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Today I celebrate ten years being married to one of the greatest, most self-giving, self-sacrificing, most-loving, most-beautiful women I know. It is hard to believe that a decade has past since we tied the knot.  In looking back over the last decade, I have learned so many things (too many for one blog post) about marriage. Therefore, as a celebration of our anniversary, I thought that I would write a blog on the top ten things I have learned over the past ten years of marriage.

  1. I have learned that marriage with a purpose will be a marriage with a measurement. Joannie and I have covenanted together with the purpose of bringing glory to God and making much of him. Obviously bringing glory to God is a high purpose with a zero chance of humanly measuring up. This is where the primacy of Christ in our life and the longing to be filled with the Holy Spirit plays an essential role. Nevertheless, having the glory of God as our purpose, we have a measurement by which to measure the effectiveness and health of our marriage. We have a gauge that tells us how we are doing.
  2. I have learned that marriage with an unmovable center will be a marriage with an anchor through storms. If you have been married for any stretch of time you have probably been through a storm. Family divorcees, family deaths, sicknesses, diseases, heartaches, job transfers, moves, and transitions. There are times when multiple storms come upon couples at one time making their lives seem that they are in a tropical depression or hurricane. Therefore, having an unmovable center that will anchor the marriage through storms is paramount. Looks, money, health, jobs, lifestyle, happiness, friends, houses, cars, etc. are all movable and changing. For us, the unmovable anchor and center has been the supremacy of Christ, his great love with which he has and is loving us, and the presence of the Spirit of God living within us. In other words, the gospel has been our center, our anchor. We echo what the author of Hebrews exclaims, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…” (Heb 6:19).
  3. I have learned that marriage with right priorities will be a marriage with correct alignment. In the past I have gone to see a chiropractor. Each visit the chiropractor would do some minor touch ups—cracking and popping my body back into alignment—so that it would correctly function. I have also taken my car to the mechanic to get my tires rotated and aligned, as well as to check all the fluid levels, so that my vehicle would be properly aligned to maximize its effectiveness and performance. Priorities in a marriage act as a mechanism by which a marriage is properly aligned to maximize its effectiveness and performance. When a marriage becomes disjointed or misaligned, chances are there is an alignment (or priority) problem. Therefore, it is important to set priorities and boundaries that would protect a marriage from being misaligned.
  4. I have learned that in a marriage couples must learn contentment not complacency. I remember some of the conversations that Joannie and I had prior to our wedding day. It seems like we had it all figured out. However, we have learned that things may not work out the way you planned. And for me, I am a planner, an organizer, and a visionary who tries to have it all mapped out. The problem is that there are times that what you planned for does not happen—whether it is a place you wanted to be in your career, life, finances, or health. As the apostle Paul learned, so too have I learned (and am learning), “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:11-13). Contentment is key, not complacency.  So for me, I have learned that while I may not like some of the circumstances and situations I found myself in and desire to be removed, I have learned that I am content and that in Christ I can endure.
  5. I have learned the love bank of a marriage is healthily full when the little things are done consistently. I have learned the importance of hugs, kind words, washing dishes, helping with the kids, changing a diaper, cleaning up after myself, helping around the house, communicating when running late, remembering to take out the trash, and calling throughout the day. These things, and more, demonstrate to Joannie that I care for her and love her. Therefore, if I am to make deposits into the love bank of my marriage, it will be healthily full when I remember to do the little things—and to do them consistently. Doing the little things build the platform to really enjoy and celebrate the big things.
  6. I have learned that being together and getting away is something you cannot afford not to do. Joannie and I have, and run, a very active family. We love getting out and doing things. Therefore, we love doing things together. We love having fun whether it is just the two of us, or with the whole family. It has been important for us to get away and do things together, to experience life and to have fun doing life together. But, it has also been important for each of us to get away by ourselves. For me, I have had opportunities in ministry and pursuing my PhD to get away by myself with other men. Over the past couple of years Joannie has taken a cruise, as well as enjoyed a weekend or night getaway with some of her close friends. Also, these times of individual retreats can be as simple as going to play golf or going to get your nails done. In any case, these times have been good and healthy for the both of us. They give us breathers from our everyday life.
  7. I have learned that thou shall laugh, or learn to laugh, with one another. In all honesty, Joannie loves to laugh. She really is a good audience! When we are together, whether it is driving down the road or sitting at the house, we laugh. Laughter is nutrients for the soul. Find things to laugh at. Many times, we take movies that we really like and have made us laugh, and in a similar situation repeat the lines.
  8. I have learned to seek redemption in our disagreements. Disagreements may be a politically correct term; some people know “disagreements” as fights. Whether they are disagreements or fights, they happen—especially when you have two first-borns, one who is from a New York Italian family and the other from a Redneck Tennessee family, and who are independent and stubborn. Therefore, I have learned to be redemptive, which works in a few ways. First, in the disagreements I strive to please and demonstrate Christ (which is easier said than done). Second, when you have crossed the line in the disagreement (which I have done many times over ten years), be very quick to say you’re sorry. In other words, repent. I have learned that being redemptive—both in striving during and even after disagreements—manifests that the marriage is not about me, my ego, my pride, or my desires; rather it is about Jesus and his glory.
  9. I have learned that a marriage covenant needs protecting. Marriage is not easy. God, nor anyone else, says it is. And there are a plethora of things that can threaten the health and vitality of a marriage covenant. Therefore, just as a garden needs protecting, a marriage needs protecting. Many of the previous things I have learned (and mentioned above) are ways that I, and Joannie, have sought to protect our marriage. In addition, we have set up other boundaries in our marriage in an effort to protect the healthiness of our covenant. If something is important to you, you will protect it at all cost. Joannie is the most precious gift and blessing to me (outside of my salvation), and I have been entrusted with a lifelong covenant of loving her as Christ has loved the Church and giving myself up for her (see Eph 5:25-33). This high calling faces threats everyday that requires much protection.
  10. I have learned that after ten years, I still have a long way to go. After ten years I am no expert when it comes to marriage. I know that I have such a long way to go in learning (and in application). In addition, given the fact that I desire for my marriage to go the distance, I have a long way to go in life. In an effort to learn and go the distance, one thing is for certain, “I must decrease, and Jesus must increase.”