Journal: What We Have Learned

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so I’m sappier than the usual ;). I have been reminiscing on our first year of being married, and realized how much we’ve grown together and individually. I’m sure there are multitudes of blogs out there that have said this also, but marriage has really taught us so much about each other, about ourselves (surprise, surprise), and most importantly, in our Christian walk.

Perhaps you’ve read a similar list in other blogs before, but to us these are the things that have really challenged us and things that we’ve learned:

1.Marriage showed us that we are, indeed, very selfish and that Christ is so self-sacrificing and selfless.

Ever get into an argument with your loved one and struggled yielding to them, perhaps even insisting to yourself that you are right? Or maybe, you’ve had thoughts like “What about my needs?”One of our favorite illustrations is this: in order to for traffic to go smoothly, it is not going to be about exercising our “right of way” but our will to yield to others. We don’t do this perfectly, we still struggle, but the Lord has been so gracious in teaching us humility and selflessness through His example on the cross. Sometimes I even find myself saying, “How selfless the Lord  must have been to love us so much to the point of death! I couldn’t even be selfless enough to not struggle over something so petty.” And you might say, “But Jesus is God, so of course His selflessness is boundless.” Yes, that’s true. But if you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior, scripture says that the Holy Spirit dwells in you.

Marriage has shown us just how selfish and self-inclined we are, in which we ought to continually repent of and mortify (thanks be to God for the grace He gives for us to do so!) But it goes to show just how selfless and how much love He has for us, to die for us when we’re the least deserving, when we were still His enemies (Rom.5:8. Rom.5:10). That alone should be a cause for worship!

2.Marriage has opened up a unique opportunity for us to share the gospel to others

In our culture where divorce and even adultery (Ashley Madison scandal etc) is so common, marriage then seems so counter cultural. As Christians, we are presented with such a unique opportunity for gospel influence as we represent Christ in our marriage. An excerpt from “A Call to Excellence” expresses this well:

Christians bear a high and holy responsibility–to serve in the world as ambassadors of Christ. Because we represent Him, what we are reflects on Him. Unbelievers form their opinions of our God from what they see in us. We may wish that this were not the case, but it is, and therefore we Christians must live lives worthy of our Lord. This necessarily involves a commitment to excellence, since our God is excellent” (Inrig, “A Call to Excellence”, 9).

To be reminded of this pushes us to commit our lives AND our marriage to excellence,so as not to disqualify ourselves of a godly marriage’s evangelistic influence.

3.Marriage has taught us that forgiveness is VERY VERY VERY VERY..VERY important.

Just because we’re Christians does not mean we are sinless (I hope this isn’t surprising). Heck, I’m a far cry from sinless. So putting two sinful people together will inevitably, YES INEVITABLY, result in one hurting the other. Or both hurting each other. Yes, communication is important… Yes, selflessness is important, but FORGIVENESS trumps it all. Dr. Harris, the minister who wed us, even reiterated this concept on our wedding. To paraphrase he said, “They say ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry’. But really, love means having to say you’re sorry many times.” Even the  older couple that counseled us before we got married told us to “be quick to forgive” and to make that a priority in our marriage. I’m thankful that Jamen makes this a priority, because he knows how much I’ve struggled with this and so he challenges me to be quicker to forgive. We take Ephesians 4:26 almost literally — when we have misunderstanding, we work together to resolve it even if it means staying up, so that we may not be outwitted by the deceiver (2 Cor.2:10-11).

Unforgiveness creates an unnecessary barrier between two parties, and most importantly, between man and God (Matt.6:15). (And just to clarify, once saved always saved. Unforgiveness does not nullify nor cancel salvation. But unforgiveness brings divine chastening… and that’s a different topic for another day 🙂 ) I like what John Macarthur said in one of his sermons, “(If you’re a believer.) nothing makes you more like the Father than when you forgive.” In other words, if you’re a Christian, forgiveness ought to be basic to you, just as it is with God whose heart overflows with mercy and forgiveness, whom we become a recipient of when we trusted Christ.

4.Marriage challenges our definition of love.

I’ve said this before in my other post, so I will just quote it here:

“I know some people who get married simply because it just “feels right.” In the early stages of dating, and even in the honeymoon phase of marriage, there is still that fleeting feeling of “butterflies” and romance. But that’s the keyword: “fleeting”. Many are convinced that these feelings of being “in love” will last. The reality is: it doesn’t last. The result can be disappointment as those feelings fade. Anything that is built on something changeable will also change.

The Word is clear that love does not rely on feelings. This is evident when we are told to love our enemies (Luke 6:35). True love is possible only when we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, cultivating the fruit of our salvation (Galatians 5:22-23). True love cannot flourish without free will or choice. It is a decision that we make on a daily basis — to extinguish our selfishness, and to let God work in our hearts and in our flaws to be able to love someone selflessly. Paul tells us how to love others in 1 Cor 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Our marriage has challenged what we thought we knew about loving someone. In the early months of our marriage, we faced several difficulties in many areas of our lives that cut the “honeymoon phase” very short, if you will. In other words, we had to learn early on that we will have bad seasons in our lives and that loving  will not depend on how we feel but on our will to continually choose the other person.

Marriage has been such a joyful experience, albeit the challenges. And when I do get discouraged over mistakes and difficulties, Jamen picks me up with comic relief: “Hey, it’s not like we’ve ever been married before. So we’ll just continually learn how to be married.” Ain’t that the truth! 😉

In two days we are celebrating our second Valentine’s Day as a married couple, with many years and many challenges ahead of us to teach us along the way. And with hope anchored on Christ, we look forward to every single one of them 🙂

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