With almost 20 years of personal experience, Ryan and I wholeheartedly believe that God is for marriage and He wants us to make it.
That’s why He faithfully helps one frail human being love another frail human being, day after day.
For us, this has been a miracle of epic proportions. Our marriage has known some very dark days and there have been times when we almost didn’t make it. Every June 8th, we celebrate our anniversary with the same prayer, “Lord, thank you for holding us together. What would we do without you?”
Ryan and I recently had the opportunity to encourage a group of newly-weds. We each shared a list of “Five Things I’d Tell My Newly-Wed Self”. Here’s my list.
Dear Newly-Wed Self,
1. Be honest with yourself, your spouse, and God.
“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Psalm 51:6
It can be terrifying to share anything that reveals weakness, regret, need, or inefficiency, but I urge you to face this fear! Instead of working hard to maintain a strong, confident, got-it-together exterior, work hard to slow down, reflect deeply, pray openly, and speak clearly about yourself.
You will never regret being transparent and vulnerable with your spouse, no matter how hard it is to choke out the words or work through your humanity together.
2. Learn how to keep healthy boundaries.
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
Do not give your affection, approval, time, or energy under compulsion, manipulation, or guilt. This is not loving, generous, or submissive: rather, it’s dangerous and destructive to you and your spouse.
We all coerce and manipulate one another to some extent. Learn how to identify and overcome this unloving element in your home.
Enable and fortify healthy forms of communication.
Continually develop your own thoughts, desires, expectations, and voice. Share these valuable aspects of yourself with your spouse. Anticipate – and work toward – mutual respect.
Prayerfully figure out what you want to give so that you can give it cheerfully, healthfully, wholeheartedly.
3. Pride and self-righteousness are lying to you.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
Don’t waste a moment thinking you are better than your husband.
Don’t think that you would make a better “spiritual head of the home”.
Don’t think that you know everything about your husband’s heart, motives, or spiritual journey.
You’re not more righteous because you have completed more Bible study workbooks than he has.
You’re not more righteous because you stay awake and take pretty notes during the sermon and he *ahem* dozes off. You’re not more righteous because you read infinitely more theology books than he does.
Attending a weekly women’s Bible study, keeping a more-regular daily devotional time, and building more orphanages does not mean that you love Jesus more than your husband does… nor does it mean that Jesus loves you more than he loves your man.
Oh dear girl, be humble.
Continually ask the Lord to search your heart. Indulge in confession and repentance of your own sin; then you’ll be free to notice your husband’s surprising spiritual strengths. You’ll be free to cheer him on!
Pray for your man, thank him, and notice the unexpected ways that God works in his life.
4. Be generous with yourself.
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer, another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Proverbs 11:24
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38
Ask God to help you overcome your guardedness, your trust issues, and your stinginess. Your marriage will blossom insofar as you give life to it!
Be generous with your smile.
Be generous with your stories, your strengths, and your support.
Be generous with your hugs, kisses, and affection.
Be generous with your hope, your joy, and your song.
5. Stop criticizing asap.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for the building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
Take this 30-day “Husband Encouragement Challenge” asap and create a new normal.
(The challenge: “For thirty days, don’t say anything negative to or about your husband. Also, say something positive to and about your husband each day.“)
By Day 3 of your negativity fast, you will be AMAZED by the frequency of your urge to say something negative. As God gives you the grace to refrain from criticism, complaining, and negativity, He’ll also give you the grace to choose encouraging words that build up your man and your home.
This is going to rock. your. world!
And finally, dear newly-wed self, years from now, you’ll write a little blog post about marriage and you’ll think, “Ooo, I want to keep growing in these things! I want to be more generous! I want to take that 30-Day Encouragement Challenge again!” But this time around, you’ll want to – not because you need to – because you’ve grown to love your man.
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