When Jennifer and I got married on April 17, 1999 at Bethany Church in Fresno, we were clueless. I mean about everything. Our wedding was a 90-minute marathon that included everything–a worship set, two different messages, foot washing. We even threw in a rose exchange for good measure. We didn’t know what we wanted in the ceremony so we included it all, much to the chagrin of our audience.
Also, our reception was a potluck. You read that right–a potluck in which we asked our guests to provide food to feed themselves. Even our honeymoon was random. We traveled up the California coastline and spent each night in a different bed and breakfast, always having to pack up and relocate.
We were clueless about marriage. Not a clue. But off we went.
And we certainly didn’t know God’s design for marriage. Sure, we grew up in homes with Christian parents and we learned enough Bible in church to understand that marriage was for a man and a woman for life. But we really had no idea what God was doing when he looked at Adam in the garden and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). We were clueless about what God meant when he declared, “being joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Not a clue. But off we went in this adventure called marriage. I remember Jen turning to me as we drove out of Fresno and saying, “It’s just you and me.”
But that “just you and me” quickly got sidetracked. We did what most couples do. We started living parallel lives. We were called to oneness but we instead were living our own separate lives. I pursued work and what I believed was ministry and Jen started raising kids and running a side business. We occasionally connected with each other and had moments where we were headed in similar paths but often we were competing instead of complementing. And it was a dangerous path, one that could have easily led to veering off in completely different directions, ending in divorce and despair.
We were called to oneness but we instead were living our own separate lives.
But God rescued us. He snatched us up and started putting clues in front of us that I truly believe we wouldn’t have pursued on our own. We attended Calvary Chapel Church in Santa Barbara, where we found a church that taught the bible every week and emphasized its importance. We soon learned that God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).We got connected into a community group and gathered to study, pray, and share life together (Hebrews 10:22-25). We began to look at each other differently and instead of seeing each other’s faults we began to own our stuff. We started to both ask for and offer forgiveness to one another (Matthew 6:12).
And God did the most amazing thing. He redeemed us. He changed our hearts from being proud to humble. He shaped our minds through the study of His word so that we were able to understand His design for marriage. We found ourselves living out scriptures like Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” His Spirit began to lead us in obedience to what He wanted out of marriage. I began to lead my wife sacrificially, desiring to lay down my life for her as Christ has done for the church. And Jen has become my helper, offering me respect and support that I need in order to fulfill my role as a husband (Ephesians 5:22-33). And our relationship changed. Instead of parallel lives it became one life that we do together, for God’s glory and our good.
Still trying to figure out what God was doing bringing us together; but now we are living out of His grace with a much clearer picture of the Gospel in our lives.
So some 17 years later, it is just Jen and I. Still married. Still clueless about many things. And we just for fun added four daughters to the mix! Still trying to figure out what God was doing bringing us together; but now we are living out of His grace with a much clearer picture of the Gospel in our lives. A Gospel that has saved us and changed us. And along the way God is allowing us to model for our daughters what it means to be married in light of that Gospel. He’s also blessed us to be able to walk alongside other couples and help point them to the same grace and truth that was offered to us. To point them to the Savior who loved them enough to lay aside his own status and power and endure the cross so that we might be reconciled to God and to each other. To remind them that every relationship is flawed and yet God has the power to redeem marriages so that we might truly experience His design for our lives.
And we hold to the fact that what God has brought together, no one will ever separate. Clueless we were, but redeemed we now live. What are ways that you can display oneness in your marriage instead of living parallel lives? How can the Scriptures guide you to both understand and live out God’s design for your marriage?
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Image Credit: Noel Hankamer, Creative Commons. Some Changes Made