Monday, July 20, 2009

Commitment

I've been promising to write a blog on commitment for awhile now, but have had to do it in bits and pieces. I apologize in advance for the length, but it needs to be written. I feel like the topic has been following me around lately - in our church, within our small groups and in our social circles. We've attended weddings, pre-wedding showers, and post-wedding celebrations. There is one thing that everyone can agree on - marriage is tough work!

One of the most challenging (but also one of the most rewarding) parts about becoming a married couple -- as opposed to even being in a serious dating relationship -- is that the "me" becomes "we." We live in a "me" society - what makes me happy, what do I enjoy doing, who is looking out for me, what do I want for my future, etc. When you get married you have to start looking at the "we" and, even more difficult, the "you (spouse)." Priorities shift. I'm not saying you give up who you are - but you put your time and energy into becoming one (Ephesians 5:31).

For many people, it is too hard of a change. A lot of us waved goodbye to our college days - and man if there is ever a time to be all about "me" - it is your late teens, early twenties. That is how it is supposed to be. You're learning about yourself and growing. But to quickly change from self-sufficient to dependent on another is, I think, often too hard for some couples to overcome.

It is so disheartening to hear about young married couples that are on the brink of divorce already. Some people not even making it a year. Or couples that have made it through kids... shared a whole lifetime together... and decided that there is nothing left. It's just so sad. I'm not here to pass judgment on anyone's situation - because certainly hard times can fall on even the most perfectly matched couple. But I think something a couple needs to agree upon before saying "I do" is their level of commitment.

COMMITMENT. It is so, so important.

Our pastor at Hope Community Church once mentioned that he had a couple come to him for counseling and say that they were ready to throw in the towel. Why, the pastor asked? Because they were not in love anymore. The pastor's response, "Oh whew - is that all it is? I can deal with you feeling like you don't love each other right now. But are you still committed?"

That has stuck in my head since. And before Chad and I got married, we agreed that even if we go through months (or heaven forbid years) of not feeling blissfully in love, we will push through. We are committed. And we're not going to rely on our own abilities (or more appropriately, lack thereof) to love each other - our focus will be on the commitment to our marriage, each other and the Lord to get us through. Love comes and goes... commitment is solid.

We celebrated our one year anniversary in April. For those of you who are cool like me and are "into" traditional gifts, you will know that the first anniversary's gift is paper. My present from Chad was something that I will treasure for a lifetime. Jerry Miller is a renowned artist who does paintings and sketches of North Carolina landmarks. Chad bought me a beautiful Jerry Miller sketch of First Baptist Church Cary (where we got married), and had Jerry write one of our favorite Scripture verses at the bottom:

Caroline & Chad, April 12, 2008, Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

It is hung in our bedroom and every time I pass by it I read that verse and take it to heart. It is our daily reminder of the promise we've made and to Whom we made it before.

So here are a few tips from my relatively short time as a wife:

1) Laugh with each other. Have stupid inside jokes, pet names, whatever it takes. Just laugh...and laugh often.
2) Do NOT expect another person to meet all your needs - you're setting yourself up to be let down. It is not your spouse's job to make you happy, keep you feeling fulfilled, etc. That is way too much pressure to put on someone else.
3) Take turns apologizing. Even if you think (or know) you were in the right. Because honestly, don't you always think you're right? Say you're sorry (at least acknowledging your role in the fight), mean it, and then ---->
4) Let things go. Don't rehash the past.
5) Pray together (this should be number one). Pray for your marriage. Pray that you'll be a good wife and pray your husband will be a good spouse.
6) Have a couple (or several couples) that hold you accountable to your marriage and your vows. And do the same for them.
7) Other than God, make your spouse your #1 priority. Don't worry about if your needs are being met - spend that time meeting your spouse's needs. And trust they are doing the same for you. Can you even imagine how much extra energy you have if you stopped worrying about yourself?
8) Love your mama and daddy. Don't rely on your mama and daddy. Push yourself through that very first time of having a horrible flu bug and wanting nothing more than to call your mom to take care of you - and let your spouse do it. You'll grow from it I promise. (I still have to work on this one frequently)
9) Don't be "above" asking for help. If you need it, ask for it. It is never too late or too early to start working on your marriage.
10) Allow yourself to become ridiculously giddy, happy, smiley and deliriously in love when you feel those warm thoughts to your spouse. And allow them to get you through the rest.

...for more on marriage, read an entry from one of my favorite blogs.

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