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With Valentine’s Day upon us, I thought Andy Gullahorn’s song “Give it Time” would be a fitting “Song of the Day.” This song is wise, and I think rare, because it touches on the wonder and beauty of love that is tended to over time. Songs about love bowling you over and filling you up in a moment are not to be trusted any more than the man who tells you his box of juicy-juice is as satisfying as a well aged, vintage bottle of wine. My own comments below are adapted from one of my recent wedding sermons—and I have taken a few cues from Andy.
Most roads good friends walk eventually diverge. It’s not that our friendships are lost. Usually it’s just that they’re changed by geography or circumstance. Something.
And it’s meant to be.
This is even true of the relationships between parents and children. Eventually, if everything works right, the road a parent and their son or daughter walks will eventually lead them in different directions in life. This, too, is meant to be.
But there is only one human relationship we come know in life that is meant by God to defy this pattern—the marriage relationship. This one is meant to be intimate in affection, proximity and purpose until death itself separates you. Though the people in your lives change, in marriage you are given a gift from God of incredible worth—a sworn partner for life. That’s what we promise at the altar, anyway.
When the Puritans used to talk of marriage, they’d say you got married in order to fall in love. Their thinking went a little like this: how could a man and woman possibly hope to really know the wonder, joy and depth of real love—the kind where you are truly loved and truly known at the same time— without sharing in the waking and the sleeping, in the ordinary and the extraordinary, in the comedy and the tragedy? Without marriage?
The truth is the two people standing at the altar or before the justice of the peace don’t really know each other very well yet. Of course they think they do—and probably know each other better than they know most anyone else. But still, how well could they really know each other?
I had a seminary professor say on the occasion of his 25th anniversary that the things he loved most about his wife were things he didn’t really even know were a part of her when they were first married. Did you catch that?
There was a time I would have rolled my eyes at a statement like this—like during those first years of my own marriage. But now, almost 14 years in, all I can do is nod in delighted agreement and wonder what the years ahead are going to reveal about the girl I married.
We stood at the altar and we recited vows that painted us into a corner. And before God and witnesses, we declared our intention to live within the boundaries of selfless love. We swore to things we had never really tested—like how we’d stay together in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want and in joy and in sorrow until one of us dies.
Who makes such promises without the anticipation that such polarities will, in fact, come along? These vows are based in reality.
And it looks so different for each couple. For me, I’m not called simply to be a good and faithful husband. I’m called to be a good and faithful husband to the particular woman I married. That looks different for us from the couple across the room.
Along the way, we pray we’ll learn to argue well. God willing, we’ll learn to be wrong and long for humility when we are.
We learn to bear with one another and forgive where there is injury. We discover there are buttons you can push that deliver predictable reactions. Sometimes we push them. Sometimes we hurt each other because we’re mad and we mean to. Most of the time though, we hurt each other because we didn’t know how not to.
Understand the reality of marriage; it is two sinners under one roof. We should expect conflict. And since we can’t avoid it, we should pray for the grace to avoid resentment and to not use offenses against each other, forgiving as those aware of the forgiveness we’ve been shown by our God who loves us as His bride.
How can we survive? How can we heal? Certainly not by rushing these things. I pray for time. And for grace.
Russ Ramsey is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. He grew up in the fields of Indiana and studied at Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, ThM). Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story Series (IVP, 2018) and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017).