I was twenty-one filled with hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Married my high school sweetheart fresh out of college. Dreams of changing the world. Dreams of having children and winning the Best Dad in the Universe award. Dreams of shutting down the doors of hell with a squirt gun. The journey fought together with my best friend on my arm.
Today is sixteen years of marriage.
Did I know how to get after a woman’s heart?
The twenty one-year-old… obnoxious and arrogant self said, “of course.”
Did I know how to provide for a wife financially, spiritually, emotionally, and physically…?
Another, “of course.”
Marriage is not a 50/50 proposition. It’s not meet in the middle and see where things are. The covenant of marriage is a 100/100 full-on-all-out commitment to another person to care for their life and soul.
Marriage is not a contract. Marriage is a covenant.
Contracts made for breaking... and covenants marked with blood.
The covenant of marriage difficult when you’re full of self, pride, and arrogance. When you say, “I do,” the spotlight of your narcism is highlighted in frightening and terrifying ways.
We come to marriage assuming we are servants, selfless, and in it for the other person. But when the spouse doesn’t respond as we deemed right and good there’s a turn in the soul. A scratch of the head and feeling of bewilderment.
Am I the problem? What did I do when I said I do?
I’ve read the books, attended the marriage seminars, and observed good marriages in action. But one word of advice after sixteen years still holds true.
What will keep this marriage together? Not survival; but a thriving and joy-filled marriage. A marriage of wonder and laughter?
Most marriage advice is about technique, communication, and having a date night. All good and well.
But the advice you find in most books doesn’t include death. Yeah, that’s right… death and denial is the key to happy and beautiful marriage.
I am guessing most will ignore this tip. But, I promise, it will change the depth of your marriage.
Die and deny.
Jesus said the hinge point of life is to take up a cross daily and die to self… in the dying you find life. You must die for resurrection to happen.
I must die to the selfish and trivial things that hurt my wife. The petty fights, oneupmanship, and selfish dreams, that don’t allow the family to thrive and my wife’s joy to enhance… these small things must find a grave.
Die. Die daily... and die often.
But when you die, you are not disappearing. You are coming back to the marriage with a real and robust life. A new Kingdom-and Christ centered power and eternal kind of life will emerge.
Jesus said in the losing you gain. In the dying is the rising and coming back new. Why?
We are not dying in the sense of our lives don’t matter to God and others. The denial is not looking at our humanness and seeing it as worthless and trash. We are taking up a cross daily, denying self, and then following Jesus.
The denial and the dying is not losing ourselves; it is gaining our true selves. Becoming more human… not less.
In Jesus is life, life abundant, and full. In Jesus is joy everlasting and joy inexpressible. In Jesus sins and transgressions forgiven and power extended by his presence (Holy Spirit).
What good is it to gain the whole world and lose everything?
Jesus is giving a little tongue in cheek here. We can’t gain the whole world even if we try… so why try?
If you’re married and try to live for yourself… heartache and disappointment.
The best advice I know is take up a cross, die, deny, and follow Jesus. In the cross-bearing, and in the denying, we find life; and the capacity to love another pilgrim on the way. A spouse or whoever might live in proximity.
A cruciform life is the mark of a happy marriage. I’m banking on it for the next sixteen.