My First Year of Marriage Almost Killed Me4
This summer, I celebrated one year of marriage. I spent some time reflecting on the past year, and I wanted to share a few thoughts in the hopes of helping others.
This past year was the best year of my life, but it wasn’t the easiest year of my life. In fact, I almost died this past year. And that’s a good thing. Let me explain.
Before Amber and I got married, we read books, articles, and blog posts. We heard sermons. We got advice from both sets of parents. We listened to podcasts. We prayed, a lot. We took pre-marital counseling with our pastor and his wife. We talked about finances. We talked about kids. We studied what God says in the Bible about marriage. Ephesians 5. Genesis 2. 1 Corinthians 7. We did everything you could possibly do to prepare yourself for marriage.
But there was one thing I was not prepared for. One thing I didn’t see coming. One thing that would end up really rocking my world. Here’s what it was: Amber and I became one.
On the surface, that sounds so nice and simple. That’s what marriage is. Two people becoming one. But the actual uniting of two people into one is absolutely, totally, and completely unexplainable. It’s something I don’t think you can really grasp until you experience it firsthand.
The Bible calls this uniting, “one flesh”. Genesis 2:24 says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Jesus uses this verse in Matthew 19 when he deals with the subject of divorce. Paul also picks up on this same verse in his famous marriage passage in Ephesians 5. The Bible repeatedly refers to marriage as a man and woman becoming “one flesh”.
So what does that mean? In many ways, I think it means exactly how it sounds. Marriage is two people becoming one person. Two souls uniting into one. Two people laying down their lives, sacrificing everything, for the sake of joining together as one. It’s no longer me and you. It’s us. It’s no longer mine and yours. It’s ours. “Me” has died and has become “we”.
And just who does this uniting? Well, God does. Not the pastor, or the state, or the unity candle, or the ring on the finger. Ultimately, it’s God. Matthew 19:6 says this, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Somehow, in some way, God supernaturally joins two people together as one in the context of marriage. Even Paul seems to struggle with nailing down the concept. He calls it a “profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). This one fleshliness is what makes marriage so different from every other human relationship on the planet.
I knew this truth. I could have even preached a good sermon on this truth. But I was not prepared for the practical, daily outworking of this truth in my own life.
I was no longer myself. It was no longer me. I was dying. And I still am. More and more each day, I understand what it means to be one flesh. Before I was married, I did pretty much what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted. My world was me-centered. But as an unmarried man living alone, I couldn’t see that. I was blind to my pride. I had no idea how incredibly selfish I really was…until I became one flesh with my wife.
Let me give you a really dumb but true example. I like lights. When I’m in the living room relaxing, I have the lights on. Not just one light overhead, but multiple lamps evenly spaced around the room. The only time I really like darkness is when I sleep. All other times of the day, I prefer lights. My wife Amber likes darkness. She could live in a cave. (Ok, not really. But maybe.) One time during our first month or so of marriage, I came home from work, and Amber was sitting in the living room, watching TV in pure darkness. So you know what I did? I turned the lights on. Every single light I could find was immediately switched on. I didn’t even think a thing about it, until Amber looked right at me with squinty eyes and said very nicely, “Would you mind, maybe, turning a few of those lights off?” Her gracious, loving request was like a punch to the gut. I couldn’t believe myself! Well, actually I could believe myself. This is how I had lived most of my life: Me-centered.
This is just one of many examples I could give you. I can’t tell you how many times I have caught myself getting angry at my wife simply because she did or wanted something different than me. My wife had become a threat to destroying my first love: myself. My pride saw her as the enemy of the kingdom I had worked my whole life to build up: the kingdom of self.
My sinful flesh and my one flesh were fighting each other. Deep down, I knew only one could survive. Only one should survive. I needed to die to myself.
Jesus called his followers to do this exact thing. In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Why must we deny ourselves to follow Jesus? Because if we don’t, our selves will get in the way. The root of all sin is pride, or love and exaltation of self. It’s self-glorification. So from the very beginning, Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, put our sinful flesh to death on the cross, and place Him on the throne of our hearts. That’s why we call Jesus, “the Lord of our lives”. He is the master and king.
But there’s a very important word in this verse that we must not miss. It’s the word “daily”. We need to take up our cross every single day. This means dying to yourself and living for Christ is not a one time fix. It’s a process. Killing our pride and sinful flesh takes daily, constant effort. The more we deny ourselves, the more we become like Jesus, and the more we become as God intended us to be. This is what we call sanctification.
Marriage has been a major part of my sanctification process. Marriage has been like a mirror for me. It has revealed parts of me that must die. Parts of me that need work. Parts of me that I’ve been blind to for a long time. Marriage is making me more like Jesus, and this is one of the beautiful, unique aspects of two souls becoming one flesh. I not only learn to love my wife more, but I learn to love Jesus more. I not only have a better, more satisfying relationship with her, but my relationship with Jesus flourishes too.
So yes, my first year of marriage almost killed me. I’m praying this second year finishes me off.