Read this post by lead pastor Matt Adair:
It’s been more than fifteen years since I’ve been on a date with anyone other than my wife. And in that time the Church tried to kiss dating goodbye and wound up confused when changing the rules didn’t end the dog-and-pony show that men and women engage in on the way to the altar. As we start our Real Marriage series this month, here are three suggestions for making progress as men and women preparing for marriage:
Sell Out - Give your life to loving God and loving people.
We have mastered the art of shrink wrapping our lives to the size and scope of our life. We’re far too image conscious to ever verbalize our desire to be the center of the universe but the subject matter of our thoughts and the bent of our hearts trends towards our own needs and desires. As Terrell Owens so eloquently voiced for all of us, ‘I love me some me.’
But you weren’t created to focus on your own self-preservation. There is far more to life than finding your fifteen minutes of fame. You don’t need to be made much of to feel like you matter. Now you do matter; in fact, you matter a lot. Because only you can live the life God intends for you to live. Everything about you has been custom-designed by God to declare and display his infinite value to the world around you. As God convinces you that he loves you through the work of His Spirit, he frees you to love him and to love others, to enjoy God and to help other people find their deepest satisfaction in all that God is and does for us.
This has significant relational implications for you. Regardless of how you get from here to marriage, know this - everything that happens between now and then is an opportunity for you to change the trajectory of your life from your little kingdom to the limitless kingdom of God.
Settle Down - Weave yourself into someone else’s story
Have you thought about how different your life is going to be when you get married? For some of us, this is a frightening reality; for others, it’s exhilarating to imagine having someone else to share life with. Regardless, at some point you’re going to stand before God and a crowd of people and declare that not only do you love your new spouse on your wedding day, but you promise to love them forever.
And while you don’t make a binding promise about forever until your wedding day, the intertwining of your lives begins before marriage. Between now and then, you reduce the field of potential partners until affection and providence bring you to this one person. And what separates your spouse from every other person of the opposite gender is a friendship that leaves you curious about the work of God in their life, thrilled about the story God is weaving through them, and eager to give yourself completely to the work of joining God in his work of finishing what he has already begun in them.
If you choose a spouse on the sole basis of what they can do for you, you’ll find yourself consistently disappointed with them as they change and can no longer give you what you want. But if you become the kind of person who is looking to settle down and weave your life into the script of someone else’s story, you won’t be devastated by the changes in your spouse; you’ll end up delighted as you watch them become more and more like Jesus.
Speak Up - Learn to speak love and truth by the power of grace
The wheels fall off of every marriage because two broken people are living together in a broken world. We either attempt to love while sometimes ignoring the truth about each other, or we’re honest with unloving brutality. Whether in defense of our flaws or in shining a spotlight on the flaws of the other person, we fight dirty and to the death of our marriage.
We need an intimacy that can’t be reduced to sex. In the end, intimacy is about communication. And if marriage constitutes the most intimate of friendships, then we have to learn to speak to each other as friends. On one hand, this means that we must learn to not just talk about what we know or what we believe, but also about who we are. And on the other hand, we must learn to weave truth and love together in our conversations as we walk through life together.
Preparing ourselves for intimacy in marriage means that we must learn the gospel. We must become students of grace, both in how we came to possess it as a gift from God and how we gift others with it as we walk through life together. Because only grace gives us the humility to not withhold love in our truth-telling, while also giving us the confidence to speak the truth as we communicate our love and affection for each other.
So sell out and abandon your dream to be made much of for a life that makes much of God. Settle down and love people by helping them to enjoy God forever. Learn to speak up as grace gives you the grace to tell the truth with deep love for the person God places in front of you.