I’m taking my 45th wedding today. Or, as I like to put it, today I’ll be marrying my 46th woman… and my 45th man! You should be able to figure it out :). It’s a beautiful Canberra Autumn day, the sun is shining, it’s not too cold, and the wedding is happening in a park by the lake. Fantastic!
The service is planned, music selected, talk written, prayers organised, vows crafted, certificates prepared, poem orchestrated, and Bible readings chosen. I’ve had my shave, selected my tie, ironed my shirt (actually my wife did that!), arranged my suit, got my notes, register, certificates, Bible, L plates (props!)… ready to go… licensed to marry!
People love weddings. The beauty, the pageantry, the joy, the love, the tears. They are very special occasions. So much time, money, and effort goes into making this special day one to remember for a life time. And why not? This is a huge day.
But herein lies a problem. I think people often have a blind spot when it comes to weddings. Let’s compare how much goes into preparing for the wedding day with how much goes into preparing for the years of marriage that follow. Tens of thousands of dollars on the wedding and reception. Every waking hour for months stressing over the reception arrangements. Fittings for dresses and suits. Pouring over wedding catalogues. The agony of culling guest lists and organising seating arrangements. Getting the flowers just right. Choosing the best photographer (and later discovering they rule the day). Hours at the hairdressers. Trying to please the mother and the mother in law. The weight-loss program, so as to look fabulous on the day, to fit in that dress, or that suit. All that, and much more, just for ONE day!
And what about preparing for the marriage? “What do you mean?”, I hear some say. What I mean is, preparing to transition from being single to being married. Learning about yourselves, and each other, and what you would like to make of your marriage. Learning to communicate. Working out good ways to resolve conflict. Discussing your families of origin. How you want to rewrite the script and do things differently. Exploring your views on children, how many, and how soon, parenting strategies, roles and responsibilities. Discussing issues of intimacy and sex. Sharing your fears, hopes, dreams, expectations.
How much time is put into laying a foundation for a lifetime together? What is the rock that you will build your marriage on? Do you share the same spiritual convictions? Who will matter most in the marriage? Will it be you, or will you put your partner first, or will both of you seek to put God first? These are big issues, and they surely matter much more than matching the groomsmen’s ties to the bridesmaids dresses?!
As I prepare for another wedding, my prayer for the couple is that they will be prepared for their marriage. I will be encouraging them to…
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others (each other) better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)
Looking to Jesus offers the best hope that a marriage can have. My marriage, my children’s marriages, my friends marriages, the couple whom I will marry today. Jesus is to be our foundation and rock. He is to be the model for the husband, for me, as he lays down his life for his bride, the church, his people.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Ephesians 5:25)
What a challenge this is! If only I, and other husbands, would take this to heart. It certainly doesn’t come naturally to me. And so I should keep praying:
Dear God, please help me to love Fiona, as Jesus has loved me. Help me to overcome my selfishness, my pride, my impatience, my greed, my laziness. Please empower me to care for the beautiful wife that you have entrusted to my care. Please strengthen me to show love, to be loving, to love from the heart. Please enable me to minister to my wife, not for what I can get, but always to give and to bless. Please enrich our marriage and keep us growing together, until death do we part.
Looking back through my marriage register is a bitter sweet experience. So much history, and such a mixture of emotions. It mixes the tears of joy and the tears of broken hearts. One couple celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. Many marriages going strong. But some of them have broken apart. Some have been parted by death. Others fractured by unfaithfulness. Some might say they have drifted from their foundations. Maybe one or two might wish they had worried less about the wedding and put more into preparing for the marriage.
Every time I take a wedding it causes me to pause, reflect, and consider my own. Not the wedding so much – that was nearly 29 years ago – but the marriage. I’m praying for 29 more years together! If we make that it will be a miracle, and I’m not just referring to God removing the cancer from my body. It will mean God continuing to work in both our hearts, to keep us looking to Jesus, and putting each other before ourselves.
Please God, may it be so!