My Darling Rachel,
Watching you say your vows, I was both excited and scared for you and Jake. So young. So hopeful. So unaware.
You haven’t just gotten married: you have declared war.
Marriage is the creation of God Himself, given to us as a reflection of His own being as Trinity. God in three persons. The two shall become one flesh. This beauty was evident in your eyes as you looked at one another; in your voices as you stammered through your vows; in your anxious smiles.
Just as real as God is the evil that hates this and will never stop trying to tear you apart. And it will use anything and everything it can to do it. Even your love.
Your love for each other. Your love for your family. Your love for yourself. Even your love for God. It will twist everything and turn it inside out, upside down. Convince you that black is white and pink is blue. Thankfully, there are certain truths you can cling to so that when all else is dark, you will have a light.
Pray. In the morning. In the evening. In the middle of the night. When you do the dishes. When you walk the dog. When you’re mad. When you’re happy. Pray for yourself. Pray for your husband. Pray for your children. Ask God for His mercy on you every moment of every day. He will not fail you.
Find and live in your own space; even if it is only a room over a shop somewhere. Make sure it has a door you can lock, and that behind that door, only your family (and by that, I mean the two of you) has authority. You are now each other’s top priority. More than your parents. More than your grandparents. More than your pets. More than your (someday) children. Your first duty is to each other. When anything else comes into conflict with that, you MUST choose your spouse over them all. It is important you establish YOUR home, not focus on another’s home. I have been there. This will create more conflict than you can fathom.
Understand and establish your roles within your little family. A husband is not a wife and a wife is not a husband. Each is perfected as they seek to fulfill the highest calling within the family. A husband is called to sacrifice for his wife (and only for his wife: not for her parents, her grandparents, or anyone else, but for her and her greatest good). Your husband’s life will never be his own again. Ever. He now lives for you. That sacrifice demands respect. Thus, a wife is called to submit. Sacrificing for you is your husband’s highest calling. To do what is best for you. I can tell you, after forty-five years, you don’t always know what that is. But as your husband leans on God and lives his life in sacrifice of you, you must trust that he WILL know what is best for you, and even though it will sometimes burn like fire, do it. This is why we say, “Marriage is martyrdom.” God gives us everything needful for our salvation. Dying to our self-will is what makes space within us for God. Marriage is a sure path to salvation, but only if it is lived in sacrifice and submission.
Your problems are no one else’s business. Let me write that again. YOUR PROBLEMS ARE NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS. I am not talking about times when we need counsel and support from a Priest, a Pastor, a therapist or counselor, or a very trusted family member. You need that support (and you will always have it from me). I am talking about complaining about each other to your friends. To your parents. On Facebook. At church. At a family birthday party. Whether you want to believe it or not, not everyone in your life is cheering for your success.
There are people that want you to fail. Some for their own ego (because they “knew” it wouldn’t last), some because they may want one of you for themselves, and some because they aren’t ready to let you be a grown woman. Someone can love you very much and still not be a champion for the success of your marriage. Be very discerning about whom you turn to for help and counsel. And NEVER forget, you will get so mad at times that you will see red. And then you will vent to your family, your friends, and when it’s over, you’ll be happy again but they’ll still be holding a grudge against him. This does nothing to help you. Make sure the people you trust with your marriage are as forgiving as your own sweet soul.
Embrace being a wife. This may seem like something so obvious, you skip right past it. Bear with me a bit. Of course, right now your whole life is about being a wife. That’s why you got married! To be the wife of the man you love. But it’s kind of like buying a house. You decide you want a home, so you look around. You tour the homes available. You find one you just fall in love with, that you can imagine how perfect it will be, and you buy it. It’s yours. You live in it for a while, and you start noticing things. A small crack in the plaster; a small leak making a tiny water stain; a weak plank in a floor. Maybe the color you painted the front room seemed great at first and now it’s just too gaudy, or too plain, or too trendy. After a while, it’s not as much fun to live there. You go over to a friend’s house and it seems a lot nicer. They have prettier furniture, higher ceilings, a bigger yard. You go back home, and the house looks even worse than it did before. Why? Because now you are comparing your home to someone else’s.
This is where the dissatisfaction starts. This is when a choice must be made. Do you get out the plaster, the hammer and nails, and fix your house, or start looking for something “better?” It is the same being a wife (or even a husband). I have news for you that might shock you: he isn’t perfect, and neither are you. The longer you live together, the more cracks you will uncover. The more flaws you will see, and you WILL question whether or not it was a good idea to marry this guy. I’ll save you the trouble of figuring it out. It was a brilliant idea.
You see something in him. You see his potential. And your role is to help HIM see his potential. This is what I mean when I tell you to embrace being a wife. You will be the one that paints the picture of what he can be, of what your family can be. You give him a vision to follow, and a dream to manifest. But if you decide the house just isn’t worth fixing, he will likely want to give up on himself. Do not let that happen.
Finally, only measure your marriage by your marriage. Is it better than it was yesterday? Is it stronger? If you just had a terrible fight, did you learn from it to make your lives better? Be intentional about creating positive moments to sustain you through the negative ones. Go on a date, a drive, a swim, and just marvel at the simple joy of being together, and how nothing else in the world matters during those times. Keep marching forward. Don’t measure the success of your marriage by the house you live in, the number of children you have, the vacations you can take, the car you drive, or the prestige of his career. Measure it by how committed you are to one another.
And pray. I promise, I am praying with you.