Get ready, set, what?
Does marriage seem so far away that you don’t even think about preparing for it? You would like to be married some time (even though you wouldn’t tell anyone else)? You hope that it is God’s will that you marry? You want to marry the right way? Keep reading!
So, you never heard about getting ready for marriage before you were engaged. You suppose that you will wait until you are ready to get serious about marriage before you will make any preparations. Not!
If you are engaged and marriage is around the corner, it’s too late to think about preparing for it.
When a couple comes to me and asks me to marry them, I always ask them to meet with me four or five times to talk about marriage. Sometimes I shudder at what I hear and see. I fear that there is not much hope for a good relationship. I may even say, “You better not get married.” Let’s see what helps young people get ready and set for marriage.
SOME THINGS YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER
For all of you who will marry, your whole life is a school for married life. Your stance going into marriage is the one you learned from your parents Consciously or unconsciously, your behavior will probably be like your parents’. You will learn from the poor behavior of your parents and vow never to behave in that way (if so, pray the Lord forgives your parents). Your learning about marriage from your parents will also be unconscious and passive; you will simply adopt it as your own from their example (if so, be thankful for their good example) You have a steep hill to climb if it wasn’t.
What are some of these influences that prepare you for marriage which you have little control over?
• Parents who love each other, and aren’t afraid to show that love to each other when you’re around.
• Parents who speak to each other often. They are true friends.
• Father and mother who confess their faults to you and pray for your forgiveness when they sin.
• A father who respects your mother.
• A father who loves your mother, and gives good, strong, loving leadership to her and to the children.
• A mother who behaves as a Sarah, cheerfully submitting to your father.
• A mother who loves to be home and shows it.
• Parents who are home together often spending time with you talking and having fun.
• Parents who spend time around the Scripture after meals, discussing it, learning from it, singing it in the Psalms.
We saw a sign about Christmas a few weeks ago that said, “The best gift that a father can give his children is to love their mother.” Be thankful for parents who deal so with each other. Marriages take work. Pray for your parents.
Of course, the negative influences are the opposites of what’s above. Also these:
• Parents who teach you that possessions are everything, who speak of getting things more often than of getting wisdom.
Parents who teach you by their example that it’s unnecessary to be wise stewards of money. (By their actions they teach, “We have plenty of money; we’re assuming you will always have plenty too. So live it up, and learn no control or stewardship.”)
• Parents who teach you that entertainment is the goal of the weekend, that the whole of spiritual life is showing up at church twice on Sunday, that “remembering the Sabbath” is telling the kids, “Learn your catechism,” and then crawling into bed for the rest of the afternoon.
• Parents who fight over little things, and let the children see their impatience, selfishness, pride, and refusal to give up their rights for the sake of the other.
• Parents who never attend society, or who participate in the life of the church only when it’s for fun.
These things are important here because all of them have everything to do with how your marriage is going to go.
SOME THINGS THAT YOU CAN DO
There are a good many things that you have some control over. I would like to present five exercises to help you prepare for marriage. I also realize that all these are gifts from God and that, apart from His Holy Spirit and grace, are impossible. (Pray and work!)
Learn to love others.
Husband and wife will be happy if they love each other. When there is true love in practice, their marriage will be sound. A man treats his wife well when he loves her. The wife will submit to her husband when she loves him. And both will submit in obedience to God in other areas, because true love for each other flows out of their love for God!
True love is giving yourself to another person. Far from being only giddy feelings that magically appear or disappear, love is a spiritual bond that comes to expression in actions. God’s love for us gave His Son to die. A man’s love for his wife brings him to give time and energy to her. A wife’s love for her husband makes her give herself as a true “helper,” suited for him.
Test yourself about true love with a few questions:
• Is your “love” forgiving?
. Is your “love” willing to give up what you want, for the sake of others?
. Is your “love” able to love someone who is “unlovely”?
. Is your “love” able calmly and graciously able to tell your friends their faults, and work through that?
Love is a spiritual grace! Pray for it!
Learn to submit to others.
Marriage means submission, by both the husband and the wife. If there is anything that is contrary to our natures, it is to submit. Just think of Eve and the fall, Rebekah and the plot to steal the blessing (Gen. 27), Rachel and her idols (Gen. 30 ,31)… But don’t forget the man’s place.
Recently at a young adults’ outing, the girls rightly complained that the guys all talked about “submit, submit, submit.” Well, if that’s all the guys talk about, they probably won’t make very good husbands. They need to learn to be a loving husband who will make it a joy for a wife to submit to. The guys better read and learn Ephesians 5:21 before they preach to the girls, “Submit.”
On the other hand, it won’t happen that a young girl who hopes to marry will submit for the first time when she marries, when she has never submitted when she was young. This must come with a life-time of practice. I would warn young men that girls who show no submission to teachers at school and rebel against their parents at home, are giving pretty good indications that they’re not going to submit to your love in marriage either. Don’t forget the timely warnings of Solomon in Proverbs 21:9, 19; 27:15, etc.
Pray for the grace of submission.
The way to land a fish is to use the right bait. The way a young person is usually led to his or her God-ordained spouse is by being lured by the other’s attractiveness.
There is physical attractiveness. Solomon “sings” of this beautifully. You might not look for a neck “like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers,” (Song of Solomon 4:4)! But don’t forget that Solomon was praising the physical beauty of his beloved. Physical attractiveness is not something to be slighted. God has made us as human beings to see and appreciate physical beauty in others.
But the lure for a good mate is not mainly physical, but spiritual. I Peter 3 calls women to let their cosmetics be inward: meekness, a quiet spirit, a godly walk. Outward attractiveness of hairstyles, jewelry, clothing mean little compared to those. The same must be true for the young men. Let them try to cultivate the spiritual graces.
Any good fisherman will tell you that if you want to catch carp, you use carp bait; bullhead, use bullhead bait; trout, you use trout bait. How many young people will fail to see what’s on their line until after it’s too late to throw it back?
Remain a virgin.
Although there could be a lot said here, I don’t need to say very much about this, except that both the young women and the young men know that this applies to them, and that violation of this important biblical rule means untold misery both before and after marriage.
Don’t let happen to you what has happened to too many young people. After they have blown it, their “flesh and body are consumed,” they mourn at the last and say, “How have I hated instruction. . . . And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to them that instructed me! I was almost in all evil…” (Proverbs 5:11-14).
There is no such thing as “safe-sex.”
Learn what friendship is.
This really is the heart of it all. Marriage is friendship.
At bottom, our relationship with God is friendship This is the essence of the covenant. The Bible also describes the relationship between God and the church as a marriage. If our marriages need to reflect the relationship between God and His church, they need to reflect that friendship first of all.
How do you learn about friendship?
. First, by cultivating your friendship with your God. Speak with Him; tell Him your secrets; listen to His secrets to you in His Word. Learn to enjoy time with Him. Learn the pleasures of His company. Learn to “open up” to Him.
• Second, cultivate friendships with others. Make good friends with others of the same sex, but also with others of the opposite sex, without thinking that it needs to be “serious.” Learn to open up to them, tell them your secrets, your needs, your troubles, your happiness. Learn to listen to them, care for them, love them. . . .
Marriages made of two who have learned about friendship before ever “leaving father and mother” will be (by God’s blessing) marriages that are not only strong, but a great joy for both husband and wife!
Marriage is no little thing. It’s for life! You are preparing for marriage right now. Are you getting ready?
Questions to consider:
. In your dating, does your date always take, or give?
• In marriage, does the husband submit to the wife? In what way? See Ephesians 5:21.
• What do you do if your parents are not setting a good model for your marriage?
. Spend time talking about dating. Ask how your friend feels about . . . ? Don’t assume just because they are of your faith, that they have the same opinions on important issues of marriage and family that you do.