I married late. I was 34 years old (soon to be 35) when I married nearly 12 years ago. This wasn’t entirely my choice as I certainly desired to get married before that age. But I am truly glad things turned out the way that they did. I get to share my life with Bonnie and that was worth the wait. So although I have no regrets about how my path to matrimony unfolded, there are certainly lessons that I have began to learn in married life that I wish I would have learned earlier.
Last year The National Marriage Project released a report entitled “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America” , looking at (among other things) the fact that the average age of marriage has trended up significantly over the last few decades. In general, people are waiting longer to get married. There are certainly many factors involved in this trend and this blog post isn’t an attempt to analyze all of these factors or even to endorse the report or any of it’s conclusions. But one observation did stand out to me in the report. It is the tendency within American society to increasingly view marriage, not as a “cornerstone” event in one’s life, but as a “capstone” event. What does that mean? Simply put, it means that for many people in our society, marriage is not looked at as something that is done as a part of launching one into adulthood with parenting, building a house and other aspects of one’s adult life to follow, but as something one does once all other ducks are in a row (finishing one’s education, getting one’s career established, a degree of financial stability and independence, etc.). This observation could drive all sorts of other discussion but one thing occurs to me most prominently when thinking through this. What an odd way to look at marriage.
Think about it. One certainly wants to be prepared for marriage in the sense of having a certain amount of maturity, having some prospects for making a living and at least a vague idea of what the desired future might look like. But the truth is that even though I was in my mid-thirties when I finally tied the knot (to the relief of my parents and my friends), I had no idea what I was getting into. By that, I mean that my understanding of what a husband’s love was truly all about was woefully incomplete. In almost 12 years, I think that I just might be starting to gain a clue. In Ephesians 5, the Bible explicitly compares the love of a husband for his wife to the love of Christ for His Church. Good luck with that if it’s something that I have to come up with out of my own resources. It’s humbling to say the least. But being married to Bonnie has been an incredible journey in learning how to love. Those lessons have come from all sorts of places (my wife, my parents, my children, friends, books, sermons the list could go on and on) but mostly from the experience of living it out day by day with the constant loving presence of the Holy Spirit living in me and in Bonnie. Before I got married, I did think of marriage is some sort of destination – a goal to be accomplished (and for all too long in my life, something that seemed out of reach). And getting married was certainly for me an occasion of great joy – one of the greatest events in my life. But I do wish that I would have understood back then that the journey is way better than the destination. I wish that I would have understood that nothing is wasted in God’s economy and that every moment of my life leading up to that event and since that event are part of the same journey. That journey is a drama where God’s love is the central reality and the love that Bonnie and I share with one another has its truest meaning in its revolution around that reality. Marriage isn’t an arrival. It is a vocation. And by that I don’t mean a job (although work is involved). I mean that it is a calling, an integral part in the purpose God has for many, many lives. I was complete in Jesus Christ before I married Bonnie. But without her, my calling in Him could never be complete.
I am learning to love. God is my Teacher. Marriage is one of my primary classrooms. Bonnie is my lab partner – or should I say dance partner (ironic for a guy who really can’t dance, huh)? Who ever knew that learning could be so much fun?