After a two-month summer break from the blog, today seems an appropriate day to jump start posts for the fall. Forty-six years ago today, Cheryl and I entered into a marriage covenant. We made vows to one another that included the words, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, and for richer or poorer, the negative components seeming unlikely and unrealistic. At best, they seemed far in the future, posing no threat to our planned happiness.

In the early 1800s, Joseph Barth said, “Marriage is our last, best chance to grow up.” I am so glad Cheryl gave me this opportunity to grow up.

“Marriage is our last, best chance to grow up.” –Joseph Barth

When we married, I did not realize marriage was a teacher ceremoniously invited into my life–a teacher who would instruct me in the sacrificial nature of love and teach me about masculinity, femininity, and marriage as described in Ephesians 5. More times than I can count, God has used my relationship with Cheryl for my maturing and sanctification.

As a young man, I remember sincerely wanting to be everything for her — all she needed me to be. Her prince on a steed. This was not a difficult task, for marriage was easy then. We enjoyed going home from college to visit our parents and our younger siblings. Most weekends were spent out with friends, enjoying great live music at the Family Dog and the Bar Ditch. We purchased the book, How to Eat on Less Than $5 a Day  and ate well. Life was easy and uncomplicated. No denying ourselves anything because we both had good paying jobs on campus. I made $1.35 an hour at the vet school and Cheryl made $1.25 at the Colvin PE Center. How could life be any better?

Soon enough, there were many opportunities to learn. These usually came in the form of pop quizzes–tests I was not prepared for. Often, when husbands are asked what they have learned from marriage, responses may include the following true and practical suggestions:

  • Be a good listener.
  • Don’t try to fix everything.
  • Plan regular date nights.
  • Seek to understand, not to be understood.
  • Compliment her often.
  • Send flowers for no reason.

God uses anniversaries and celebrations to mark, recall, and remind us of significant events in our lives. This August, I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on lessons learned through our marriage. The list was long, but was reduced down to these five having the greatest impact on orienting me as God teaches me how to love my wife.

Here are my top five:

  1. Our marriage is not just about us.

When we were first married, it was all about having fun together. Then, God began to move us from self-focus to others, to reveal how He intended to use us in His important work. God puts two people together with gifts that complete one another so they might be effective in life and ministry.

  1. My wife brings gifts (qualities) I need and do not have.

As a young husband, I wanted to be complete and have answers for everything. Her superhero. Over time, I learned to value her gifts and receive them.

  1. Marriage is not perfectible.

Nothing this side of heaven is perfectible.

  1. What I see in my wife is a response to who I am and the way I treat her.

My words, the way I speak, how tender, kind, and patient I am–or, how I am not– is reflected back to me by her. Although a husband may think he can “rule over” his wife, she is designed by God to only respond to what she feels as love—his tenderness, kindness, and thoughtfulness.

  1. Our actions and attitudes follow our inner thoughts.

In many of his epistles, the apostle Paul emphasizes the need to think rightly in order to produce right actions. If I check and redirect my thoughts about my wife, loving actions will follow.

In these past 46 years, I have seen how God has used my relationship with Cheryl for my maturing and sanctification. We began our marriage thinking it was all about love … love drew us together … love will preserve us … love will get us through … we will be fine because we love each other… you get the point. But, we had these thoughts before we had sailed the seas (and the occasional storms) of decades of marriage.

This teacher we call marriage has brought us to a point of growing up into love.

“To love is to desire, to plan for, and act for the ultimate good of the beloved.” –Francis Chan