Jon and I had our thirteenth anniversary this month! And we celebrated by spending a few days in Monterey while my parents watched the spark plugs. In some ways, it felt almost silly to celebrate this year - I mean, it wasn't a "big" anniversary like our 10th, 15th, or 25th. And someone superstitious might even find it odd that we chose to celebrate our 13th.
The thing is, though, that we really need to celebrate the small moments in life as well as the big ones. Every year that Jon and I get to spend with one another is a blessing, and that's worth rejoicing in. It doesn't matter that this year wasn't a year that society considers important. Every year is important to us. Every year is a gift. And we're thankful for each year the Lord gives us.
One night while we were away, Jon and I stood by the glowing embers of a bonfire on the beach, watching the moon rise over the ocean. It was just the two of us, the other bonfire attendees having long given up standing in the brisk night air. And it was indescribably beautiful. The vast ocean reminded me of just how big Earth really is - and more importantly, how big God is - while the twinkling stars overhead reminded me that we live on a single planet, in one solar system, in one galaxy out of millions.
And as I contemplated both the vastness and minuteness of the earth, I also thought about our past 13 years together. It seems so long and so short at the same time; difficult yet easy; both broken and beautiful. I realized that Jon's and my life together has taught me four things in the past 13 years:
Marriage is a gift
God created marriage as a gift for us. Of all God's beautiful creation, human beings are the only ones who are privileged with the commitment of marriage. Not even angels have this blessing. Because so many marriages fail and because the world often seems to scoff at matrimony, it can be easy to forget that the Lord gave us marriage as a blessing designed to reflect Himself.
Marriage is beautiful
God's design for marriage beautifully copies the relationship that Christ has with His bride, the church. A healthy relationship between husband and wife reflects the love Christ has for His bride. There is amazing beauty in that! While no Earthly marriage will ever be perfect, it can still reflect the exquisite beauty of God's perfect design. Marriage disrupted by sin doesn't look beautiful anymore, so sometimes we just need the reminder that the Lord's original design is lovely and praiseworthy.
Marriage is humbling
When Jon and I got married, there was no shortage of advice we received. But the best marital advice I was ever given came from a dear older lady in our church.
"Sweetheart," she told me one day, "once you get married, you'll realize that he's not perfect. But then," she added with a knowing smile, "you'll realize that you really aren't."
Truer words were never spoken! My marriage has shown me that I'm not the patient, loving person I once thought I was - far from it, in fact. Even though marriage is a gift from God and His design for it is beautiful, it can be very humbling to see our faults brought to light. Truthfully, I think being married takes much more work on ourselves than it does on our spouses, at least in most cases. I am so thankful that we have the Holy Spirit's help to overcome and learn from our shortcomings and limitations.
Marriage is rewarding
Marriage isn't always easy. Having to forgive your spouse (and often yourself) over and over again wears thin. But when we continue to die to ourselves and see our faith and patience grow in our marriage, the result can be very rewarding as we imitate the example that Christ set for us. Dying to ourselves glorifies the Lord.
Children are also a reward of marriage. Sometimes I get the feeling that society views children as a burden and that raising children is simply a season of life that must be endured. But they truly are a gift from God designed to draw husbands and wives even closer to Himself. (Now, please don't misunderstand me - I'm not at all suggesting that God is punishing couples who can't have biological children. There are many examples in Scripture of childless couples who were very Godly men and women.)
Not every marriage will be a good reflection of Christ's love toward His bride. Ruined marriages are part of the consequences of living in a broken, sinful world. But for a marriage between two believers who are willing to put Christ first and to obey His commandments, the gift of marriage truly can be beautiful and rewarding, even though it's also humbling.
I'm certainly no expert on matrimony. These are just four things the Lord has shown me during my first 13 years with Jon. I'm so thankful that the Lord has given us an amazing marriage - not a perfect one, but a relationship that helps both of us grow closer to Himself the longer we're married.
Your turn: What truths has God taught you about marriage? I'd love to hear!