by Kathy Johnston
Randi’s blog last week got me thinking about some numbers in my own life.
At 18 I married my high school sweetheart, Russ Ulrich, the father of my 3 boys. We were married 16 1⁄2 years when he died. I was a single mom for 2 years before I married my husband Jonathan Johnston. I’ve been married to Jonathan for 21 1⁄2 years. Total years married years is 38. I have 7 beautiful grandchildren! By the time Sophie gets married in August, she will be 19 and I will have had children living in my house for 38 years. But there’s a big change coming because in 82 days my youngest child, Sophie, will be married to Evan Tucker.
I know 82 days is going to tick by very fast. I have so many thoughts whirling about in my head concerning marriage that I want her to know. I want Sophie to go into marriage with her eyes wide open. I want her to know what real marriage should look like, not the rose-colored, self-centered, romanticized version of marriage portrayed in movies, sitcoms, and romance novels.
Here are some things I want to say to my daughter before she says “I do”:
Your marriage is sacred. It’s a sacrament which indicates an indissolubility. It refers to permanency and a covenant that can’t be taken apart. What a beautiful picture! When you and Evan say, “I do”, it creates something that can’t be dissolved. Just like the covenant that Christ has made with us. Our marriages are supposed to portray that message to the world!
There’s a reason why Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that the wife is to respect and submit to her husband and why it’s so important for a husband to love his wife and give himself up for her: because it’s about Jesus…not us! When you become one with your husband, your marriage is supposed to be a reflection of Christ and the church. It’s supposed to be a picture of what Christ has done for you!
Obviously, you can see why Satan is going to target your marriage! He hates God and he hates anyone or anything that portrays the beauty of the gospel message. Beware of Satan’s sly ways of getting your focus off of Christ. He will not want you to see Jesus as the fulfiller of all your needs. He will whisper lies to you, telling you that you should expect and demand that Evan fulfill all your needs. Sophie, don’t look to Evan for something that only God can provide! Put all your hope in Christ and not in Evan, then all the little extra things Evan does for you will be an added bonus, not something that you demanded from him.
Contrary to what Satan and Hollywood would have you believe, your marriage shouldn’t be about your happiness or your needs being met. Your marriage is not about you! It’s not about making you happy, it’s about making you holy! It’s about God setting you apart for a specific purpose. His purpose, not yours. He wants to use your marriage to portray his love for his people to the world around you.
The measure of a good marriage isn’t whether your husband brings you flowers, rubs your feet, or whisks you away for a romantic weekend. It’s NICE when those things happen and I believe if we live submitted to the Holy Spirit we will WANT to do those things for our spouses, but that shouldn’t be our expectations or demands. Your goal should be that God is glorified by your marriage and that the people around you will see something different in your marriage because of your love, respect, and commitment to each other even when things are hard or painful.
I know it’s hard to imagine now, but there will be days when Evan doesn’t make you feel special, or you two will get angry at each other. Trust me, it’s going to happen. Is that bad? No! God will use those trials you go through to refine you if you will let Him. And when you two work through those things and stick it out, God will be glorified. People will notice. And this will allow the world to see a beautiful picture of God’s amazing love for His people through the lens of your marriage.
Sophie, you know the difficult things your dad and I have worked through in the last couple of years. But our marriage is so much more than just how we feel. It’s about Jesus and the honor of His name. It’s about a picture of a world that was so far separated from God, with no hope of ever being reconciled and of a rescuer who came and made a way! If one person can see the love and work of God in our marriage, then it’s worth any difficulty, no matter how hard or painful the task. How could we not honor our covenant of marriage after all He has done for us? How could we preach the ministry of reconciliation and at the same time be looking for dissolution?
My prayer for you and Evan is that you will go into your marriage with the ultimate goal of portraying the amazing good news of Jesus to those around you. My hope is that your love and commitment to God first, then each other, will be a picture of the sacrificial and selfless love that the Father has for His children. That when trials come and you get frustrated with each other and the world says “just move on,” you will both hold tight to Him and to each other and allow the beauty of Christ’s work in you be a picture to the world of the amazing love of a Creator God for his bride the Church. And guess what Sophie? You and Evan get to preach the gospel by your marriage….in 82 more days!