On the sixth day, God created humanity in His image and, at the same time, He instituted marriage as the sacred union by which a man and a woman become one flesh (Genesis 1:26–28; 2:21–25). In keeping with this most ancient blessing, when I finally said, “I do,” my life was radically and forever transformed for the better. After ten years of marriage, here are four things I have learned.
Marriage is hard
Our culture has discipled me to consume my wife. Even now I can hear the culture whispering in my ear, Your marriage is good only so long as your wife is pleasing to you. It is easy for me to buy stock in this philosophy because, in my flesh, I am hardwired to be selfish in every way. In direct contradiction to this secular sagacity, however, the Holy Spirit commands me to imitate Christ:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. . .” (Ephesians 5:25)
In other words, die for your wife every day. Make your life about her. Seek her shalom. Seek her comfort. Meet her needs first. Make personal sacrifices so that she might thrive in every way. Jesus tells me that He did not design marriage for my happiness, but for my holiness and for the holiness of my wife.
I have had to learn more clearly that when I entered the covenant of marriage, I was committing to live and die for my wife. This is so much more difficult than I ever imagined.
Headship is heavy
God has made me the head of my wife, which means I am called to exercise leadership and authority in our marriage (1 Corinthians 11:3). At first, headship sounds attractive and liberating. I have learned, however, that headship is heavy.
God has charged me to lead and, thus, I bear ultimate responsibility for the decisions that we make. When Eve took the fruit in the garden, Adam was passively standing at her side (Genesis 3:1–7). He abdicated his headship and the result was the Fall of humanity. Eve may have initiated humanity’s first sin, but God held Adam accountable (Genesis 3:9; Romans 5:12).
In addition to responsibility for our sin, God has charged me to be active, by the grace and ministry of the Holy Spirit, in sanctification of my wife. I am to devote my life as a husband to the preparation of my wife for the moment she meets Jesus face to face (Ephesians 5:26–27). It is frightening to know that I bear that responsibility daily. A right understanding of headship causes me to tremble, for I know that, like Adam, I will stand accountable before Christ.
My wife is to be my second love
Jesus is the King of my life and I make every effort to treasure my relationship with Him above all others (Luke 14:25). Second to Christ is my wife.
On the one hand, it is nonsensical to the world that Jesus, an ancient man I have never seen, ought to displace my wife as first in my affections and devotion (1 Peter 1:8–9). On the other hand, it is not natural to elevate my wife even to second place. There are many would-be competitors. Self. Daughter. Parents. Ministry. Church. School. Career.
Even when I put my wife second to Christ in theory, very often she does not enjoy that privileged position in fact. On our wedding day, I vowed that my wife would be “my first and most important ministry.” Regrettably, there have been seasons in our marriage when I have had to be reminded of this, though it remains a foundational aspiration of my life.
The Bible is clear that neither parents nor children, nor anything else, are to be put in the same category as my wife (Genesis 2:24). I have learned that my wife is to be more cherished than father or mother, son or daughter, work or play. Unlike any other relationship, my wife is mine and I am my wife’s for as long as God sustains life in us.
Sex is complicated
We are all born with sexual issues. What God created to be good (Song of Solomon) is twisted by our sinful nature (Romans 1:24–25). I have learned that marriage doesn’t instantly fix our sexual brokenness. Sex is complicated and it takes work, even in marriage. It is a struggle for me and my wife to continually and increasingly submit our sexuality to God’s sanctifying work. At its core, sexual intimacy is a dramatic re-enactment of the Gospel. I am to pursue my wife with unyielding devotion while she receives me with joy and gladness. Of course, this is easier said than done.
Even though my wife and I are both sincerely committed to Christ and to one another, there are many very real threats to sex as God intended it: busy-ness, infertility, children, routine, familiarity, aging, decreasing drive, emotional disengagement, and lingering sin tendencies, to name a few.
Sexual intimacy requires intentionality, vulnerability, and effort. I am still learning that it is essential that I continue to romance my wife and show her that I cherish her if I am to kindle the flames of her heart. Just as Christ is not selfish with His church (Ephesians 5:28–32), I must not seek sexual intimacy apart from emotional closeness. I have also learned that the quest for sexual purity never ends, even in a Christ honouring monogamous marriage.
These are 4 things I have learned in 10 years of marriage. Each of these has reminded me that marriage is a high calling. As difficult as marriage may be, in my experience it is the most fulfilling relationship that God ordains. I love my wife uniquely and deeply. When death finally does do us part, I pray that my marriage will have brought glory to God.