I performed a wedding ceremony for friends this past weekend and their story is just beginning. And I love that moment I have in every service, where I can say anything I want to, knowing I’m the last person that gets to speak to them before they say “I do”. Last summer I had the privilege to marry my son and his bride and when I sat down to think through what those final words might be, I landed on three very specific things. I’ve been sharing them with couples ever since, even in this most recent ceremony.
The very next day I saw a friend who has been married over 2 decades and after a long separation, they’re thinking about calling it quits. I have no idea what the Pastor challenged them with right before they sealed the deal. But I know the three things I’ve been directing people towards on the front end, are the same three things I’d be driving them towards if they want to make it for the long haul.
So for every guy who is on the front end…
…and every guy who is thinking about bringing it to an end…
…and of course, every one of us in the middle…
…if we could just grasp these three things it could change everything.
For you. For her. And for the story you’re telling and want to leave behind.
Let me make a plea that we give everything we can to these three areas and I’ll give you the closest thing I can to a guarantee that your marriage will make it. And you’ll enjoy it.
It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.
I took these three words straight from my reading in Ephesians 5. It’s the very best description I can find for how a husband loves his wife. I especially love the way The Message version words it. I don’t think it’s possible to really soak in the language and then live indifferently towards your wife.
Unfortunately, many relationships are reduced to score keeping. So it’s easy to think about marriage as a balance between give and take. We tally up who is giving and who is taking and we keep a mental scorecard of who is doing more and who needs to step it up.
Serving your wife is the antidote to selfishness. What I mean by serving her is to make it a habit of your relationship to put her needs first.
It means showing our love for our wives by going all out in the way we serve her. And this is where a lot of us need extra coursework in humility.
This means that there are days when you might have to ask, “what can I do for you?”
And there are hopefully days when you don’t have to ask because you already know.
And there will be days when you don’t want to serve her.
Do it anyway. Especially on those days.
And I can hear some of you already. “But she doesn’t…”
It doesn’t matter. You do what you can do and it might inspire her to do the same.
Service. It is the action to the words “I love you.”
There’s this tendency for us to show the best version of ourselves in the dating and engagement phase and to go hard in pursuit on the front end. That makes sense. No one wants to make a bad first impression. Yet sometimes once we make the “catch” and claim the “prize” and secure the woman, we stop pursuing.
We stop doing the things that helped us catch her in the first place.
I counseled a ton of married people and I’ve observed even more, but I can say with a high level of confidence that many of the problems in a marriage can be attributed to the fact that someone stopped pursuing the other.
And guys, it’s usually us.
This is essential to a thriving marriage. Guys, keep chasing her. Keep pursuing her heart and affections. Continue to do the things that you’ve done so far to capture her.
After all, you considered her worth being pursued enough to get you here. And she’s worth continuing to pursue in the years ahead.
I don’t know what more there is to say or any other way to say it than “what got you here won’t get you there unless you do the things that got you here.”
If that’s confusing, just remember Pursuit.
There is a relationship depicted in the Song of Songs that gives us a glimpse into the bedroom on the wedding night. Just as they are about to consummate their relationship, there’s a 3rd voice in the room. I believe it is God speaking, otherwise, it might be a little weird.
Here is what God says to this couple:
Eat, O friends, and drink; drink your fill, O lovers. Song 5:1
There’s a lot to say about that, but for now, I just notice this.
That God calls them friends first before they ever are lovers.
Your nearest and dearest friend, your closest friend and your best friend should be your wife. When God said it’s not good to be alone, his answer was marriage. The first human friendship was between a man and woman – a husband and wife.
One of the things our culture is telling us is that people who get married tend to become boring. We actually use the phrase “settle down”.
Sometimes you can easily observe couples who just seem to not even like each other.
I think it’s likely because they’re not having fun.
So let me challenge you to invest in your relationship.
Find those things that you do together that you enjoy and make you laugh. Engage in those things where you’re just having fun together, as friends.
Continue to build that deep friendship in which you reach that level where you know someone and they know you – your strengths and your weaknesses. A friendship that accepts each other as you are, while at the same time encouraging each other to grow.
Service. Pursuit. Friendship.
To the guy who is just about to step into marriage:
Serve Her. Keep Pursuing Her. Make her your best Friend.
To the guy who is about to step out of marriage:
Serve Her. Keep Pursuing Her. Make her your best Friend.
If we can do these three things and love her this way, we’ll be telling the greater Gospel in our marriage. More than anything else, I want my marriage to tell a great story.
We have an opportunity and responsibility to be a mirror and a model of Jesus: who came to serve…who pursues us with His love…and invites us into a relationship, even calling us “friends”.
Guys, we can do this.
I’m cheering for you!