Who doesn’t love a wedding? The bride, all arrayed in her gown, tiara, veil and sometimes jewels. The groom, polished and fancy in his tuxedo or suit. A bevy of bridesmaids and cluster of groomsmen. The “best people.” The completely adorable flower girl and ring bearer. Sometimes, they get pets involved. Flowers, music, everyone in their best clothes, and the knowledge a great party with good food is soon to follow.
While a wedding is usually fun for the guests, it’s no fun a lot of the time, and is effort, energy and downright stress for the bride, groom, wedding party and/or their families. Much planning usually goes into them, and they can be occasions for family fights sometimes. Fights? Over what? Seating charts. Who gets invited and who doesn’t. Including kids (aside from the ring bearer and flower girl, and whether these will even be there), or not. Food preferences/allergies. The cake. The groom’s cake. Money is always a big one. Venue. Music choices. Decorations. Cantankerous guests. The honeymoon. The list goes on and on!
Thankfully, we didn’t have too many of these fights in planning and preparing for our wedding 38 years ago. We took care of the seating chart war by not having one. We cast our invitation net wide, and invited all our friends and relatives. Food was taken care of with a hot and cold buffet which mostly seemed to please everyone. There was only 1 cake, and everyone agreed on the flavor. Money? My mother gave us a budget (the same as my sister Judi, who was also marrying that summer), and we paid for whatever else we wanted. The venue was near the church we all agreed on, and was a suggestion of my mother’s. Music was provided by a band led by a friend of mine from grade school. We decorated the reception hall ourselves the night before. We just took care of everything as it came up, and agreed not to fight over it. (We won’t discuss our rambunctious guests from Bob’s office . . . or the Daddy/Daughter dance that almost wasn’t . . . or the Great Flower Fiasco . . . or the Polka Predicament . . . )
But just because our wedding was almost problem-free doesn’t mean our marriage has been. Oh, no! We had headaches, hassles and arguments right from the start! Bob and I are both strong-willed and stubborn, logical and determined to get our own way. He’s more quiet about it, while I have volume and emotions. Adding to it, we both had something else.
You see, dear reader, it took over 35 years of marriage for me to realize something: Everyone enters their marriages with what our culture likes to call “junk in our trunks.” We have baggage. I had, among other things, rejection and anger issues. He had, among other things, commitment and decision-making issues. We had different views about decorating, finances, child-rearing, and vacations. Our marriage put two people with that baggage together, expecting us to somehow work it all out.
I think that’s why bridal gowns have trains and tuxedos have tails, and why brides and grooms find them so popular to wear at weddings. While most people may not come into their marriages with quite all the baggage Bob and I did, or even the same kinds of baggage, we all have some. We use those gorgeous gowns and fancy tuxedos to hide what we’re carrying along behind us, certain that if our fiance saw the full extent of it, he or she would run screaming from the church . . . At least, that’s how I felt about it, despite being aware Bob knew about a lot of mine.
Remember how I said “we were expected to work it out”? Well, the good news is we were not expected to work it out alone. Aside from friends, family, marriage books, CD’s, marriage counselors, pastors and sermons, Bob and I had an incredibly valuable resource to help us work it out. Because right from the start, within the wedding ceremony itself, we asked God to put Himself between us. We asked Him to not just to be a part of our wedding, but Senior Partner in our marriage, Whose values and opinions mattered more than our own.
Why did we do that? It goes back to a Scripture someone read as a part of that day. In Ecclesiastes 4, King Solomon said,
Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And although a man might prevail against one who is alone, two shall withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (English Standard Version, emphasis mine)
Since then, I’ve found in Proverbs 16 King Solomon also said,
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16:3 (English Standard Version)
By asking God to be an active partner in our marriage, by valuing His opinions and values more than our own, we established from the very first moments a firm foundation from which to build our relationship. Without it, quite frankly, we would have been all over but the shouting and eventual divorce!
We could have chosen not to do this. We could have chosen to base our marriage on our feelings in the moment. But when the hard times came, and those feelings weren’t there, our commitment to one another needed something else to back it up. That “something else” was our personal relationships with and commitments to God, and our joint commitment to walk out our marriage together before Him.
For us, to not invite God into the center of our marriage would have been like what Jesus described in His parable of the wise and foolish builders, as recorded in Matthew 7:
Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.
Matthew 7:24-27 (English Standard Version, emphasis mine)
Had we not established our marriage on the firm foundation of our shared faith in God, in His saving work for us in the Person of Jesus Christ, in the ongoing purifying of our lives of His Holy Spirit, our marriage would have been built on sand, and would have crashed at the least calamity. And believe me, with the junk we carried into our marriage in our trunks, we set ourselves up for calamities galore, let alone the normal ones that life hands to us all.
I am not saying we were perfect then, and I am certainly by no means saying we’re perfect now! Far from it! But as my builder friends say, when the foundation is strong, the house is likely to be strong as well. Because we started with a strong foundation, because we began with God in the center, we had a basis on which to build with strength and love.
Our first efforts were, as most are, stumbling, and often came crashing down in life’s storms, at least partially. But God our Master Builder uses the wisdom of Scripture, the guidance of mentors and books, CD’s, sermons and counselors and other resources time and again to help and guide us to rebuild better. Like most things of great size and strength, it’s taken time and much effort. We’re not done. We’ll never be done, at least until we receive our eternal Heavenly reward (hopefully a very long time from now!).
If you’ve read anything else on here, dear reader, you know life’s storms have hit us, and oftentimes hit us hard. (When Life Turns Upside Down) They still hit from time to time, in big and small ways. Our “junk in our trunks” still gets in our way sometimes. But God helps us to withstand the storms, unpack more junk, drop yet more baggage behind us and move on again stronger. Each time we allow Him to unpack our junk and drop our baggage, our marriage becomes stronger and a greater testimony to God’s love and enduring faithfulness. He’s a Gentleman, who won’t force Himself in, and unpack for us. We have to allow the process to happen in order for it to work, both as individuals and as a couple. We have to work with Him.
Someone might say, “Well, I’m single! So this doesn’t apply to me!” Please allow me to point out something. We all have relationships. We all enter them with “junk in our trunks.” Many times, sadly, other relationships end over people’s “junk,” just as many marriages do. The same God Who helps us with our “junk,” Who guides us through the issues the storms and “junk” bring up, Who heals us from the pain life causes us (and often, we cause ourselves) is ready, willing and able to help you, too. He can be your Friend, your “Junk” Dealer, your closest companion and your foundation against anything life may throw at you. But as I said, He’s a Gentleman. He’ll wait for you to ask. Of course, He might prompt the circumstances of life to throw enough at you to prompt you to ask (and throw in the proverbial towel!). But He’ll never force Himself on you. You always have only to ask.
I hope and pray you ask. In the asking, there is a Friend worth having, and immense joy for your journey.