I'm honored and delighted to be part of this special occasion to honor Nancy at her bridal shower. When Sue asked me to say a few words and to lead a prayer time, I thought, What can I say to my dear friend that she doesn't already know? But then an analogy came to mind. During my nurse's training, I learned a tremendous amount of medical knowledge and understood how to take care of very sick patients and how to assist a surgeon during an operation. However, I discovered that when I began working in the hospital caring for patients and safely carrying out medical procedures that it was a challenging assignment. Having the knowledge was different than practicing it.
After you say "I do," life will be very different than you may have thought or imagined it would be.
So Nancy, I'm smiling as I think about you putting into practice what you've been teaching women on how to love and honor their husbands and behave in a Christ-like manner. We all think that your and Robert's marriage has been made in heaven, but then again, so are lightning and thunder! In fact, as you were sharing about the shocking mistake you made with the remote control at the most crucial moment of the Cubs playoff game, I thought, She's been initiated into the faux pas of coming between a man and his sports. You learned very quickly that sports is one of the love languages of men. Of course, Robert is a gentleman and was very kind and forgiving.
Nancy, you are loved by so many whose lives you have mentored and impacted with truth, hope, and encouragement. We think of you as "the Pearl of Great Price!" Matthew 13:46 says, "who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it." Proverbs 12:4 says, "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband." Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD." Proverbs 19:14 says, "A prudent wife is from the LORD." Prudent means being a sensible, wise, and discreet woman, which certainly describes you.
Different Than You've Imagined
The marriage vow says, "For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, till death us do part." These words are so familiar and wonderful, but in reality they are mysterious and demanding. And I can tell you for sure that they are not easy to carry out. After you say "I do," life will be very different than you may have thought or imagined it would be. Surprise! Elisabeth Elliot said that there are two truths about marriage: You both married a sinner; you're going to hurt each other.
For many years I tried to figure out the differences between my husband and me. Was it the male/female thing? Was it our personalities? Our backgrounds and upbringings? How could two intelligent, mature people see a situation or matter so differently? Well, it is all of these things, but the strongest of them is the inherent differences between men and women. We are wired differently. We have different hormones coursing through our bodies. We have different physical and emotional needs.
Two Pieces of a Puzzle
We have this false idea that our marriage relationship can only be great when we are finally able to see things the same way. Basically, he is never going to see things your way. And you are never going to see things his way. We also have to change our belief that if one spouse is right, the other has to be wrong. Instead, we must acknowledge that we married an intelligent person whose opinions we respect. (Otherwise, why did you marry him?) Then figure out what's right about what your spouse is saying, add your view to it, and it should fit together like two pieces in a puzzle.
"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."
Once you fundamentally accept that you will see things differently (not in a right or wrong way), then you can choose to lovingly and patiently listen to each other. After that, you'll be able to compromise and come to an agreement in solving your problems. Conflicts are inevitable. Someone has said that every problem contains within itself the seeds for a solution. These three words help us to keep focused on solving a disagreement or to make a decision that is mutually pleasing: Communicate. Negotiate. Celebrate.
I think the gold-standard Scripture for every marriage is Ephesians 4:31–32:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Verse 31 does not portray a loving marriage, and there are couples who reach the point that some of these words describe their relationship. They don't know how to biblically deal with their differences and difficulties, and they grow into bitterness, anger, and slander. How do we "put away" these negative, sinful, damaging attitudes? How do we keep them from developing at all?
It sounds so simple: Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving. But it's oh so hard, because we're all selfish sinners.
By understanding and obeying the words of verse 32: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." How do we behave in a kind manner? By being sympathetic, forbearing, gentle, helpful, and providing relief or pleasure. How do we behave in a tenderhearted manner? By softening our hearts, having pity or sorrow, showing acts of kindness, being compassionate, understanding, and easily moved to love.
And as though all of this weren't enough, God tells us to forgive one another just as He forgave us through Christ's sacrifice on the cross! We must sometimes make personal sacrifices in order to forgive. It sounds so simple: Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving. But it's oh so hard, because we're all selfish sinners.
A Standard and a Challenge
The classic love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 presents both a standard and a challenge. You can see it even more clearly by putting your name in the place of the word "love":
Nancy is patient and kind; Nancy does not envy or boast; she is not arrogant or rude. Nancy does not insist on her own way, she is not irritable or resentful; she does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Nancy bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
These things are not only hard to do, they are impossible to do without the divine enablement of the Holy Spirit. In a few days you will stand at the altar with your beloved Robert and surrender your independence to one who loves you dearly. May you both be overwhelmed by God's love for you and your love for each other as you begin the joyful journey of marriage!