May Madness continues! Day 2 of 31 Things to teach Your Kids: Teach them what a Christian marriage should look like.
I remember going to some kind of retreat in high school where I was asked to make a list of qualities that I wanted in my future husband. Years later I ran across that list and laughed at the mythical creature that I envisioned God was crafting for me. Strong, but sensitive. Commanding, yet gentle. With unending patience. Funny, but serious when I want him to be. A man of total integrity, grit, personality, warmth, someone who is always fun and who never gets angry or frustrated, whose first reaction in any situation is prayer, whose second reaction in any situation is putting his arms around me, who wants 10 kids, who has a disposition that will make me understand what it must have been like to hang out with Jesus Himself.
So many times I prayed that God would take some man out there and turn him into a perfect Christian who intuitively knew how to meet every single need I could ever have, like God is a sort of Fairy Godfather who is out to mold the ultimate man for me. I would present my list of demands to Him on a regular basis, with complete confidence that the mythical man I was praying for was the man I deserved.
Never did I have the thought that I might need to spend less time praying that God was crafting a perfect man for my future and more time praying that God would make me into a godly woman.
There is always something missing from the lists that you see on social media. The posts, with titles like, “To My Future Husband” or “What I Want in a Husband” are completely devoid of any admission that maybe, just maybe, we women aren’t the perfect marriage material either. We never stop to think that our future husband may be out there praying for some mythical creature to become his wife, and we don’t meet the criteria.
Women who are waiting, who are longing for marriage and companionship and who have visions of what it will be like, pray for your future husband. Do. Pray that God will protect his heart and mind. Pray that when he faces hardships he will turn to Christ and know Him more. Pray that God will be glorified in his life. But, don’t pray for perfection. Even in your prayers you are establishing expectations that aren’t real life. Pray for your future husband knowing that wherever he is, he is most definitely flawed, most definitely plagued by sin.
But, don’t forget to pray for yourself. Pray that God will grow you and stretch you and make you into a woman of great faith. One who is prepared to be yoked to another sinner saved by God’s grace, pulling your weight, being an instrument of sanctification in your marriage. Pray that God would give you spiritual eyes and that He would give you patience, a kind spirit, and a forgiving heart. Pray for God’s transforming work in your life, knowing that you, too, are far from perfect.
Some women pray for a lifetime for that mythical man only to find that they have been called to singleness. So, even as you pray for your future husband, pray as Jesus instructed: not my will, but yours be done. Pray that Christ will be sufficient, that you will have a special and deep and abiding relationship with the God of the Universe, and that He will show you all of the ways that He can use you in your singleness to further His kingdom and bring Him glory.
Years after I wrote that list as a starry-eyed high schooler, God did send me a man. He wasn’t perfect. He didn’t meet all of my criteria. He came with some baggage and some spiritual confusion and some bad habits. And so did I. And, despite all of my prayers that God would make Chad into a unicorn among men, I quickly realized in year one of marriage that I should have spent much more time praying that God would turn me into a different woman. There is no such thing as perfection in a future partner. Pray that God will give you a love for each other so deep and so real that no scheme of hell can tear you apart. And if He does send you that man someday, know that neither of you will love perfectly or behave brilliantly. Marriage should be a picture of grace. One of the most gracious things you can do for a future mate is put away your list of Fairy Godfather-sponsored perfection and pray sincere prayers that God would change both of you to be more like Jesus.
I suppose I always imagined myself as a tough wife. As one who wouldn’t put up with this or that. When I was much younger I had a list of things in my mind that would make me walk out. Non-negotiables. Love must be tough, says one Christian psychologist. And I know it must be true. Sometimes we have to dig in and fight for our marriages. Sometimes we have to take action and say I cannot tolerate this any longer. I know this because I have seen the deeply set beating heart of so many marriages in Chad’s office, when couples come in with issues so big that it seems hopeless, when lines must be drawn and plans must be made: change or watch your life together whither and fade.
And now, almost twenty years into my own marriage, I can still imagine scenarios where I might find a toughness coming out in me. Where I would roll up my sleeves and fight the battle of my life, where I would find myself on the opposite side as Chad, staunchly holding my ground. And maybe I would even be right. Maybe I would be righteous and determined to prove it.
But I think I have finally learned that while it’s true that sometimes love must be tough, in the end it’s not the indignation or the holy anger or the demands, however reasonable, that will keep us together no matter what. It’s the tenderness.
I pray that God will keep Chad and me tender, whatever is ahead on the road of marriage. Even in the little annoyances and the routine squabbles. Hard hearts stubbornly beat out their own, self-serving rhythms, but tender hearts find each other through all the noise. Love must be tender, even in the tough times.
Update: valancyroses is our winner! Congratulations! Enjoy your date night!
Chad and I have been married for almost 19 years. In that time we have had some beautifully romantic moments that stand out in my mind. But, the truth is that in the long haul, marriage isn’t a continual series of memorable romantic gestures. Real romance isn’t just flowers or jewelry or poems or exotic vacations, even though those things can be nice. To be honest, I have seen some of the greatest examples of real romance at the many funerals that Chad and I have been a part of through our years of ministry. Watching a grieving husband or wife remember the life they shared with their spouse, all of the memories, all of the sacrifices made, all of the struggles they faced together–it will forever ban from your mind the notion that romance is all about date nights. Real romance is a lifetime of dedication and devotion, years of putting the needs of another person ahead of your own, decades of serving one another in humility and love.
So, it’s from that perspective that I present five ways that I believe you can help to keep true romance alive in your marriage.
1. Make Christ supreme.
So many marriage issues could be solved if we simply knew Jesus more. If we sought Him more and made Him the ultimate priority of our lives. As Dave Harvey says in his excellent book When Sinners Say I Do, “What we believe about God determines the quality of our marriage.” If we want our marriage to become all that we hoped it would be–a lifetime of commitment and self-sacrifice and true, soul-deep love for one another, it has to begin with our own relationship with Christ. There is nothing more romantic than seeking and serving Jesus together because that is real and it’s messy and it ends with two people who see each other’s faults and flaws but choose to love strong anyway. That kind of love is born of Christ and it is Christ-like, and it is the stuff that true romance is made of. It will only happen if we know Him and we are actively working to know Him more
2. Keep a long-term perspective.
Don’t fall into the trap of obsessing over things that ultimately don’t matter. That $50 on the credit card, those dirty clothes on the floor, that irritated response, that thoughtless comment–consider whether any of that will matter at all when you are old and gray and looking back on a long life together. Consider whether that bowl left out on the counter will still be annoying you when you are standing next to his casket one day, after a lifetime of commitment and laughter and tears come flooding over you as you look at his face one last time. We spend so much time thinking about things that have no real significance that we often let them overshadow all of the blessings of our marriage. We let small annoyances turn into huge roadblocks in our relationship. If we dismiss the small stuff instead, we will create an atmosphere of love and acceptance and grace that will allow real romance to flourish.
3. Talk to each other.
I don’t think it’s possible to over-emphasize the importance of communication if you want to keep romance alive in your marriage. You can’t know someone if they don’t share their thoughts, memories, dreams, ideas, fears, joys and sorrows with you. Your spouse should be your closest friend. Couples who don’t talk don’t feel bonded. They don’t feel like a team. They are likely to be living two isolated lives, and there is nothing more sad than married people who have all the potential in the world to feel loved and happy, but who just feel sad and lonely. If you and your spouse are struggling through life keeping all of your burdens and worries and dreams of the future to yourselves, then romance is surely dead in your marriage. Only when we communicate with each other on an intimate level can true romance thrive. A bouquet of flowers means absolutely nothing if the lines of communication are down. The good news is that it’s easy to fix this problem: start talking. Start asking questions.
4. After Christ, give each other top priority.
Your relationship with your spouse is one of the easiest to neglect. You are more likely to let your spouse down before you will let others in your life down because, well, they’re your spouse and they will understand. But, even if your spouse doesn’t blow up or seem upset with you, a continual pattern of giving him or her low priority in your life will make it impossible to keep the romance alive. It’s easy to let the children or a job replace your spouse on your list of importance. But, you must remember–one day you will retire. One day the children will grow up and leave. You have to constantly nurture your marriage by letting your spouse know that they are your number one concern, after your relationship with Christ. There is nothing less romantic than being made to feel unimportant and forgotten.
5. Have fun together.
Don’t forget how to laugh. Don’t get so serious and wrapped up in the struggles and the problems that you don’t remember how to have fun together anymore. Keep the inside jokes going. Be okay with laughing at yourself. Life is hilarious. Don’t get hung up on the idea of date nights as the only way to have fun together. Yes, they’re fun, but so is hanging out in your living room after the kids are in bed. In one evening you can communicate, give each other priority, and have a great time just sitting in front of the TV, eating ice cream and talking about whatever comes to mind. Don’t ever underestimate the power of time spent together, whether you’re having a fancy dinner or eating corndogs while you sit on the kitchen counter. Having fun with your spouse isn’t complicated: laugh and be pleasant and remember why you fell in love in the first place.
I’m excited to do a little giveaway to help you make your spouse a priority in the coming weeks! I am giving away a $20 Fandango giftcard to one lucky reader so that you can go enjoy a movie with your spouse! All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment telling me one thing you appreciate about your husband or wife. So easy!
Chad and I decided years ago that we wouldn’t go to any more R rated movies or any PG-13 movies that we haven’t check out on a family movie review site. It’s so difficult to find movies that are rated PG, so we rarely go to the movies. But, there’s a movie coming out next weekend I wanted to make you aware of–it’s a romance that’s rated PG!
It’s called Forever My Girl. Here’s a brief synopsis of the movie:
Forever My Girl tells the story of music super-star Liam Page (Alex Roe) who left his bride, Josie (Jessica Rothe), at the altar choosing fame and fortune instead. However, Liam never got over Josie, his one true love, nor did he ever forget his Southern roots in the small community where he was born and raised. When he unexpectedly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his high school best friend, Liam is suddenly faced with the consequences of all that he left behind. Forever My Girl is an uplifting romantic film about second chances.
The movie releases on January 19th. It’s so refreshing to see some film companies making movies for those of us who want to avoid nudity and bad language. I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t necessarily recommend it yet, but it’s definitely worth looking into if you are looking for a fun night out with your spouse.
I hope some of the tips I mentioned here today are helpful. Remember that romance isn’t about grand gestures. It’s about all of the small ways to love each other.
I received compensation for mentioning Forever My Girl in this blog post. All of the marriage tips are 100% from my heart. The giveaway is sponsored by Chad and me, just because we want to do something fun for my amazing readers! I’ll announce a winner on Friday, January 19th!
God designed sex within marriage to be a sacred, pleasurable, and spiritual act. We don’t often stop and think about how amazing it really is that God invented sex and gave it such potential to build a physical and spiritual union between two people in the safety and devotion of a Christian marriage. Sex is an amazing gift, a chance to be bonded in body, mind and spirit. One flesh. Yet everywhere I turn Christian people seem to be struggling with sex.
It seems that we have taken what should be a true blessing in our marriages and have turned it into a chore. Women are constantly joking about trying to get out of having sex with their husbands. Husbands are constantly joking about how they don’t get enough sex. And, somewhere in the middle of all of the casual talk about it, are two people, naked and vulnerable in the quiet of their own bedroom, struggling to figure out how to connect spiritually while they make love.
We live in a world that is unbelievably sexual. Every commercial, television show, book, and magazine is putting sexual images and ideas into our minds every day. Porn culture has warped our idea of what sex is. It isn’t a union of two bodies and souls, but a chance to get what we want. Slowly the notion has crept into our minds that we need satisfaction by whatever means necessary, even in Christian marriage. So, we come to the sacred place where we should be experiencing a spiritual union with our spouse, and we bring along years’ worth of images and fantasies that have nothing to do with them. And, instead of being completely present in this beautiful moment, instead of wholly giving ourselves to our spouse, we retreat and call up these images, and the spiritual union is weakened at best, and completely severed at worst.
No wonder Christian marriages are having sex problems.
Pornography is a huge part of the problem. But, maybe you don’t watch porn. You have seen plenty of movies, read plenty of books, created plenty of fantasies in your mind that don’t involve your spouse. The truth is that unless we are diligent about it, we will all allow our minds to wander to scenes that we have viewed or imagined, even when we are in the middle of trying to make love to our spouse. We may not even realize what we’re doing, inviting other people into this holy moment. Letting outside ideas and images crowd in on the beautiful act of giving ourselves to one another. How can we expect to achieve a soul-to-soul union with our husband or wife when we are escaping to some love scene or pornographic image? Before long we forget how to really be present in this divine moment, this spiritual experience of loving the person right in front of us, in the ways that only we can. We have to keep ourselves anchored to each other during sex, and the only way to do that is to banish outside images from our minds. Not only that, but we have to be careful to keep from bringing brand new images into our minds, by guarding what we see and hear and read.
I know many of you are thinking that this is not a big deal, or that it is impossible to have sex without calling up images and ideas that have aroused you in the past. But, if it were an impossibility, why would Paul advise us to take every thought captive to obey Christ? (2 Corinthians 10:5) If it is no big deal, then why did he tell us to think about what is noble, right, pure, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy? (Philippians 4:8) Why would Jesus tell us that anyone who looks at a woman (or man) to lust after her (or him) has already committed adultery in their heart? (Matthew 5:28)
The truth is that when we allow images of other people into our minds when we are having sex with our spouse, we are sinning, and our sex life will never achieve the spiritual depth and emotional closeness that God designed it for. There is a better way to have sex in Christian marriage. And, it isn’t just okay sex. It is life-giving, soul-stirring, and it connects you to your spouse in ways you didn’t even realize were possible. Kick everyone else out of your head. This moment is for the two of you alone, body to body, soul to soul. Anything else will lead to a lifetime of sexual emptiness, physical connection with no spiritual bond. And, despite what this world tells you, that will never be truly satisfying.
The wedding ceremony was going to start in five minutes, and Chad and I were in his office, trying to quickly hash out an argument we had been stewing over since the night before. It was going to be difficult for him, the pastor, to go out there and deliver an inspiring wedding day talk if his own wife was glaring at him from the audience.
We hate fighting. We both apologized and I rested my cheek on his as we stood there in a familiar embrace, both really unsure how to resolve the situation except to just get over it. We agreed that we would, and we parted ways, still awkwardly upset, but determined to put it behind us.
By the time I gathered our kids and found my spot in the sanctuary, most of the wedding guests were already in their places. A side door opened, and in walked the groom and his groomsmen. Chad led them to their places, and as the wedding music started, he turned to look at me, and he grinned.
It was a grin that saw the humor in the fact that we had been arguing in his office two minutes earlier. That here, at a beautiful ceremony that celebrates love and thanks God for marriage, we were living proof that marriage will sometimes cause you to waste a whole day being angry at the person you love most. And, it was also a grin that knew that everything is really okay.
I’m thankful for a life in pastoral ministry. Many couples can go weeks or months or even years without ever facing the ways that they are sinning against each other. But, a pastor and his wife always have a Sunday morning or a Sunday evening or a Wednesday night coming. They always have a wedding ceremony or a funeral to prepare for. There is always a close and important reminder that we are trying to live according to God’s word. And, there is always an urgency to figure things out, to be friends, to rely on each other and to spur each other on to holiness and godliness.
After the wedding, we decided to load up the kids and take the minivan to a neighboring town for tacos. Chad reached over and grabbed my hand. We didn’t have to hash things out any longer. We had said what needed to be said in those rushed moments in his office. We had been heard. We had been forced to face the issues. And, we had been reminded, when we heard wedding vows repeated with happy tears, what a gift from God that this life really is.
I thank God that He gives us so many checkpoints along our path in ministry. Every sermon, every teaching, every ceremony–they all help us remember that we want to live what we are saying. God is always working, even two minutes before the wedding starts. And, I’m grateful.
I have spilled a lot of ink through the years trying to find all the right words to describe what it’s like to know true love. In the past six years I’ve written roughly 40 blog posts devoted to Chad and our marriage and our great love for each other. Sometimes I wonder if there’s anything left to say, but still I keep going. The words and ideas come out of the genuine wonder that I still feel after all of this time.
Today is our eighteenth wedding anniversary. I woke up thinking about our first night together in that little bed and breakfast in Granbury, Texas. I remember that I hardly slept all night–I wasn’t used to having this other person in my bed. We both woke up throughout the night, surprised I think, to remember that we were now responsible for each other.
I was embarrassed to even flush the toilet that first night.
But, this morning, we woke up in our familiar way, eighteen years into this thing. We have plowed through, tripped over, and prayed that God would tear down various barriers between us through the years. And, this morning, after we had only recently seen another fall, I thanked God that He keeps proving to us that it is possible to continue growing closer and closer to each other, even though we’ve been sharing every day of life for almost two decades.
This marriage is a miracle.
Our love isn’t perfect. We make plenty of mistakes and we get selfish and we get unreasonable. We say untrue things and think untrue things, and we are scared to bring up what needs to be said. We get irritated and rude. We roll our eyes.
But, of all the things that Jesus made in this world, of all the pleasures and kindnesses that He was gracious enough to provide, I don’t know if there are enough words to say thank you for this love of mine. For this marriage that has taught me so much about His goodness. For this man who has led me to the cross over and over again. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’re probably tired of hearing it. But, I just can’t stop being grateful.
I hope I never do.
Happy 18th wedding anniversary, Chad.
The year was 1998, and Chad Edgington had decided he wanted to marry me. He scrimped and saved and schemed to buy a little diamond, and he delivered it, delicately, to a pair of brothers he knew in Nashville who were jewelry makers. He had a vision for what he wanted it to look like, and he left his words of instruction and his precious, hard-fought diamond in their care to wait and see what they would create.
The result was a never before like it or after it, truly unique, hand-crafted golden ring. It is beautiful. And, I have always felt like its unique beauty is a fair representation of the love that I have had for this boy for the past twenty years of my life.
The truth is that most days I hardly even notice the ring on my hand. But, a few days ago I looked down and realized that somehow in the course of my work, my ring had gotten knocked against my finger and had left a small cut there, hidden underneath the beautiful gold, a scar on the delicate-looking redhead’s fair flesh of my left hand. I was surprised to see it there, because in all of these years of dealing with babies and a mother’s work, I never remember my ring doing such a thing. But, there it was. A wound inflicted by the very symbol of never-ending love between a man and a woman.
I sat there for a moment and stared at my hand. It didn’t look compatible, the lovely gold set alongside the ugly gash on my freckled finger. But, I don’t know that I have ever seen a clearer picture of how marriage is an exquisitely painful, sacred journey of sanctification. Having a spouse is like living with a mirror that constantly shows you where you are weak, where you are prideful, and how in desperate need of a Savior you really are. Chad and I never could have known, all those years ago when he slipped this ring on my finger, how much joy would really be in it or how much heartbreak. Jesus put a rare love in our hearts for one another, and He has used that love to wound us in the most wondrous ways. Ways that show us who we are and who we want to be. Ways that show us how likely our hearts are to falter. Ways that show us how great His love for us really is.
The mark on my finger is almost healed now. Soon it will go away, and all that will remain is the freckles and the gold and diamond that a young idealist once scrimped and sacrificed to gift to me. For half of our lives now we have loved and hurt and grown and agonized together. And still, we are idealists. Because we have learned in this life together that God can do what seems impossible. He can take two kids who only know that they are madly in love, and He can teach them how to sanctify one another, one wound at a time. He can use great pain to bring indescribable joy. He can bind up every hurt with His love and tenderness. And, He can use every scar to show the world how great He really is.
The ring on my finger is so much more than a piece of jewelry. It is hurt. It is healing. It is sacrifice and sanctification. And, it is a testimony to godly love. Marriage is the gospel in motion. We are forever changed.
Emerald turned five on Monday. I can hardly believe that our baby-est baby has already reached this age. I have known it was coming, but somehow it still shocked me when I realized the night before that this was it–our preschool phase was ending. In just one short summer, she will leap from mama’s sidekick to ecstatic kindergartner, and then I will have to re-learn my life.
Twelve years. For twelve years we have had a baby at home. And now we will send all three out there, out into the big world of learning and growing and school lessons and life lessons. And me, at home. Learning, too.
Every time a big milestone shows up in our family’s life, I remember that these days of raising kids are short. This family situation we have going–it’s temporary. And, every Christmas night, when I sit on the couch and cry because another year is over, on every night before the first day of school when I sit on the couch and cry because another year is coming, and on this past Sunday night when I sat on the couch and cried because our youngest isn’t a baby anymore, I remember something else. I remember that my one human constant, through all the change, all the growth, all the memory-making and tear-shedding is Chad Edgington.
Someday they will all be gone, making families of their own. And, God willing, Chad and I will still be here, still a family, still choosing each other every day, still grateful for the great love we share, still seeking to love each other well and know each other more.
Whatever we do, we cannot let these glorious, temporary child-raising years let us lose sight of the fact that we two will remain in the end. If we get lost in the wilds of parenting, how will we ever find each other again? It will get harder and harder with every wandering year that passes by. But, if we brave all of the terrain changes together, if we view our entire life, every phase and every trial, as an adventure that we set out on hand in hand, then how can the kid years separate us? In the end they will only give us more to laugh about, more to get misty-eyed about, more to get excited about.
If lately you have barely noticed your spouse, if you have fallen into a routine that makes you more roommates than lifemates, if you find yourself remembering less and less often why you ever fell in love, stop to recognize that this relationship deserves your attention. The children need a whole lot of you. But, your spouse needs more. Dig deep, and give and give and give. Submit yourselves to one another, and know that when your family scatters in a few years, the one person who will still be there deserves your investment of time, thought, and love.
This week our youngest turned five! We survived the preschool years (all twelve of them)! High fives all around! In this episode, we talk about some things that we feel made a difference in our marriage during the crazy little bitty kid phase. We hope you’ll find some encouragement and maybe some practical advice that you can use. No experts here, just sharing what has worked for us. Also: our most loyal listeners, Chad’s latest experience with being open, and more!