I’ve read so many books on dating, relationships and marriage that I can’t even remember the names of all of them. I’ve taken courses on pre-marital counseling and marriage & family. I have watched numerous friends get married and work through the ups and downs of that tricky first year of marriage (which can be reeeeaaaalllyyyy good or reeeeaaaallllyyyy bad or both). I learned how to cook, how to entertain, how to manage a budget, how to clean things and do laundry. I was ready (or at least I thought I was…who’s really ever ready for such a huge change?) but it wasn’t God’s timing until I was 35! I’m sure all of that helped prepare me for my first year of marriage but I think there’s something that has been even more important than all of those things combined.
In my very limited but mostly happy experience of being married (9 mths), the best way to prepare for marriage (or life in general, for that matter) is to become more like Jesus (i.e. sanctification). Learning how to “put off the old self,” renew your mind to think more along the lines of the Bible, and to “put on the new self” is essential for a strong marriage (see Eph 4 & Col 3). So are the basic, but definitely not easy, lessons of learning how to live Christianly—like how to deny yourself and love others (Phil 2), how to be kind (Eph 4:32; even when you don’t feel like it!), how to put someone else’s interests before your own (Phil 2:3-4), how to submit to those in authority over you (1 Pet 2:13), learning how to be self-controlled in many areas (Gal 5:23; this one is huge! ) and learning how to forgive (Col 3:13; another huge one!), etc.
Obviously, these are life-skills for whatever situation of life you find yourself in. As a single, I worked on denying myself and loving others through ministry opportunities and preferring my friend’s suggestions over my own. I practiced how to submit to those in authority willingly and without complaint in my job and at church. Through various circumstances, I learned how to forgive those who hurt me and not carry a grudge against them. I learned that forgiveness means promising:
- I will not allow myself to dwell on the offense.
- I will not bring it up to others.
- I will not let the offense come between us.
- I will not bring it up to use it against you.
These things are foundational. My relationship with Christ is vital to my life. Because when Owen and I have our little spats, knowing that I can turn to Jesus and be comforted and helped by Him just as I had been while I was single is beyond comforting.
But all that to say, becoming more Christ-like is not the means to the end. It’s not the self-help to give you a happy life or marriage. Becoming more like Christ is the end goal. The ultimate. Whether you are single or married or whatever, your circumstances are the means by which you grow in Christlikeness for the rest of your life (and your circumstances will change from time to time). But each situation presents a different way in which you can grow and change for the better (Rom 8:28-29). Yes, even the tough situations. Whatever he brings you to (or doesn’t), that is his reason. Christlikeness.
(First posted on Our Single Purpose)