets richer, deeper and more of a gift than I could ever have imagined.
And I guess, for now, that is all I need to know.