About three years ago I pulled into our church parking lot on a Sunday morning, shortly before the service was to begin. In typical Pittsburgh fashion, it was pouring rain. This morning it was particularly torrential. I parked my car about 20-30 yards from the entrance, where many of our church family were enjoying coffee and donuts under an overhang. Before I could think of an action plan to get inside, my sweet husband was already running to me with an open umbrella in hand. His daring rescue left his pants soaking wet, and he was due to lead worship in a few minutes. This is one of my favorite memories of Adam, and typical of his selfless nature in our marriage. He wasn’t looking for applause or glory; he was simply serving his wife.
Unfortunately, not everyone who witnessed his kind act saw it that way. As we entered the overhang, we were greeted by a loud group of belly-laughing older men, ready to tell us exactly where our marriage was headed.
“Don’t get used to that, April! He won’t be doing things like that for much longer!”
“You’re newlyweds, just wait a few years, things will change!”
“How long have you been married? Ha! Just you wait!”
“Wait till you have children, it’s all downhill after that!”
Now, I know these men were not intending to discourage us, or speak curses over our young marriage. They have many years on us, and there is certainly wisdom we could glean from them. Sadly though, their idea of marriage is all too common in our world, and unfortunately, in the church as well. That sarcastic phrase, “Just you wait,” has been spoken to us more times than I can count. These comments are assuming that our marriage is headed for a miserable, boring, self-centered end. How terrible! I truly believe this way of thinking can be toxic to the marriage relationship, especially when comments like these are thrown around so flippantly.
For the first two years of our marriage, comments similar to the above were directed towards us quite frequently. As soon as people found out we were newlyweds, words would be shared. More often than not, those words would build up and edify us in our marriage. Those words were precious, and we treasured them because they were full of Biblical wisdom, and humility born out of a love for God, His Word, and us. Other times, they were similar to the words spoken above. Those words tear down, discourage, and unbeknownst to the speaker, curse the hearer! Those words are full of worldly wisdom, and self-righteousness. Those words are in opposition to God’s design for husbands and wives to flourish within the marriage covenant.
How sad that these phrases are all too common in our culture, and have become incredibly normalized. Even sadder is that older believers would speak them to young newlyweds!
Over those first few years we became experts at laughing off these comments, and learning how to respond in a gracious way. However, we aren’t naïve to the fact that it takes a lot of work to keep a marriage strong. We don’t doubt that having children, or being diagnosed with an illness, or starting a new job, will bring new challenges to the marriage. We know that Satan loves to tear apart marriages with adultery, pornography, busyness, passivity, criticism, or just plain apathy towards the relationship. We personally have seen that if our marriage isn’t tended to, and we don’t prioritize it like we ought, our union suffers.
Adam and I are only in our fourth year of marriage and we have personally seen how important it is for older Christians to exhort younger believers as they strive for holiness, and oneness, in their marriages. In the short time we’ve been married, we have weathered some pretty big trials together. It is only by God’s grace (and the encouraging wisdom of others) that our focus was kept on Him, and we were given the strength to persevere through that particular trial. Our marriage has grown deeper as a result.
Paul instructs the older men and women to help the younger believers, and teach them, in Titus 2.
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 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, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:1-8, ESV)
Just as I have learned much from the older women in my life, I know God has given me wisdom, and experiences, that younger women could benefit from as well. I am forever grateful for the older women in my life (whether they are personal relationships, or a wise Christian author whom I have never met) who have spoken God’s grace, and wisdom into my life and marriage.
In the book of James, the tongue is described as a small thing that can cause great destruction. Our words are a reflection of our character, and point the hearer to our heart. I often forget how powerful my words can be, and I cringe at the destruction I’ve caused to those I love through careless speech! The comments Adam and I received that rainy morning didn’t destroy us, but they certainly didn’t build us up, or bless us in any way. James 3:9-10 is a great reminder when we are seeking to encourage, and ultimately bless, others.
“With it (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:9-10, ESV)
A close friend of mine always says, “Marriage is the best.” Her husband is a gift to her, and the marriage relationship is a blessing. I have never heard either of them speak an unkind word about, or to, each other, and I’m pretty sure I never will! They work hard at it, and with great humility seek out the wisdom of other godly couples. It’s beautiful to watch, as they are great models (although not perfect) of what a faithful marriage can look like.
I have learned to brush the destructive comments aside, and instead focus on the wisdom that points to a flourishing marriage the way God intends.
“You’re newlyweds! Wait until you’ve been married a few more decades. It takes work, but it’s so worth it!”
“Children don’t have to destroy your marriage like everyone says! Becoming parents has deepened our bond.”
“Sure, marriage changes over time, but it doesn’t have to be for the worse!”
“Just you wait, it only gets better and better with time!”