To be honest, I can't pretend this post will offer any deep revelation on the meaning of marriage (though Tim Keller has some solid advice on that front). Like most young Christian evangelicals, I've read the books (probably too many books), had the talks, been to the retreats, and we all know there's nothing hotter on the religious press than a Relevant article about relationships.
Here's to adding to the noise.
Perhaps it's a result of all those years of cultural preparation, or maybe it's just my propensity toward legalism, either way I used to believe I had to have everything together to be ready for marriage. What does that mean?
Well, here is a small list of general Christian dating advice that turned out to be less important than I thought it would. And while I believe they're generally sound advice, achieving them hasn't really prepared me for my relationship with Chris.
- Know yourself before you venture out into dating. This is good advice, but only if you accept that part of knowing yourself is not really knowing yourself at all. I thought I knew myself, and then I met Chris. He inadvertently revealed I'm sillier, weaker, braver, less patient, more persistent, more beautiful and capable of so much more than I ever thought I was. It turned out I didn't know myself at all, and in fact, I continue to change, as most people do in their 20s.
- Love God fully, and more than your love a romantic partner. I know it sounds silly, but in the beginning months of our relationship, this piece of advice tormented me. As I fell deeper in love with Chris, I also felt guilty-- was I not loving God enough? I loved God, but now there was this other person in the mixture. How did I keep the balance? Eventually, as God began to reveal Chris as my future husband, I found that the two were less in conflict that I tended to believe. God gave me Chris to love in the first place. Most of the time growing in my love for Chris, means growing in my love for God. I don't say this to sound sappy or sentimental, just that it's nearly impossible to silo the relationships. They feed each other constantly.
- Fix all your problems while you're single. Okay, no one ever directly says it like this, but if you look at all the self-help books, conferences, talks, and devotionals we have on relationships, singleness, marriage, etc, it makes you wonder... The most freeing thing I've come to realize in my relationship with Chris is that we're two sinful sinners on a journey of sanctification that will only end when death do us part. I spent so many of the early days in our relationship trying to cover up sin, not be vulnerable and striving to be the holiest version of myself. Freedom to accept God's grace and Chris' love came when I started to let go of my absurd notion that we would be a shining white pillar of perfection. Not that we resign ourselves to sin, but we accept the partner and friend God has given us to pursue him with.
- Once you've found "the one", your heart will never be broken. Not that Chris and I don't strive to love to one another, but in our broken condition, we often fail (I tend to fail way more...) I've experienced some of my most excruciating heartaches with Chris, but I've also experience the deepest, most exhilarating joy at his side. And I'm not leaving that.
I don't know what kind of adventures God has in store for the two of us going forward. I just know I'm excited. A deep reservoir of joy and expectation run beneath the surface of these days and weeks. It's not what I imagined.
It's been so much abundantly more.