We have fast arrived at that little milestone of a first year wedding anniversary. In the past year, many things have happened, and as we celebrated our anniversary, we reflected on the past year. There were particular things we were thankful for, ways in which we had grown, practical tips we had learnt, and a maturing of our relationship with one another. One year on from our wedding, we still have people occasionally tell us what they enjoyed about our wedding. A couple of days before our anniversary, one man told us he had never been to a wedding that incorporated so much of God’s word. He felt we really honoured God in our wedding, and asked if anyone had told us this before. Quite a few people had indeed mentioned this to us before and we said we were glad because we wanted to start our marriage on the foundation and word of Christ. “Have you kept this up in your marriage?” He asked.
As we drove to our anniversary dinner date a couple of days later, Jerry (my husband) mentioned how some people see the first year of marriage as the most difficult year, while others see it as the easiest year. We both thought it was an easy year for our marriage. However, when we thought more about it, we concluded that it was only now that we thought the year was easy because we had overcome the many challenges we faced throughout the year. So, I guess our answer to the aforementioned question is “Yes.” After one year, there are still things we are working on, still hopes and dreams to be fulfilled, and still much to learn about one another. However, in all of this, one thing shines through – that is, the faithfulness of God. We both love Him, and we both know He loves us. We have an unshakeable foundation in Christ – no other foundation can be laid. We would love to share some of our one year journey with you now.
- For each other – for the silly, fun moments we’ve had, the serious discussions about the life standards we will set, for encouragement through challenges, and celebration in seeing some fruits of our labour
- For our home (Ebenezer House) and for the many opportunities we have had to bless people in this place – to hear people share their testimonies, to pray for, encourage and to sharpen others
- For the opportunity to share in the joy of our brothers and sisters – we cannot describe some moments of great joy we have felt in witnessing the work of God in the lives of our friends, to hear testimonies, see a domino effect of faith lived out, and even hear the world marvel at lives changed by the grace of our incredible God.
- For God’s unfailing love – it covers all our sins, encourages us, and reminds us of who we are in Him. We may make mistakes, but God is 100% for us, and He never changes. He intercedes for us, and keeps reminding us to keep our eyes on Him.
Things we learnt
- The balance between investing in marriage and investing in others – our marriage comes first, but there are times when we might change plans around to be able to accommodate an opportunity to bless someone else. It is a case-by-case scenario. In some cases, we have said “no” to things so we could spend time together on a planned date or outing. On other occasions, we have rung around, postponed things, and shuffled appointments so we could help someone else – drive them somewhere, accompany them to a life group, have a couple of people over whom we haven’t seen in a while. Whatever we decide to do, it is a joint decision. We are a team!
- Work – our work is not just about earning money to give away to missions. It is a treasure field itself for mission. We have the benefit of having parents who have both been on the mission field fulltime, and who have continued to serve God in their marketplace jobs. The field has changed throughout the years and the doors for overseas missions look different. More people are being trained as natives and sent back to minister, and the opportunities to share the gospel in everyday working life seem to be increasing. Marketplace (ie. working) missionaries are so important! Moreover, the money we earn from work is more than an overseas mission fund. The portion that goes into shouting other people lunch, paying our house mortgage and paying our bills is also important – we are investing in mission here still, since, for example, we use our house to bless others.
- Finance – this has been a great practical learning point as we decide where to disperse our finances. Some things we both feel to support, but other things are more in line with my heart, or my husband’s heart. However, again we are a team! So, we discuss these things and decide in a way that means we can support one another and we support various missions, yet also steward our budget well. Some people seem to fear having too much money, and others chase after it as an idol. We want to appreciate that we can earn money, and we want to invest it in God’s interests.
Another question people seem to ask, and one we have asked other married couples is this – “How is it like now that you’re married?” We have encountered a range of answers, and the question that is raised becomes – “Does marriage actually change your relationship?” Our answer to that is yes. People might argue that it is just a piece of paper – what does it matter if you both already know you are committed to one another, if you live together, if you already see each other every day. Does marriage matter? Yes it does. People have written books about this, but we just want to share some salient points about the covenant of marriage.
The Covenant of Marriage
When we got married, we made a promise “before God and these witnesses” to love, honour, respect and cherish one another. Our vows were not just a spoken word of promise to each other, but it was written, signed and sealed on earth as a legal document, and in heaven as a covenant before God. With this, we dared to make ourselves accountable, not just to one another, but to God, and to the world. We have made this vow and this promise, so now we must walk it out. When we got married, Jerry became a husband, as well as a son, and I became as wife as well as a daughter. Our priorities changed because now we were one. Certain decisions I may have discussed with my father, I now discuss with my husband. We pray for one another and we support one another in ministry. While we did some of these things to an extent during our engagement, they are now much more pertinent because of our roles as husband and wife.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh, so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” [Mark 10:7-9]
On a practical level, the legality of marriage entitles each party to shared rights and ownership. Separation and divorce can be a lengthy process as traditionally, marriage is forever. It is sad to see the increasing rise of divorce, and the desecration of what marriage really means. People get married for visas, for money, more convenience and all sorts of other reasons. Some are swept up in romance, and others continue in relationship until it no longer benefits them. This is not to say that all marriages are like this. However, the mindset towards marriage has changed dramatically over the centuries. Timothy Keller, in his book “The Meaning of Marriage” briefly describes how the understanding of marriage has shifted away from the traditional views of “a sacrament of God’s love (the Catholic emphasis) and [to] serve the common good (the Protestant emphasis)”. He writes:
“Marriage used to be a public institution for the common good, and now it is a private arrangement for the satisfaction of the individuals. Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me. But ironically, this newer view of marriage actually puts a crushing burden of expectation on marriages and spouses in a way that more traditional understandings never did. And it leaves us desperately trapped between both unrealistic longings for and terrible fears about marriage.”
God takes the covenant of marriage seriously. Malachi 2:14-15 explains this when he gives reason for why the peoples’ offerings to God were not accepted.
“Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’
Because the Lord has been witness
Between you and the wife of your youth,
With whom you have dealt treacherously;
Yet she is your companion
And your wife by covenant.
But did He not make them one,
Having a remnant of the Spirit?
And why one?
He seeks godly offspring,
Therefore take heed to your spirit,
And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.”
The covenant of marriage means we are accountable before God and before men that we will fulfill what we have vowed as lovers of God and of each other – to walk in obedience to God in the area of loving each other as husband and wife. To do this, we need to separate ourselves from some things and be joined as one. This involves shared decisions, sharing of the heart, praying for one another and considering the interests and the ministries of one another. Furthermore, in all of this, we can remember, and experience a shadow of the intimacy that Christ will have with His church. Just like our engagement was a shadow of what to expect in marriage, so the growing in love for one another in marriage is like a shadow of the intimate love we will experience with Christ when all things are fulfilled. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 –
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”
For us, our marriage is a priority, and an area in which we are continually seeking to obey God. We are partners in the gracious gift of life that God gives and when we love each other, we are also loving God. The process of building character in marriage is ongoing. We cannot live and make decisions in the same way as we did before we were married because we were separate – but now we are one. Jerry has learnt leadership as I have learnt submission – each of us helping one another in these roles and thus, providing opportunity and encouragement to grow as husband and wife. One year on, we still believe in our covenant of marriage before God, we still want Him as our center and we still declare that no-one can separate what God has joined together.