This is not a blog post on how to survive in the wild. I often call the time before a person is married, “the wilderness”. It is a barren wasteland that God has graciously delivered me from by providing the oasis that is Kelly. Here are four lessons that I learned during my time in the wilderness.
1. Contentment is a heart issue, not a status issue.
Tell me if you heard this before? “If only I had someone, then I would be content” This was definitely one of my thoughts during my time of singleness. I thought discontentment would be done away with. But when Kelly and I started dating, I realize that I became discontent in other ways. Mainly, that I wanted to be engaged. Which then made me wonder, “What if I was engaged and became discontent because I wanted to get married? What if I was married and then became discontent because I wanted children? What if I had children and became discontent because I wanted them out of the house? What if my children moved out and I became discontent and wanted them to come home?” These types of hypothetical questions made me realize that the problem with contentment is rooted in a lack of trust in what God has given me in the moment. I learned that contentment is something that a person has to learn. Paul speaks of this when he was in prison. He writes in Philippians 4:11,
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
This was a reminder that I had to keep telling myself: that I have to learn contentment. How can I get this contentment? By looking to Jesus who is my greatest joy. Jesus satisfies me in ways that being in a dating, engaged, or marriage relationship can never satisfy.
2. Knowing the difference between sin and preference
During our engagement period, tension and conflicts came. Not every situation required me to address, but rather I had to really discern biblically whether or not what she was doing was something that was sinful or just bothered me because of my own personal preference. I found that if I tried to address a preference with Bible verses, then I came across as someone that was bending her to my will. On the other hand, pointing out sin with scripture conforms her to the image and will of God. In order for me to truly do this, I needed to ask God for wisdom and to know my own Bible to discern right and wrong. Sometimes, selflessly, I wanted her to change so I didn’t have to. If it was a preference, then I needed to die to self and place her needs before mine. Romans 12:10:
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor”
God placed both of us in each other’s lives because we are so different so that we can be forced to lay aside our own preferences and be more like our Savior. Which is a great thing.
3. Realizing sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice without pain
I learned that in order to be more like Christ, sacrifice is a norm, and sacrifice is not truly a sacrifice unless it takes some toll on you. It would have been so easy for us to have our way in every aspect of our lives, but to learn to give up something for someone who may not necessarily deserve it, forced Kelly and I to mature and to look to Christ as the perfect example of a suffering servant. If Jesus gave up his whole life for our salvation for undeserving sinners, then me forcing myself to consider her (or anyone else) as more important than myself is expected. It was and is not easy. But by God’s grace, momentary sacrifice changes us to appreciate our Savior more and grow more into His likeness. Philippians 2:3:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves”
The Lord will teach us to be more like Christ, and sometimes that means allowing us to suffer so that we can appreciate the cross more.
4. Wait for the honeymoon
Let’s be real, my wife is hot. It was not easy for me when it came to purity. Be wise, delight in the Lord, and wait for the honeymoon.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing
And obtains favor from the LORD.Proverbs 18:22