Many years ago, I was living the perfect dream. I had graduated from Bible College and was leading a growing youth group in a town five minutes from Southern California beaches. I had married, had two incredible children and just bought the perfect house. Now, all that was needed was to continue on this path and ride off in the sunset together.
Do you remember perfect? Do you remember when the dreams were coming true? I wish I could say my story continued the way I hoped that it would, but the dreams were shattered in a dramatic way. After learning about an ongoing affair, my world came crashing down as within six weeks I lost my job, my church, my house, my stability...and my marriage. With no hope of reconciliation, I was confronted with a new future reality that did not match my dreams at all.
Fast forward the tape seven years and I am happily married. My two children are with me the vast majority of the time, as are my wife's three children. We are in ministry together and our kids are well on the way to healing and restoration from the trauma each of them has experienced. But this post is not about them...it's about how to have a marriage of hope. Having learned how to have a marriage of mediocrity and pain (more about image that authentic love), I hope that I am doing a much better job this time in protecting and preserving this gift called marriage.
So, what's different now? What would I tell married couples and single people who hope to be married some day? It would start with understanding that marriage is a gift and that it is not about fulfilling my needs, but rather is about serving my wife. Servant leadership is a hot topic in the business and ministry world, but is just as crucial (If not more so!!) within marriage. God has called me to lead my marriage and this is accomplished through serving.
I have also learned that the little things matter. We have a sign stenciled above our bed that reads "always kiss me good night." While this might seem a bit cheesy and sentimental, the truth is that while those adjectives are true, this idea also works. It is incredibly hard to go to bed angry with somebody when you have to kiss them. Again, I must be intentional about my choices overriding my feelings - I wish I was perfect here, but I am definitely making progress.
Protection is a big thing and I don't just mean physically. Do I protect my wife from the pressures of the world to perform or look a certain way? Does she know that I am for her and that she can run to me for comfort, support and, on rare occasions, actual advice? Am I seen as her biggest cheerleader as she juggles motherhood with graduate school with keeping our home with serving at church...or am I a hindrance?
So, what does a marriage of hope look like? It is one built on the promises of God where prayer and devotions are imperative. It is about forgiveness and grace and acceptance. It is a marriage filled with laughter and joy...with tears and comfort. It is a relationship that sees the good in the other person, that believes they are amazing and that helps them pursue their God-given reason for living. It is a relationship that takes work and persistence and patience and endurance, but that produces the greatest love, joy, peace...and you know the rest.
I thank God for my marriage - for the beauty that has truly risen from the ashes - for the lessons learned that now produce a marriage of hope. I pray that my journey from dreams to ashes to lasting beauty might inspire and encourage you to trust in Jesus with your marriage and to pursue hope.
Dear Lord, it is far too easy to take our marriages for granted. If we are single, we look to marriage to "rescue us." If we are married, we allow this gift to become mundane and even hurtful. If divorced, we often embrace unhealthy perspectives. Help us to see marriage as a gift from You...allow us to preserve and protect. Bless us with marriages of hope! Amen.