If we heard it once, we heard it 10,000 times when we told people that we were getting married: “How old are you? Are you ready for that yet?” Usually I rolled my eyes and said, “Of course I’m ready.” After all, I mean, I was 20 years old when I asked my girl for her hand in marriage. I pretty much knew the entire world. We had each other. We had a storybook romance. What could we possibly not be ready for? Well, looking back over three years after the vows I can tell you there were a million things I wasn’t ready for. Here are just a few.
Of course I knew in theory that marriage brought with it sharing, but I didn’t really understand that. I’m not talking about sharing stuff. Sharing stuff is easy. I’ve been doing it since I was three years old in the sandbox. I’ve never really had a problem with it. Unless it’s food. I still struggle with that one. What I’m talking about is sharing the non-material. Sharing emotion, weight, suffering. There have been times already in my marriage where I have been at a loss for words. I don’t know how to share the emotion of what I’m going through. I don’t know how to partake appropriately in the weight of what my wife is feeling. I don’t know how to share in the suffering that we might encounter together. This is the sucky part of marriage. Every time there is weight on your spouse’s shoulders their is automatically weight on yours.
On the flip side sharing in joy, triumph, and accomplishment are twice as sweet. I get to celebrate my wife’s victories. I get to watch her grow. I get to share my joy when things are going well. I didn’t really understand that when I said “I do” I was sharing not just tangible stuff but also the intangible.
It doesn’t matter how many times people told me that conflict would be present in our marriage, I never truly believed people. My marriage was going to be better than that. My spouse and I were more in love than this world has ever seen and so we were not going to be your “typical” marriage. It wasn’t long into our marriage that we had our first conflict, then our first “real” fight, then our second, and our third.
I don’t say this lightly, in the first year our marriage was already on the rocks because we had no idea how to deal with conflict when it arose. Our various idols bred conflict and nothing magnifies your idols like conflict does. It took a healthy dose of Gospel over a couple years to finally start to learn how to deal with conflict, to better understand that because of sin our marriage is always “on the rocks” because we are two volatile sinners who apart from Christ want nothing but to serve our own interests. Thankfully with Christ we don’t need to be captive to our own interests but can instead serve one another and resolve conflict by humbly repenting instead of defending ourselves.
I played the game when I said “I Do” when it came to finances. If you look at my vows you will see that I told my bride that I couldn’t give her all the niceties of life but that I’d give her my love and a home that attempted to model Christlike love. I meant that, but when I made the statement I didn’t really get the financial pressures that come in marriage. Sure, my parents prepared me well to encounter these, but I never expected to get laid off from my first job out of college. I forgot that bills never subside, they are always there, and unless you are faithful to set a program in place these will only hang over your head and cause marital stress.
When I said “I Do” I wasn’t ready for intimacy. I don’t mean physical intimacy, at least the stripped down physical intimacy most people think of when they hear the word (sex). I mean intimacy in a fuller sense, the one-fleshness of marriage.This person I married already knew so much about me before taking my hand at the end of the aisle, but she really knew nothing about me. And although I knew virtually everything about her, so I thought, I still have only scratched the surface of who she is as a person, and that level of intimacy is something I was not ready for. There is a vulnerability in marital intimacy. You literally begin to share the other’s emotions and thoughts and desires in a way you only imagine you understand before marriage.
Rather than waiting to be ready for marriage, embrace the journey that you’re not ready for by preaching the Gospel to yourself.
I guess I wasn’t as ready as I thought back when so many adults asked that question when they heard I was to be married in the winter of 2010 shortly after my 20th birthday. I wasn’t ready for a lot of things that I expected or a lot of things I didn’t expect. So what? Why bring these things up in a blog post? Am I discouraging you from marriage? Do I want those in their young 20’s like I was to put off the wedding until they are “more ready” or done exploring themselves like so many in my generation preach?
What I want you to do is embrace the fact that you’re not ready. When someone asks you that question of readiness, rather than shying away, or getting defensive like I did, embrace the fact that you’re just not ready for what marriage entails. But also recognize that there will never come a point in your life when you are actually ready to live within the close close marriage relationship with your future spouse because you are both sinful people being made one flesh and that is something that our sinful, fallen tendencies resist. It is something that runs contrary to our desire for independence.
And so, rather than waiting to be ready, embrace the journey that you’re not ready for. Embrace it by running to Christ together. Throwing yourselves together at his feet and asking for his help. Drink in the Gospel every day so you don’t lose sight of your own inadequacy to flourish on this beautiful marital journey, but also (more importantly) so you see clearly the Christ who is totally sufficient to make your marriage beautiful as God intended. Because whether you realize it or not, there are things in marriage you won’t be ready for when you say “I Do.”