A Christian friend who is going to be married soon was asking me a few questions. They were smart questions because he’s a smart man, and they were Godly questions because he’s a Godly man. And as he asked them and as I thought about them, a consideration about how we answer questions like his as married Christians presented itself.
Those of us who are married should resist the temptation to play the varsity team, “that’s cute that you’re all smiles, kid, but give it a few years” song and dance routine for our engaged Christian counterparts. If you’re like me that’s a temptation, and if you’re like me that’s pride.
The reality is that there are two (at least) things about Godly, Holy Spirit indwelt marriage that can and should be communicated to people seeking it or soon entering into it: It is incredibly wonderful and it is incredibly hard. They should be allowed, and encouraged, to be excited about romance and intimacy and learning the other person and sex and having children and worshiping God as a family. These are good things, and it would be sinful of us to be condescending or envious about someone’s pre-wedding excitement and anticipation of them. At the same time, it is difficult for two selfish people still in the midst of being conformed to the image of Christ, still putting to death the deeds of their own flesh and (presumably) never having devoted themselves to one person wholly in body and soul for life, to merge habits, communication styles, dreams, desires, and extended families. And the soon-to-be-married-in-Christ deserve to know about that, too.
The person who is highly optimistic, who is grinning or excited 90% of the time about an upcoming wedding or who is thinking nearly constantly about finding a husband or wife many need to be reminded or taught that marriage can involve bankruptcy, miscommunications, serious disease, miscarriages, sinful sexual temptations, layoffs, or fights with in-laws. We shouldn’t want our friends devastated later, or hoping for some sort of perfect domestic existence that doesn’t exist.
But there are also anxious young Christians, unsure of whether they should look for a spouse or worried about their upcoming nuptials. These sorts of people probably need to be encouraged with the beauty of marriage. They would do well to hear about the indescribable combination of freedom and safety in being known inside and out by another soul who has promised to stay with you and love you for life, someone who knows the shape of your shoulders and the way you look when brushing your teeth and what makes you laugh hardest. It’d do their hearts good to hear from us about the beauty of loving the Lord Jesus with your spouse in the midst of bad times, of discovering new ways He provides as a couple, of holding your newborn child for the first time, or of seeing your child saved and brought to faith and repentance and eternal life.
I should keep the other person’s sanctification and future marital happiness in the front of my mind when I’m with a single believer asking marriage questions. It shouldn’t be my chance to feel smug or grown up. There are fun, joy, beauty, challenge, hardship, disaster, and increased faith in Godly marriage. I need to know the person across the table from me and I need to know their personal situation before I can have an idea of what they need to hear about most. If my advice is really Christian, it should have the other person’s good and the glory of God as its goal, not my desire to pat someone on the head and feel like a hot-shot adult who’s at the big boy table of the already-married.
I’ll close with Paul’s pastoral advice to Titus, pastor of the church on Crete (from chapter 2):
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity.”