Recently my mom and I had the privilege of giving my cousin’s fiancee a bridal shower.  I love giving bridal showers!  What a fun time of blessing!  It is so much fun to plan activities that the bride will enjoy and be blessed by.  I also enjoy shopping for a gift to help the couple as they begin their lives together.  All those gifts are so wonderful, but it just doesn’t seem right to simply send the bride-to-be away with only a carload of nice things for her new home.  There is so much more to marriage than just nice towels, new dishes and a coffee maker.

My husband and I have been married for 24 years now and we have a great marriage.  I truly love that man more now than I did on the day that we got married.  But I talk to so many ladies who are not in the same place that I am and I see their hurt and I know that that could easily have been me.  I am so thankful to God and to my husband for my marriage.  God made marriage to be such a wonderful thing between a man and a woman and I know that it can be.  I want to do what I can to help others.  At the same time that I was planning for this shower, I was also getting ready for my Good News Club that I teach for kids.  At the time I had some “Now and Later” candies.  You know, because God promises to love you “now” and He promises to love you “later.”  What a coincidence!  I had to share with with my new friend who will soon marry my cousin about how when we get married we promise to love each other “now” and we also promise to love each other “later!”

My husband and I just recently read the book by Tim Keller, “The Meaning of Marriage.”  Keller says so many neat things in this book.  I think this one statement that he makes is very important.  He writes, “When you marry, you’ve gotten into something that was invented by God.  And if you determine to run your marriage your way, you’re in for a lot of trouble, because marriage is God’s institution.  He built it to be the primary relationship in your life” (131).  I really like that.  I see three important points in that statement.  1.  We don’t want to do marriage our way.  2.  We do want to do marriage God’s way.  And 3.  Marriage has to take top priority.

So why would marriage have to take top priority?  Because I think that it is very easy for other things to take top priority.  Think kids, career, friends, hobbies….  Not only that, but people are just different and that can make life difficult at times.  There was a Hagar the Horrible comic on Sunday, August 19, 2012, in our newspaper that I thought was good.  Hagar’s dad was up on the “Hill of Knowledge” and he finally found out the “one great secret of life.”  He tells Hagar that he wants to tell him this “one great secret of life” and Hagar really wants to know.  Hagar shouts, “What is it, Dad?  What is it?”  Hagar’s dad answers, “Women think differently than men!”  That is so true.  I didn’t know that when I got married, but I know that now.  We think differently.  So we need to keep our marriage top priority and work on understanding each other and honoring each other.  Not only do we think differently, we just are different.  We are raised in different families in different places with different traditions.  We’re just different.

We also must make our marriage top priority because people change.  Somewhere in Tim Keller’s book he mentioned that he was married to something like 15 different women, but all were his one same wife.  She just had changed so many times.  I know I am not the same person that I was 24 years ago.  People change.

So if we do marriage our way we will end up having a lot of trouble.  I see that a lot.  One problem is that over time we begin to see faults in our spouse.  We used to only see all of those wonderful qualities in them, and now we focus on the faults.  Their faults.  Not ours.  When that happens some people will lower their expectations for happiness that they had when they got married and decide just to do their best to get along with each other.  And then they end up living more like roommates than husband and wife.  Or they begin to fight with each other and blame that other person for their own unhappiness.  Or, since this person isn’t making them happy anymore, they start looking for someone better.  None of these are how God created marriage to be.  But these are things that happen when we choose to focus on our spouse’s faults instead of choosing to see their good qualities and think about the person that God is making them to be.

So we need to do marriage God’s way.  How do we do that?  God gives us some great advice in Ephesians 5:33.  Check this out.  “…each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (NIV).  For me, knowing that my husband loves me is the most important thing.  I need him to tell me that he loves me every day.  I know it sounds silly, but sometimes I think that he might have changed his mind even though he has done nothing wrong.  I just need to know.  And if that is so important to me, than I’m pretty sure that a wife’s respect must be equally important to a husband.  Remember Hagar’s dad’s one great secret of life?  Women think differently than men.  Yes we do!  And men think differently than women.

So it is true that our husband needs us to respect him.  He needs to know that we admire him.  I think that we truly do respect our husbands, but often times we say things and do things that to our husband says “I don’t respect you” and we never meant that.  But we think differently.  Here’s a little hint.  If your husband is angry about something and you have no idea what that is, maybe you did something that he felt was disrespectful to him.  Just sayin’.

So if respect is so important to our husband, what else is?  We want to be a good wife, right?  Well, he also needs to know that we are on his side.  We need to give him our personal support.  Even when he is dreaming out loud or whatever.  We need to let him know that we are on his team.

Also, it is important to him that we join him in doing the things that he enjoys doing.  So whatever recreational activity that he enjoys, let’s join him!  I learned something about this that totally blows my mind.  You know how as women we long for our husband to talk to us.  You know, really talk with us.  We want him to tell us what he’s thinking and how he is feeling.  And when he will have those deep emotional conversations with us, we feel so close to him.  Well, that is the same way that he feels when we join him in enjoying the things that he likes to do!

One other thing, marital privileges are great, but he won’t truly enjoy them unless he knows that we enjoy them, too.  So we need to physically respond to him.

(I have to thank Shaunti Feldhaun for the books that she has written and for the time that I got to hear her speak on the Family Life Marriage Cruise a couple years ago.  Thank you, Shaunti!  And thank you, Family Life!  I have learned so much from you!)

So in order to have a good marriage “now” and also “later” we need to make marriage our top priority and remember to seek God’s way for marriage and not just do it our own way.  My hope for my new friend is that she and my cousin will have a great marriage, “Now and Later!”