JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Dear Daniel,
By the time you’re old enough to get married, there’s no telling what the state of marriage will be. It’s already pretty shabby. I was reminded of that this weekend, when I read that Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz and his wife are divorcing after 16 years of marriage. They have four kids, for whom I feel terrible.
I don’t know any of the details about their situation, so I don’t know if the divorce is scripturally justified or not. But I do know that far too many Christians are failures at marriage because they buy into the lies that society feeds them. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
Fortunately, the Lord has been gracious to me and your mom. Although our marriage isn’t perfect, as she and I are both sinners, I’d say it’s pretty good. She is a precious treasure more valuable than I deserve, and for that I am thankful.
And even if our marriage weren’t as strong as it is, we’re committed to it for the rest of our lives. Divorce is simply not an option.
So, as you’ll most likely be heading down the path of matrimony yourself in a few years, here’s a little advice that I hope will be helpful.
First, and most importantly, you need to know that marriage is designed by God to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. You as a husband are obligated to love your wife in the same sacrificial way that Christ loved the church. That’s not always easy, but that’s what God requires of you. I often fail miserably at showing that kind of love to your mom. Fortunately for me, she and the Lord are kind, forgiving and patient with me as I press toward that goal.
You need to marry a woman who will respond to that sacrificial love by submitting herself to your leadership, in the same way that the church ought joyfully to submit to the authority of Christ. Don’t marry a woman who’s cantankerous and overbearing. Look for a woman with a quiet, gentle spirit like your mother, and you will do well.
A Christian marriage should demonstrate with clarity to a lost world the depths of Christ’s love for His people, and their willingness to subject themselves to His gracious leadership.
Know also that love is a choice and a commitment. Throughout your life, you’ll be bombarded through books, music, television and movies with the message that the secret to happiness in life is to find that one person you will forever love passionately. The media will tell you that if you marry the right person, your marriage will be endless bliss — and if it’s not, you have the right to end the relationship and look for the person who will provide you with such sensations.
My response to that is simple: Hogwash.
If you expect your marriage to be a relationship that is one nonstop romantic thrill after another, you will be terribly disappointed. The fact is, there will be times in your marriage when you will not feel like loving your wife. You will not feel like sacrificing. You will not feel like putting her needs first. You will want to go to the ballgame, by golly, even if you have more pressing responsibilities at home.
And she, in turn, will not feel like submitting to you. She will not gaze at you lovingly. Instead of a kiss, she sometimes would rather give you a swift kick.
But no matter what you feel, you need to realize early that love is not an emotion. It is an act of the will. If you don’t feel like loving your wife, God expects you to love her anyway. If she doesn’t feel like submitting to you, God expects her to submit anyway. Once you figure that out, it makes marriage a lot easier to handle. The lovey-dovey feelings will come and go. You do not have the freedom to abandon your marriage and wreck the lives of your children simply because you don’t get butterflies when you look at your wife.
There’s more I could write, and I probably will do so over the years. I dearly hope that your marriage is one that is fulfilling to you and honoring to Jesus Christ. Even now I’m praying that God will prepare you and your wife for each other, and that in His perfect timing He’ll bring you together, for your good and for His glory.
Tim Ellsworth writes this column for BPSports, on the Web at www.bpsports.net.