I was thinking of all the things I want to share with you as you enter this so very important stage of life, and I realized how much there is to say, so I decided to get it on paper so that you can always refer back to it in the future. I love you. I love you dearly. You are not just my little sister, but you are one of my closest friends. We’ve been through a lot together, and I will always cherish the memories we have created thus far in our lives. What a blessing that God brought us together to be sisters! Although we come from two different families genetically, God brought us together and I thank him for bringing you into my life. Your fun-loving spirit has brought me many smiles and lots of laughter.
Today you are entering into a whole new life. You and Robert are no longer two, but one. God is joining you together today. Matthew 19:6 says “Since they are no longer two, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together.” When we enter the covenant of marriage, we are agreeing to no longer be a “me” but a “we”. A marriage is not a joining of two separate worlds, but an abandoning of two worlds in order that one new one might be formed. When we get married, we make a vow, before God, family and friends.
Jay and I got married with stars in our eyes thinking that we could conquer the world. I always heard that other marriages were ending in divorce, but never thought that mine could. I loved him so much that I knew we would never consider divorce. But once our dreams of “living happily ever after” were thrown against the hard walls of reality, we came to a point where it seemed our love was gone. Our relationship was dead. We didn’t feel close. We didn’t enjoy being with each other. We didn’t meet each other’s needs. How did that happen? I always thought our marriage would be different. But without even realizing it, we were starting to argue about things, and ever so gradually, arguing and bickering became our regular habit every weekend. We sought counseling. But after weeks of counseling, we found that the advice we were given was just turning us against each other as we were trying to manipulate each other to behave in the way we wanted in order to meet our own needs. The anger and bitterness only increased. Finally, one Sunday morning, during one of our arguments, Jay said, “We’re going to church!” I said, “Oh no we’re not! Go ahead, you go! But I’m not going. You’re the one who needs it!” I was so angry. But God impressed on my heart that I needed to go in order to save my marriage. And I went, thinking that if I didn’t like it I didn’t ever have to go back. I still remember walking into the church, and everyone was singing. There was so much joy and love in that place. Everyone was so friendly. It wasn’t a fake friendliness that I had experienced at other churches previously, but it was true acceptance. I really enjoyed the music and the people (and I’m not a people person). But I started to cry as I stood there, because I felt the hurt not only in my marriage, but deep down in my soul. I was immediately embarrassed that I was crying, and I hoped no one would notice. Alma saw that I was crying, but she didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. She just accepted me and hugged me, and I realized that it was okay to cry. That was over two years ago, and Jay and I haven’t stopped going to church since. We have experienced tremendous healing in our marriage, and I won’t give the credit to anything that we have done. I won’t even give the credit to the church. It was God. Once I realized how powerful and real God can be if we just let him into our lives, I sought him out. I started to read the Bible looking for answers to life’s questions. Looking for peace in my life. Many people disregard the Bible right away and say that they can’t understand it, but when one really tries to understand it, there is tremendous truth and power in the Bible. Marriage was God’s idea, and his blueprint for marriage is the marriage that works. It’s rare today in our society of quick and easy divorce, but his way is so fulfilling. I have by no means arrived and become the ultimate wife, but the more I learn about what the Bible says about how to love others, the better my marriage gets. Once I started applying these truths to my marriage, I experienced the healing power of God. Only God can reach down deep and heal the deepest of hurts.
Jay’s grandma has been a tremendous example to me of how to be a good wife. Now that I am studying the Bible regularly, I notice that the way she lives is exactly what I am reading. She has encouraged me to love Jay when I was having trouble doing that. Jay and I truly love each other, but it was difficult to keep that passion that we once felt for each other alive over the years. The anger and bitterness that we experienced in hard times was keeping us from loving each other fully. We said that we believed in God, but we were far from him. I know that Jay’s grandparents were praying for us through the hard times, because now that we are getting closer to God, we are getting closer to each other. Once we started going to church together and learning about God, we began to make progress in our marriage.
I did struggle with the idea of submissiveness. I used to think that submissive wives were being taken advantage of and didn’t have control over their own lives. I used to think that a submissive wife was one that couldn’t stand up for herself. I used to think that she was weak. Now I realize that that type of worldly “woman’s lib” kind of thinking is what got me into trouble. It only took me further away from Jay, and it didn’t result in the closeness that I longed for. I realized that by trying to “assert” myself and not let Jay take advantage of me, I was constantly on the defensive in order to prevent myself from getting hurt. But what I was doing was pushing him away and not allowing him to truly love me. That independence that I was striving for only tore apart our oneness as a couple. I realized that I needed to make Jay more of a priority. A good wife esteems and respects her husband and doesn’t put herself first. I know that sounds totally opposite from society’s view that we should “stand up for ourselves” and “not let anyone take advantage of us”. But God works everything out for the good of those who love him, and true joy and peace occurs when we allow ourselves to love unselfishly. I came to the realization that women who serve their husbands do it because they enjoy it…not because they feel that they have to. They do it because it increases the love in the marriage. If I strive to be the woman that God intended me to be, that will only help my marriage.
I hope that you don’t read this letter and think that I am preaching to you. I just love you so much, and I truly want to see you be happy in your marriage. And I have found that God’s way works. And a marriage in which each person is loving the other biblically is the most fulfilling marriage one can experience. In the Bible, “love” is a purposeful commitment to sacrificial action for another. Powerful emotions may accompany biblical love, but it is the commitment of the will that holds love steadfast and unchanging. Emotions may change, but a commitment to love in a biblical manner endures and is the hallmark of one who follows Jesus.
I am very challenged by this in my own marriage. It is very difficult to love my husband the way that God wants me to. Whenever I get angry, I just want to tear Jay down with my words. But that is not loving him biblically. The Bible tells me that love is giving, not getting. God gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16). God’s love is the basis and the example for the expression of our love to others, including our husbands (1 John 4:7-10). If you look in the Bible at 1 Corinthians 13, you will see the specific characteristics of true love. The test of biblical love is to do those things, especially when you don’t feel like it and even when you are not getting it in return (Matthew 5:46-48).
LOVE IS KIND, even when you want to retaliate physically or tear down another with your words. Love is sympathetic, considerate, gentle, and agreeable. LOVE IS NOT ARROGANT, even when you think you are right and others are wrong. Love does not assert itself or become overbearing in dealing with others. LOVE DOES NOT SEEK ITS OWN, even when you feel like grabbing it all or have an opportunity to do so. Love does not try to fulfill its own desires, does not ask for its own way, and does not try to acquire gain for itself. Love, as an act of the will, seeks to serve and not be served. LOVE IS NOT PROVOKED, even when others attempt to provoke you or you are tempted to strike out at something or someone. Love is not aroused or incited to outbursts of anger. Love continues faithfully and gently to train others in righteousness, even when they fail. LOVE DOES NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT A WRONG SUFFERED, even when everyone seems to be against you or when people openly attack you. I struggle with this one. So many times, when Jay and I are arguing, in order to make my case stronger, I will bring up past hurts. This only shows that I have not truly forgiven him. I also struggle with holding grudges. Love does not hold a grudge against someone. Love forgives, chooses not to bring up past wrongs in accusation or retaliation, does not return evil for evil, and does not indulge in self-pity. Love covers a multitude of sins. This is what I am striving for in my marriage.
I find it difficult to live up to God’s standards of what makes a good wife, but the cool thing is that he empowers me and changes me when I ask for his help. He is making me into the woman and wife that he wants me to be. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. I always knew that husbands and wives have distinct roles in marriage, and that a marriage works when a couple follows God’s specific design for the husband and the wife, but I didn’t know where to find that in the Bible. Then I came across Ephesians 5, and I read “For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his body, the church; he gave his life to be her Savior. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives must submit to your husbands in everything.” So we are to submit to our husbands as the church submits to Christ. What does that mean? How does the church submit to Christ?
Well, the church loves Him (Matthew 22:37; 1 Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 6:24). How can we love our husbands? One way would be to frequently think about what he needs from me, and do go about my day with that in mind instead of just selfishly taking care of my own needs. One thing that I have learned in my own marriage is that selfishness kills a relationship. Yet everyone has a natural tendency to be self-centered. Isaiah 53:6 says “All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.” Our culture today promotes and encourages selfishness. Over time this selfishness will rob the relationship of its romance. I am praying that God will help me not to be selfish. Our selfish nature focuses on and becomes critical of our mate’s weaknesses or failure to meet our expectations. Our disappointment and disapproval of our mate leads to feelings of rejection, discouragement, anger, and bitterness, resulting in even lower performance. This is what was happening in my own marriage, and I didn’t even know it.
The church honors Christ. One way that I try to honor Jay is to acknowledge him when he comes home. I stop what I am doing and greet him with a hug and kiss to let him know that I am glad he’s home.
The church comforts as they have been comforted (Phil 2:1, 1 Thess 4:18). I try to comfort Jay by praying about his weaknesses. I used to try to fix him or correct him myself, but that didn’t work very well. Now I pray about his weaknesses, and God has brought peace into our relationship. I respect Jay’s God-given authority over our family, and God has blessed our marriage. Rebelling against that God-given role only tore us apart.
When I compared my skills as a wife to God’s standards, I found that I really fell short. I realized that I have a lot of work to do. But God is so good. And He has already blessed the small effort that I have put into bettering our marriage. This encourages and motivates me to keep trying to be the wife that He wants me to be. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I have a lot of things I need to change about myself, but I pray that God will help me work through one at a time. And He does.
When we are not really trying to build our marriage, it is very easy to fall into destructive patterns. It’s easier to get angry and not listen to our husband than it is to do what it says in James 1:19, 20: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight.” All marriages suffer from various degrees of pain and anger brought on by a partner’s offense. The choices we make during a conflict will either drive us apart or bind us together. The key to resolving conflict is to learn how to lovingly confront our mates. This requires that we learn how to seek and grant forgiveness…whew! That’s a tough one.
When we are hurt by our mate, our natural tendency is to respond with anger. For some people, it feels safer to show anger than to acknowledge that we have been hurt. But anger can be a dangerous weapon, and it must be controlled. Uncontrolled anger can result in bitterness that leads to resentment and depression. Unresolved conflict ultimately leads to isolation. One thing that has helped me during confrontations is to focus on the problem, not the person and focus on expressing feelings not judging his character. It’s too easy to just focus on his faults and mistakes and attack him rather than the true problem. And personal attacks only add fuel to the fire of conflict. The most difficult time I have had with conflict resolution is seeking forgiveness. It is so difficult for me to admit that I am wrong and say that I am sorry. I find myself hardened with anger and not willing to change. But I have to be willing to ask for forgiveness in order to bring healing into my marriage that results in oneness. The conflicts will come. It’s inevitable, but we need to make a choice to handle it constructively. When we are willing to seek and grant forgiveness, God’s power is available to us. And He has the power to heal the deepest of hurts.
Well, now the wedding plans have come to a close, and you are ready to enter a new phase of life. I am praying that God will bless your marriage as he has mine. I pray that your marriage will bring you lots of peace, fulfillment and joy in the years to come. And just know that when the hard times do come, as they inevitably do in every marriage, I am here for you, Sis. I am just a phone call away.
Congratulations and best wishes to you as you become a wife! May God bless you richly in the years to come.
With Heartfelt Love,
Your Big Sis