December 6, 2017

Celebrating the Joys of Marriage

Gary Thomas — 

I thought I was one of the world’s biggest fans of marriage, until I asked a question on Facebook (“What do you love most about marriage?”) and found out there are legions of marriage fans out there!

In the revised and updated edition of Sacred Marriage (published in 2015) I wrote,

“I love marriage, and I love my marriage. I love the fun parts, the easy parts, and the pleasurable parts, but also the difficult parts—the parts that frustrate me but help me understand myself and my spouse on a deeper level; the parts that are painful but that crucify the aspects of me that I hate; the parts that force me to my knees and teach me that I need to learn to love with God’s love instead of just trying harder. Marriage has led me to deeper levels of understanding, more pronounced worship, and a sense of fellowship that I never knew existed.”

Sacred Marriage admits that parts of marriage can be very difficult, but when it’s good, it can be very good. That’s a view shared by Jillian on Facebook who wrote, “Marriage is hard…especially when you’re acting selfish….but it’s also a freaking blast!!!”

In our two previous posts we celebrated good husbands and awesome wives. The final post in this series celebrates the joys of marriage. So many singles who have witnessed some truly awful marriages ask me, “Is marriage worth the risk?” Accordingly, I asked married couples on my Facebook pages to brag about the benefits of marriage and here’s some of what they shared:

The most common answer to what people love about marriage was “friendship, companionship and sharing life together.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 captures this aspect of marriage so well:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.”

Second, couples pointed out the spiritual benefit of pursuing God together.  You don’t just gain a husband or wife when you get married; you live with a brother or sister in Christ. You will never experience such a level of accountability and the possibility of encouragement and inspiration with anyone else quite like you can with your spouse. This reminds me of Hebrews 3:13-14a:

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ…”

Shelly wrote this about the spiritual benefits of her marriage: “It has caused me to grow closer to God than I ever imagined possible and strengthened that relationship first, so that I can see my husband, my best friend with more of His eyes and consequently love my husband in a deeper, more meaningful way that is connected to Christ. Without my marriage, my relationship with God and others would be just less, less complete.”

Third, we can’t leave out the benefit of…being naked together. The wonder of sexual intimacy, when there is an amazing spiritual bond, relational bond, and incredible physical sensations, not to mention the wonderful feelings of closeness afterwards—few highs in life will ever come close to sexual intimacy in marriage. Song of Songs 5:1 exalts,

I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,

I gathered my myrrh with my spice,

I ate my honeycomb with my honey,

I drank my wine with my milk.

Eat, friends, drink,

and be drunk with love!

There were times when our kids were young and Lisa and I would do “date evenings” at a hotel. There’s just something different about hotel sex. I don’t know why, but there is. Not having to be quiet, having a door that is locked and barred and clean sheets that you can leave dirty… Driving to the hotel was half the fun. Knowing what would soon happen, that I was with the woman I cherish above all others, and what we were about to do wasn’t just acceptable to God but blessed by God and celebrated by God!

I should probably do more in this blog to celebrate this aspect of marriage, as does Chris, who writes that he loves “Having a best friend that is also smokin’ hot.” And Jen, who says of her husband, “He’s just so stinking sexy I can’t hardly believe he’s mine!”

Having each other’s back was another common response to the benefits of marriage. I love the way Lindsey captures her marriage with Steve: “Knowing that no matter what the world, the family, friends, or even the church tosses at me — my man always has my back and loves me even when I am wrong. It’s the peace of knowing my heart is in his hand.” (But Lindsey I know you, and you’re rarely wrong…)

Reed says something similar to Lindsey, praising “The warm embrace and kindness of my wife when I come home after the world has beat on me all day long and her heart of defense for me and our marriage as a team and unit.”

Other benefits of marriage Facebook people identified:

  • Knowing who your first call will be (for good news or bad)
  • Facing sickness and life disappointments (unemployment, the death of loved ones, etc.) together.
  • Someone to celebrate with
  • A treasure trove of inside jokes
  • Alison mentions, “Being each other’s sounding board! Offering each other an ear when one needs to vent or one wants to share ideas or ask questions! I love it!”
  • Quiet evenings or mornings where you’re doing nothing, but you’re doing nothing together
  • Growing old together
  • Sharing parenting duties together
  • Reno wrote about “The sharing of life experiences…. the look across a crowded room that says “let’s go home.”

I personally love having someone to bless, and several others said the same thing. The Bible calls us to be devoted to good works (Titus 3:8,14), and it’s a great joy to do things for your spouse that makes her or his life easier or more pleasant. If you live a life of worship and walk in grace, you’ll feel compelled to love and serve others. It’s God’s Spirit within you, orienting you toward a life of blessing, and marriage provides the most immediate context in which to live that out.

More good news for wary singles: many couples testify that marriage tends to get sweeter with time. If you’re both growing in the Lord, you haven’t lived your best day of marriage yet! More sweetness is up ahead. Jaime puts it this way: “There is a buried treasure that seems to only be discovered when you’ve stuck it out through the years and the hard stuff.”

Bill adds, “We’re seamless and the longer you are married you begin to realize what true relationships look like. It goes to higher levels unlike anything I could have ever imagined.”

Alison Tidmore’s words capture the wonder of marriage as well as anyone could. In fact, her words are so beautiful and true to life, let’s end the blog with this:

“I realized this summer what I love most.  I have gone on a few trips to visit family with just my kids. Greg has stayed behind to work. After a few days I was ready to go home. I missed being home. This summer our family of 5 took an almost 2 week road trip and there wasn’t one second I wanted to go home. I looked at Greg one evening and told him he was my HOME. Wherever he is, I am home. Thinking about what home represents summarizes marriage to me–so much security, love, family time, rest, quiet times with Jesus, safety in storms of life; that is my husband and my favorite part of marriage.”

Thank you, God, for the many and varied wonders of marriage!

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5 responses to Celebrating the Joys of Marriage

  1. That last one really got me. I met my husband while living abroad and now live 3000 miles from where I grew up. In the midst of a big fight not too long ago, he said to me, “Maybe you should go home,” referring to where my parents and family live. And all I could think in that moment was “I am home.” My husband is my home now, so it doesn’t matter where in the world I am, as long as I’m with him.

  2. Wow!! Thanks for this Gary!!! (one more week and counting til my big day!)

  3. This is so good, Gary. Yes, it gets better with time: in our experience, which is short (two years married after one year and a half dating) our life is getting better and better from day to day (the beginning was hard!!). Knowing each other more and more, understanding, learning to appreciate the reality we have while letting go of unrealistic expectations, we found that the treasure we have is far more beautiful than the things we expected and didn’t get. Instead of a perfect housewife, for example, my husband found someone who floods him with love. I found the same instead of a “perfect” man.
    I finally understand what it means when the Bible says that we are one. It’s about much more than the physical union, we are really one in the sense that we can’t hurt each other without hurting ourselves, and when one of us does something wrong, then the other one feels responsible like he/she did it.
    Recently I had to work a lot for a project and was busy long hours at night, being very little available and doing almost nothing at home. This went on for three weeks. I imagined that I would never have the freedom to focus completely on work like I had when being single. Instead, I was surprised because my love not only didn’t make me feel bad but on the contrary he understood, supported and loved me like never before. Just an example of two better than one!

    • Thanks, Karin. Your comment about marriage: “we found that the treasure we have is far more beautiful than the things we expected and didn’t get” is one of the main points C.S. Lewis makes about marriage in “The Four Loves”–so you’re in very smart company!