My husband and I just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary last Friday. Sixteen years. That's a lot of years, Tony.
We are what you would call high school sweethearts. Actually, we met when I was in middle school and started dating toward the end of my 7th grade year. That was 26 years ago. A lot has happened in those 26 years (and can I just say, I feel very old referring to that time as 26 years ago. Only old people talk about things that were "back in the day.").
We attended each other's junior and and senior proms. Danced together at homecoming dances. Cruised town in his candy apple red Chevy Nova with bench seats drinking slushies from Sonic. We may have even made out a little in that car too, but I'd never tell. We were there for each other's high school and college graduations. We had many firsts together. Fun filled vacations, concerts, roller coaster rides.
Jeff proposed at sunset on the beach in June of 1998. I thought he was pulling at his underwear, not pulling a diamond ring out of his pocket. He asked, I said yes, and we began planning a wedding.
We planned the wedding. Not the marriage.
And as I type out those words, I think about how much time, effort, and money we put into weddings. One single day.
To plan our wedding, I bought the necessities: magazines and wedding planning books. I sent off for every catalog I could think of.
I read them multiple times to make sure I was on target to having the perfect day. I'd been to weddings that were ugly, unorganized, or boring, and I made a vow to have the perfect wedding.
I began getting free samples of invitations and printed napkins to compare prices and find something we liked.
I made lists and more lists and lists for my lists.
I started dress shopping and tried on dress after dress after dress until I found The One.
Our total cost for the wedding day was about $2000. Probably not much more than that.
All in all, I think we had a beautiful wedding. The weather was perfect for the first of October in south central Kentucky. Our friends and family filled the church. My aunts showed up with food for the reception which was a nice surprise. Although the only food we got was the bite of cake we fed each other, everything was perfect.
Looking back, I think about planning a wedding versus preparing for marriage. In all honesty, we probably did very little in preparing for our marriage. We were required to take a premarital counseling class with our pastor. That was it.
One of the things we had to complete was an Expectations Questionnaire.
1. How do you expect to be treated after you are married?
2. What are to be your areas of responsibility within the marriage and family?
3. What are to be your spouse's areas of responsibility within the marriage and family?
4. What were your father's responsibilities within the family?
5. What were your mother's responsibilities within the family?
6. Write a short autobiography about yourself. Describe your childhood, religious background, major conflicts with parents, siblings, and/or God.
7. What are your plans for the future?
Those are all very good questions. Questions that all couples need to ask and discuss.
But I looked at one of my answers to question #2, and my heart smiled at my 22 year old self.
Work on the marriage.
Work on the marriage to keep it strong.
Work on the marriage to keep it strong and successful.
At 22 years old, I knew that a strong successful marriage took work.
Having the marriage I wanted would not just happen. It would take effort. On my part and my husband's part. Before saying my vows, I was dedicated to doing that work.
I also knew, after having dated this man for many years before, that there was nothing I could do to ever change him. I was marrying him, his quirks, and everything that would ever gross or freak me out. I was ok with that. I wanted to spend my life with him, and I knew that I would put a lot into this marriage.
When we said, "I do," my husband and I were not Christians. We made a vow before God to keep our marriage sacred, but we had not yet given our hearts to him. That would come some time later. However, I had always prayed for our marriage. I had always prayed for my husband. I had always prayed to be the wife he needed me to be.
And I still do.
We don't air our dirty laundry for all to hear.
We don't involve other people in the privacy of our marriage.
God is the all knowing. God is the healer. God is the provider. God is number one in our marriage.
I think one of the most difficult things about keeping our marriage strong would be putting my husband first since having children. Now, I know that there are those of you who put your children first and your husband comes last, but I want you to consider what that does to your marriage.
Being a first time mom is hard. Its even harder to have those deep, romantic moments with your husband. You are sleep deprived. You stink. You have spit up and poop stained clothes. Being a new mom isn't very attractive. But still. Your husband must come first.
As women, we want our husbands to love us and show us that love. Our husbands want us to respect them and show them that respect.
We can fuss about our husbands not meeting our needs, but we have to ask ourselves, "What have I done for my husband?"
The best thing I can do for my husband is belong to Christ. He must come first. If my relationship with Christ is flawed, then my relationship with my husband will be flawed. If my relationship with my husband is flawed, then my relationship with my children will be flawed.
It all starts with Christ.
So many women have a problem with the word submission. They cringe and laugh and run. But girls. I'm telling you. It's biblical. Submission doesn't mean to be a doormat. It means to be the wife God has called you to be. Really. You should read Sara Horn's book My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife.
In all of this, I am asking you, did you plan a wedding or a marriage? Most of us plan weddings and give little to no thought about what happens once the honeymoon is over. What do you do when it gets hard? When the bills can't be paid? When illness comes? When Satan tries to destroy what God deems as holy?
Marriage is work. It's hard work. It's good work. I encourage you as you are filling your hope chest or taking things out of it, be sure that God is there with you. Be sure that God is first in your marriage. Seek Him. You won't have a perfect marriage. You'll have a God centered marriage.