This week I’ve seen several blogs with interesting, thoughtful, perspectives on marriage. One was from a girl who was married when she was 19, about all the things she “gave up” when she got married. Another was from someone who’s been married 20 years, offering wise words to her girls about the importance of a marriage vs. a wedding. So with that and the fact that today is my 14th wedding anniversary, I’ve been thinking about marriage. I don’t know if my perspective is interesting or thoughtful, but here it is.
First, a word to my single friends: I know being single sucks sometimes. I remember what it’s like to long for someone to just live life with. I remember wondering, every time I met a guy, “Is he the one? Could I marry him?” Every. Time. As someone who married young and has now been married almost half my life, I may not be the best person to deliver advice to the single crowd, but what I have to say is this: Remember, there is no human being who will fill every void in your life, meet every need, be your rock, your everything, complete you, whatever. Only Jesus can do that. Whether you’re married or single or in a relationship or it’s complicated, believe me, Jesus is the One you want. Rest in that. Rest in Him. Someday He might bring someone along who you can spend the rest of your life with, but nothing in this world compares to spending eternity with Him.
Fourteen years ago today, I married Greg Duke, the love of my life. I was 19. I know all the questions. I heard them.
“You were so young! How could you possibly know he was the one for you?”
“Are you crazy? You think you’ll be happy with that one person forever?”
“You didn’t live together first? So how can you know it will work out?”
“Was something going on? Were you pregnant?”
“Weren’t you just, you know, in love with the idea of love?”
There were more.
Now I’ve been married fourteen years, and I hear other things.
“Wow, that’s a long time! Good for you!”
“So how’s that working out?”
“So are you…happily married?”
“Only 36 to go, and then it’ll really be something.”
There is more.
For some reasons, I think I was too young to get married. Mostly because I was pretty irresponsible and barely grown up. I didn’t have good habits for handling money, taking care of a house, being a wife and a student and sharing my life and my stuff and my bed with someone else. It took some adjustment, and that wasn’t easy. There were frustrations and tears and arguments and feeling like I wasn’t good enough. But we got through that, and although I’m still not good at handling money and taking care of a house, it seems to have worked out anyway.
Still, there were lots of reasons why I did get married when I did, and I think they were good ones. I had found someone I loved and who loved me, who I could spend hours and hours with and laugh and have a good time and not wish I were somewhere else. Someone who was as smart as me, who had a deep faith and commitment to ministry, who was more mature and responsible than I was, who could deal with my crazy quirks, who would take care of me and protect me and just be there for me. Someone I was happy to make dinner for, talk to, be with. He was graduating from college and I still had three years left, and I didn’t want him to move away without me. I was planning to be a camp counselor for the summer and God made it pretty clear that He wanted us to get married instead. So we did. No, I wasn’t crazy, or stupid, or pregnant. In fact, I was a virgin. Yep. That happened.
Being married for fourteen years does not make me an expert. It means I have experience, and I have learned a few things about commitment and choices and feelings. One thing I have learned is that I have to put him first. (What? Shouldn’t you put God first? I don’t know. Is God a priority for me? Is He #1? No, He’s everything. So He’s not exactly first, He IS) I have to put Greg before my kids, my friends, my parents, even myself. So the things I want don’t matter to me as much as the things he wants. When I pray for others, I start with him. When I need an opinion or I have a question, I go to him. I am not good at this, not by any means. I am so inherently selfish. But I’ve learned that if I don’t put Greg first, things go downhill. Quickly.
I’m not really a “feelings” person. Yeah, I have feelings, but I’m not really one to focus on them or let them interfere much with my life. I often find that they are inconvenient. Feelings can change. They can lie. If we’re not careful, they can lead us down paths in life that we would be better off avoiding altogether. But they are real, and sometimes they’re good. Going through life with a person for fourteen years means I’ve run a whole gamut of feelings. Have I felt 100% head-over-heels in love with Greg the whole time? Nope. Have I been an awesome wife the whole time? Nope. We’ve had some rough times, and a few moments when I wondered if I had it in me to make this whole thing work. But I have been his wife, and I know what it means to choose him. I chose him fourteen years ago, and in some ways, I keep choosing him every day. Most days, it’s not hard. He’s the best man I know, very likely the only person in the world who could deal with me every day, a godly man and great pastor, and he does dishes. He’s a catch. Most days, I’m totally in love with him. Those happy, “in love” feelings are nice, but love is a choice. Fourteen years ago I chose to love Greg, for better or for worse, forsaking all others, until death parts us. And today, more than ever, by the grace and power of God and the love He has for me, for Greg, and for marriage, I am still making that choice. So far, life with this guy has been good. I’m looking forward to sharing the rest of our lives together.