I’m married to four different men.
I’m married to three at the same time, and keep getting remarried to one over and over again.
And no, I’m not a polygamist.
Let me explain.
I was at a bridal shower last month and the host opened up the floor for people to give the bride-to-be advice. I hadn’t come prepared to say anything. I had a newborn, was sleep-deprived, and was barely clearheaded enough to know what day it was. But as I listened to the advice she was getting, I felt a sudden desire to share what she wasn’t hearing.
So many people told her, “Put Christ at the center of your marriage.”
“Make Christ the center of your marriage!”
“Keep Christ at the center!”
Like, seriously people, what does that MEAN?
No offense to the advice-givers, but I’ve been married for 7 1/2 years, and I have no idea what that means. How would a young woman who’s never been married have any idea what that means?
It’s not even biblical. Nowhere in Scripture does it say, “Make Christ the center of your marriage.”
It says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matthew 6:33) and to let Christ rule supreme in your OWN heart, but it never says “Make Christ the center of your life AND this other guy’s.” It’s impossible.
For some people, I know what they’re trying to say, but I think this is a trendy comment. It feels like a very cute phrase, but what does it mean? Ask a Christian couple in head-over-heels happiness on their wedding day if “Christ is at the center of their relationship,” and they’ll tell you YES because they’re happy and things are blissful right then. Let alone the fact that both of them could be living as selfishly as all get out and have no idea what real marriage looks like.
Ask another Christian couple if “Christ is at the center of their relationship” after their child has died and their finances have fallen apart and they’re struggling and seeing a counselor, and they might say NO, because everything looks bad and they feel unhappy, let alone that it may be at that moment that they are drawing close to God like never before. I think we often have a lousy idea of what being Christlike actually is – and are far more concerned with what it outwardly looks like.
For others, they might mean that the bride-to-be should be actively pursuing putting their marriage in a focused-on-God state. But that’s even worse advice! Many women are running around stressed and weary trying to force her marriage to be more “spiritual.” Trying to force her husband to spend time with the Lord with her, trying to force prayer time, force service, force giving (and vice versa!) and it’s just not possible.
Controlling something that takes two people is just not possible.
Many women spend more time and energy worrying about whether or not their husband or their “marriage” is righteous and God-focused, when all she is supposed to do is focus on whether or not SHE is righteous and God-focused. What we should be telling a bride-to-be is that her “marriage” and her husband is not a fixer-upper project she controls, and that when she and her husband individually make sure they have a personal relationship with the Lord, that sanctification will follow. That she’s not responsible for both halves of her marriage – only her own half. That she and her husband will not go to heaven “as a set” but will be responsible for their own individual salvation. That spending time pursuing God as a couple is wonderful and worthy, but will never take the place of pursuing God individually – it’s just an added bonus. That if her relationship with God MUST involve her husband holding her hand, that she may not have a relationship with Christ at all – and it’s not going to stand the test of time if (God forbid!) something happened to her husband. And that each spouse spending their energy trying to force the other to “make our marriage Christ centered” is a waste of time. If only we taught brides to be more focused on their own personal walk with Christ, and not to idolize their husband.
Because your spouse is a rapidly changing, growing living being.
Which leads me to my four husbands. And the advice I gave the bride-to-be that day.
My mom always said that you marry three people: the person YOU think he is, the person HE thinks he is, and the person he really is. I think that’s dead right, but I think she’s missing the fourth guy: the person he will become.
I met my husband when I was 19 and he was 18 years old. Today, we are downright unrecognizable from back then. Some things I miss, most things I cringe when I remember. Most of the changes have been great, a few a little sad.
And 7 more years of marriage from now, he and I may be downright unrecognizable from where we are today – and I don’t just mean physically, although we do drastically change physically as well! Currently, we are 29 and 30 years old, parents of three little girls under the age of 6, homeowners in the pacific northwest, members of a small church, anime aficionados, an author, a League of Legends player, a K-drama enthusiast. But 7 years from now, none of that could be true.
No one warns brides-to-be and husbands-to-be that you’re also marrying a stranger.
Age, situations, accidents, promotions, jobs, friends, parenting, LIFE… it changes people. The things you love about your spouse today could disappear tomorrow. The things that irritated you about them last year could be endearing traits you miss with all your heart next year. The personality traits you thought you could count on could morph into something else entirely.
You are committing to marry someone who WILL BE, in ways you can not predict.
It’s a bit frightening!
Have you ever answered the question, “Why do you love me?” with “Because you’re you?” Well, what if they stop being “them”? And become someone else? We all do. And that’s true love – committing to love that person no matter who they are tomorrow, no matter how life and trials and growth warp and change and mature and harden and soften and challenge and strengthen and weaken and bruise and injure and purify and solidify them.
Can you love a person you may not know tomorrow?
That’s the thought I want to share with brides-to-be. Can you let go of everything that person does FOR you today that makes you feel good, and love a person who may do none of those tomorrow? They can’t really answer, “Yes, I can,” because they’re not there yet. What they need to answer is, “Yes, I choose to commit to do so” because they are making a choice, and God promises to help them to succeed. Love can grow and change and morph as well, and, while the devil wants to tear apart marriages, God vows to help us love like He does, which is unconditional and completely inclusive, no matter what life throws our way.