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ELEVEN YEARS, ELEVEN LESSONS

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Vic and I just celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary this past Sunday, and there really are no words to explain how grateful I am to The Lord for our marriage.  I absolutely adore my husband - he’s the one, and I knew that when I played out in my head every joy and every trial I could think of possible and asked The Lord if he was who should be by my side through it all.  He was the answer to prayer 12 years ago when we met, he’s the answer to prayer today, and he will continue to be until The Lord calls us home.

What warms my heart the most is that I can say this after all of the challenges, struggles and disappointments we’ve faced over these years - and there has been no shortage of them.  But when all is said and done, we are one, we are a unit, we are a team, and most importantly, we are a representation of God’s sovereign plan to draw men’s hearts to Him and we both take that very seriously. 

In honor of our 11 years of marriage, here are 11 major lessons we have learned along the way:

1.  Marriage is a ministry. If you don’t understand God’s design for marriage and how He will use it to fulfill His unique purpose in your life, this will be a struggle to grasp like it was for me in our early years.  Realizing that my having the title of “wife” came with a spiritual responsibility rather than a personal entitlement was a game-changer for me. 

2.  Marriage is not the answer to your problems, but rather the revelation of them. God will use our marriages to show us our brokenness, which should ultimately point us back to Jesus.   Pursue wholeness in Jesus Christ and your marriage will be made whole - maybe not right away but it will.  Our spouses are human and flawed just like we are, and to place our every source of happiness and joy in them is not fair and more importantly robs The Lord of being #1 in our lives. 

3.  Be clear on God’s design for submission in marriage. Understand that Biblical submission in marriage is RECIPROCAL but will play out differently between men and women, and will likely look different in comparison to one marriage from another.  This points back to #1, if we don’t fully grasp God’s design for marriage this will be a constant struggle in our marriages.  Wives represent the church (the “bride of Christ”) and husbands represent Christ himself and have the awesome and daunting task of loving us, protecting us, and giving their lives for us just as Christ does His church.  In my personal opinion, the breakdown of the Christian marriage starts here because the enemy uses the abuse and misrepresentation of God’s purpose for submission to pit us against our spouses.  What’s most important to remember is that we (women and men) are really submitting to GOD in our marriage when we submit to our spouse, which means that we have the responsibility to submit in spite of whether or not they are submitting as they should. Hard to apply but nonetheless true. This brings me to #4…

4.  Pray about your marriage, pray for your spouse, pray with your spouse.  Vic and I were married for 8 years before we were convicted to come together in prayer, but once we did, there was a shift in us realizing that we were more aligned with and gracious toward one another because we were able to hear each others hearts poured out to The Father.  Hearing my husband’s heart and understanding his motivation helps me to soften my heart  toward him and vice versa. 

5.  You may lose friends after you get married.  We both have lost friends that we had before the marriage.  It happens, whether it be a natural distancing or because keeping a certain friendship will ultimately present a challenge to unity within you marriage.  We’ve dealt with both cases and it’s hard and sometimes even painful.  For my part, the friends that I’ve lost I still love and care about very much but the truth is I love my husband more and keeping his trust and confidence means absolutely everything to me.  In general, I think people mean well, but the devil doesn’t, and he often uses people to cause dissension even when they don’t realize it.  Our closest friends have done nothing but support and respect both of us. We praise God for them. 

6.  Discuss your views on parenting BEFORE you have children.  Vic and I had 9 years of marriage before Miles to discuss, plan, and pray about how we would raise our children and we are better for it.  How we will discipline, who will take the lead in certain areas of rearing, how we will help our child(ren) make sense of this broken world, etc., we talked about all things-related and now that we have Miles, it’s been a blessing to co-parent with Vic.  Now actually having a child has presented challenges to what we said or thought idealistically, but we do have those conversations to draw from to remind each other that we should always strive for unity in every aspect of our relationship - ESPECIALLY parenting.

7.  Understand God’s family hierarchy and display it in your home.  Ugh, as a first-time mom to the most awesome little boy in THE WORLD, this is a hard one for me to always put into practice but as Miles is getting older, we are both seeing how important it is for him to understand that we come first to each other and then him.  I’ve learned from other families I’ve observed that children will come between spouses if allowed.  

8.  Expect your spouse to change and grow and support them through it.  I have been 10 different personalities accompanied by 12 different hairstyles, likes, dislikes, interests and hobbies over the past 11 years and Vic has embraced all of them.  This may sound trivial but one of the greatest areas he’s supported my growth is in embracing my natural hair. This could be a whole other post, but the struggle black women face to embrace ALL of who God created us to be is no easy fete when, historically, society doesn’t define or characterize us or all of who we are as beautiful or even acceptable.  I had a very long-standing insecurity about my hair that he played a HUGE part in helping me overcome.  I will always appreciate him for that. 

9.  Plan to be a caregiver.  I am a caregiver to my husband in the literal sense of the word because of his health challenges but I realized that what I am to care for and nurture the most is his heart (figuratively speaking but also literally in his case), and really this is no different regardless of whether health challenges are present or not.  We are all broken people who have experienced deep hurt, pain, and disappointment in life.  Our calling as spouses is to build each other up, protect each other, defend each other, advocate for one another, and above all else serve and sacrifice for one another with a cheerful and willing heart.  “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

10.  If divorce is not an option, then don’t make it one.  DO NOT USE DIVORCE AS A WEAPON  BECAUSE IT WILL BACKFIRE. THE END.  To be completely fair, there are of course circumstances where divorce is 100% appropriate but the reasons we're seeing marriages dissolve these days makes me sad because more often than not, it boils down to selfishness on both parts.  The enemy deceives us to believe that divorce will solve the problem when really, in many ways, it will compound it - especially if you have children.  See #1, #2, #4, and #8.

11.  LAUGH.  Laugh out loud.  Laugh with each other.  Laugh at each other.  Laugh at your mistakes.  Our absolute favorite thing to do together is laugh.  No one makes us laugh like the other and I cannot tell you how much laughter makes for beautiful memories, and those memories have no doubt gotten us through the inevitable hard times.  

Tell me friend, how long have you been married and what lessons have you learned along the way?

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