By Jimmy McCarty
My wife and I just completed our first year of marriage! Before we got married we were given all kinds of advice ranging from, “Don’t go to sleep angry,” to, “Fight naked!” We were told it was going to be our most “exciting,” “difficult,” “fun,” or “memorable” year of marriage, depending on who was talking to us. Well, I can’t say whether it was the “most” anything yet. You’ll have to ask me fifty years from now, but I can tell you that it was a learning experience.
A central component of Christian theology is the need for community. Richard Hays, professor of New Testament at Duke and one of the most brilliant Bible minds around today, says the New Testament revolves, morally and ethically, around three major themes: community, cross, and new creation. Christianity is supposed to create reconciled community. A community where all people regardless of race, gender, social class and nationality come together as one.
Anyone who has experimented with such community knows it can be all at once messy and magnificent, weird and wonderful, dysfunctional and dynamic. Bringing people of diverse backgrounds and cultures together is not easy! Enter my marriage.
There is no messier, or more majestic, experiment in community than marriage. The things that make a marriage work can make any community work: loyalty, agape love, honesty, sacrifice, patience and humility. These are the lessons I’ve learned after one year of marriage.
1. Loyalty. Once you’re married, that’s it! There is no turning back. Two people have committed themselves to one another no matter what. Sickness. Poverty. Wealth. Children. Lack of Children. Whatever comes your way, you are devoted to one another. You are not going to let anything happen to your significant other if you can help it. You will defend and protect no matter the danger. That is the beauty of marriage. It is forever.
2. Honesty. Once you have been married for a year it becomes really difficult to lie, at least successfully. Your spouse knows you. They can read you. There isn’t any fooling them. Marriage brings you to a place where you know another person better than you ever thought possible, maybe even better than yourself. When that happens lies and deception fall out of the picture.
3. Sacrifice. It is not about you. It is all about the other person. Their interests, their needs and desires come first. When they are sick you drop whatever you had planned and care for them. When they are hungry you cook a meal. When they ask, you actually clean the bathroom so they don’t have to. This is what you do in your first year of marriage. It’s amazing how easy it becomes to pick up a towel and wash someone’s feet when you get married.
4. Patience. They bug you. They really do. Your spouse does stuff different than you. Whether it’s how to make the bed or at what temperature to keep the thermostat, you disagree. But you deal. When their personal quirks began to manifest themselves you begin to appreciate them. When things don’t go your way you let them slide off your back. When they disagree with you, you don’t label them an idiotic moron like you do people on the road. All of a sudden you are more patient with your spouse’s shortcomings because yours have become so glaringly obvious.
5. Humility. Nothing let’s a man know he isn’t the greatest thing ever than getting married. Not so much because your wife berates you all the time, but because she hypes you up so much you know you can’t live up to what she says about you. In your first year of marriage you truly get to understand beauty and become ashamed for what you once thought it was. You are humbled in your first year of marriage because God becomes much more real to you than ever before. You start to understand what agape should look like.
I’m not saying marriage is a breeze. I’m saying that at the end of one year, when I look back, this is what I see. I know there were moments where we yelled at one another. I know there were moments where we were angry, disappointed, frustrated and saddened by one another. But that is not what I see when I look back. I see the ultimate lesson in community. I see the ultimate lesson in love. Those who have experienced that first year can relate.
Now, imagine if we could apply these lessons to our spiritual communities. Can you imagine a church full of loyalty, honesty, sacrifice, honesty, and humility? What a glorious place that world would be. I hope that our future years of marriage manifest these traits more than they do now, and I pray I will be able to bring these lessons into a community of faith so that the community of God may be blessed.
If you liked this article, check out: Relational Conflict
Jimmy is a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, the husband of Desiree, a seminary student, and a servant of the homeless in Pomona and a church in Los Angeles.