April and I just made it to the ten year mark on April 7th and we’re pretty proud of ourselves, still head-over-heals in love, and incredibly thankful to God and our friends. So it’s got me really thinking about what it really takes to make it a decade, or two, or three, or more. So here’s where my thoughts start out…
I think marriage is one of God’s best ideas ever. Well, it’s more than an idea, really. Marriage flows right out of who God is, His very essence, as a relational, creative being. That sounds deep, I know. But this post isn’t. My goal with this post is simply this, to connect the “How to’s” of marriage to the real source of marital happiness, friendship. I suggest that no marriage can really be satisfying and spiritual apart from understanding why God thought it up in the first place. Ever wonder why God created them male and female? I sure have. Even more, I find the teachings in the New Testament regarding marriage to be incredible, like this one: Husbands, you should love your wives as Christ loves the Church! Wow. How much does Christ love the Church? So that’s how much I must love April?! That’s incredible. But more than incredible…that’s a whole LOT of pressure.
Thinking about marriage too much can actually cause us to spin out. I’ve read numerous books and attended multiple seminars, as well as took entire classes in college on the topic, and it doesn’t take long to start getting overwhelmed with “good” information. Much of the time we think of marriage in the deep ways — Marriage is about change, it’s about a covenant — ’til death do us part; It’s about union, commitment, and raising children. This is all true. But I think the very first thing marriage is, before everything else in the world gets in the way and fills up our brains, is … friendship.
Just think about it: God sent Christ so we can be friends with the Father. God establishes the church so we can have friends who are as close as brothers and sisters. And God sent me April because, quite simply, HE didn’t want me to be alone. God wanted me to have a friend. He wanted Adam to have a friend and he wants me to have a friend. That’s a pretty simple way to view marriage. The more April and I have kept that in mind the happier we have been. Of course her friendship leads me closer to the Father’s heart and closer to those friends in my church. We are meant to feed one another with Spiritual food and build each other up and all that, sure. But all these things happen quite naturally in the context of a good friendship, where each person is intent on following God, and intent on being the very best friend he or she can be. But what does it take to be a “best” friend to someone? Or what does it take to be a best friend to your husband or wife? Ahhh,… now there’s the question.
Think of the best friend you’ve every had, or think of the best friends in your life right now. Perhaps it is your spouse or perhaps it isn’t. Whether you’re married or not the question, ‘How do we obtain deep and abiding friendships’ is one of the most important questions we will ever ask. What are the main ingredients to a happy friendship-based marriage. Well, for April and I, (and I don’t want to superimpose these on everyone for I believe every marriage is quite different) these are the top three things:
Communication: Good communication habits/skills are an absolute must in every marriage. Shoot the issue and not each other. We call it shooting the brick (issue), which would build up a wall if not dealt with. I just think this takes work, no matter who you are. Because of our fallen state we do not communicate very well. So it takes some practice and some time to get better. But I believe everyone can learn good habits/skills (and I do think it’s a skill) with some effort and commitment. I’ve made boo-coos of mistakes in this area, and been exhorted by my brothers many times over. So I’m communicating this about communication with all humility and brokenness.
TIME! Time, time, time. Time together making good memories. All work and no play will lead to… well, misery. Friendship is memories. It’s a long string of good times and bad, through thick and thin, to the depths and back again. Best friends spend time in every way, and in every moment possible. And friends laugh!! We just have to date our wives, men. We must! Dating is time that we and our spouses need. We need to laugh a little. If the laughter starts to go away for long, long periods in your marriage you better view that as a tornado siren going off. There is real danger coming. No matter how busy life is we always make time for our friends. Or… we don’t have many friends. This same thing is true in marriage.
Forgiveness. Friends know how to talk to one another and how to forgive; how to not judge and how to forgive; how to listen and how to forgive; how to fight fair and how to forgive. And we’re not talking about lip-service here, you know, that — “I forgive you” but deep down you are not clear at all and even though you think you really forgave her or him you’re in unreality about it and then you find out in a fight on a different subject all together when suddenly the hatchet rises from the grave and hits your “best” friend right upside the head. We must search ourselves. Do we really forgive? Do we forgive not just the actions but the very essence of who he or she is — those bad habits, character “qualities,” and…all that other stuff? Do we forgive? Really? It just won’t work without it.
So that’s the top three for us (which, of course, each need their own post or two). These three apply to any and every friendship. But I am really not meaning to over-simplify here. I’m quivering at the very thought of clicking “Publish Post”, because I know this topic is a doozy! But I didn’t think up marriage. God did. And I think marriage is one of God’s best ideas ever. But, to me, it’s a no-brainer if we understand that God is Love, that He desires us, that he is completely, 100% relational. It’s His idea because it’s who God is. It’s more than an idea because marriage flows right out of Him, out of His very essence, as a relational, creative being.
In the end, whether you’re married or not, God invented friendship. Friendships must have good communication, time, and forgiveness. Fortunately, as in all things, “WE” do not need to try to do these things on our own, or at all for that matter. We must only surrender more to God. God’s indwelling Spirit will give us wisdom and produce fruit. And the family of God, our church, should provide a place to learn to become deeper and deeper friends both inside and outside of marriage. With God doing these good things in us we can say with all confidence,The Lord be praised! For He has given us good things.