I’ll never forget the morning I first laid eyes on him. It was a cool February morning and I was furiously chatting with my newly labeled ex-boyfriend, who broke up with me the previous night after a Dave Barnes concert—yes friends, you did read that right. I left my Old Testament class early that morning because it was becoming pretty obvious to everyone around me that my angry typing wasn’t note-taking. So I walked downstairs to finish our chat conversation in the unoccupied, drafty lobby of the administration building. I was still in my pajamas with my hair pulled up in a messy bun, and was really just killing time arguing with this guy about a relationship that I already knew was over—and to be completely transparent, could care less about. It’s funny thinking back now how hard I fought, despite the confirmation I had deep down that our break up was pivotal to the relationship break through the Lord was preparing me for. I heard the doors swing open and felt the warm sun hit my face, as I heard a familiar voice call out my name. I looked up and saw a friend I met earlier that semester walking into the admin building, and right there behind him was a guy I had never seen before. He was very tall and slender, and his brown hair curled out from under his Yankees hat. He started toward the offices after holding the door for two of the older ladies who worked there, when my friend already walking toward me, yelled for him to follow. As he walked toward the bench I was sitting on, my friend spoke up, “have you met Bordeaux yet?” I answered with a simple “no” as he reached out his hand to shake mine. I watched his wide smile reach up to meet his deep brown eyes, and when he looked at me I was filled with an instant sense of comfort. He stood there that morning talking and joking with me like he had known me for years. And it was in that moment, in the middle of an average Wednesday, a friendship was born that would eventually transform into the beautiful relationship we share today.
My marriage, like so many others, is far from perfect. We get on each others nerves, we fight, we disappoint each other, and some days we just really don’t like each other. I believe the reality is, a successful marriage is not one without fights or failures, but one based on a faithful friendship. My husband and I spent almost a full year developing our friendship, before realizing we both wanted something more. That year provided a safe space for learning each other and spending time together without expectations. Our friendship laid an ideal foundation for the Lord to prepare Chip’s heart to pursue mine. We have weathered some pretty intense storms since that first year, but even when we failed in loving each other well, our friendship cushioned the fall and pushed us to fight for each other and the marriage God gave us.
I have several single friends who have recently shared with me their desires to have a successful marriage one day, but because of society’s outlook on marriage, are unsure and often even fearful about what their marriages will look like. In our conversations, I have tried to encourage them with a few things I’ve learned and experienced in my marriage, and my hope is that I can do the same for you as you read these words today.
A successful marriage, in my opinion, is the result of two people who actively pursue Jesus and enjoy spending time together—who make a covenant with God and each other to spend the rest of their lives having fun, sharing dreams, encouraging each other, and doing life together. Mine and Chip’s marriage hasn’t always been pretty—it’s actually gotten pretty ugly at times. But because it was rooted in Jesus and based on a friendship, our relationship has grown deeper through our hardships, instead of being destroyed by them.
One of the most important things that I have learned in the last five years is that once the newlywed dust settles and everyday life kicks in, marriage requires sacrifice. And in order to be in a place to sacrifice, you have to first be spiritually and emotionally healthy.
Unhealthy dating relationships lead to unsuccessful marriages filled with unrealistic expectations.
If you are in a serious relationship with someone and having doubts about whether it is going to lead to a successful marriage, it may be a good idea to begin asking yourself a few hard questions like the ones I’ve listed below…
- Is this person someone who is genuinely pursuing my heart, or is it just a comfortable relationship?
- Would this person still desire a relationship with me if I were to remove the physical aspects of it?
- If I share the most real, raw, unfiltered version of myself are they likely to extend grace, love, and forgiveness; or judgement, critique, and resentment toward me?
- Do I feel safe giving this person my past struggles, current stresses, and future goals to carry with me?
- Is this person challenging and encouraging me in my faith or am I “carrying them” or trying to “fix” them?
- Can I see myself growing old with this person? Does that thought excite me or does it flood my mind with insecurities about whether or not we will stand the test of time?
- How does this person treat other people who are important to me? Do they share the importance of time spent with my family and friends or am I having to talk them into hanging out with my people?
- Is this person moving forward in their spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of life or does it seem they are at a standstill, or worse…moving backward?
If we are being really honest with ourselves, these questions should be pretty easy to answer. The challenge is found in the difficult decisions you may be prompted to make after answering them. The Lord wants us to enjoy marriage and ultimately established it to be a vehicle for ministry in growing closer to Him and encouraging others to do the same. He should be getting more glory out of the story we are writing together, than he ever did from us when we were apart. I can honestly say that my husband and I have been far more effective in ministry together, than we ever were when we were on our own.
I write this not to discourage you, but to help you see that Jesus really does want more for you than you could ever want or dream for yourself.
God promises that He is able to “do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
I look back on every dating relationship I was in throughout the years and I am confident that not one of those guys would have stood by me, encouraged me, challenged me, and loved me the way that Chip has. At the end of the day, we have fun together and I know that no matter what storms we may face ahead that we will walk through them hand-in-hand, and I can trust that the Lord will equip Chip to lead me out to the other side.
My husband isn’t perfect—but he leads me in a way that allows me to better see who Jesus is, instead of obstructing my view of Him.