Tell me the Secret to a Great Marriage
Tell me your secret. How do you have a great marriage? If this answer were to be given in a nutshell, many would not want to crack it open. After carefully observing that nut, one may deduce that it is too simple. Another may say that it is much more complex than what meets the eye. It is a mystery! Surely if it were straightforward, everyone would rise to the occasion and enjoy the bliss of marriage. The philosophical mind may say it is indeed simply complex.
What do I say?
I say it is simple!
Why? The components of a great marriage are not hidden and are not unreachable but rather available to all.
The truth we do not care to hear is that the marriage we want will cost us more than we are sometimes willing to pay.
What will it cost, you say?
Let’s consider just one aspect of marriage…your right to be right. Sometimes our ultimate goal in a fight is to prove that we were right. Soaking in that victory still does not give you the feeling you want. To be right at any cost will leave you making an enemy of your greatest ally. So, what should your goal be in a fight? Let’s face it! There will be fights, but you must learn to fight right.
Your goal in a fight must be for the marriage to win!! I can’t state this enough! It’s quite likely that we were not taught to do so at any point in our development. We have instead learnt to justify our reason for being right and provide evidence, as if in a courtroom, as to why the other person is wrong. We pull out every proof we can find to make it abundantly clear that we are right! Then we gloat and enjoy a short-lived moment of victory. While you’re winning, your marriage is losing. There is now a wedge that slides in between the two. The two who are supposed to become one, now have a greater challenge in operating as a unit. Over the years this practice creates a major dividing force that can eventually end in divorce.
Fighting right requires having the right motive in the first place and being willing to lay down the trophy of being right in order to understand the other person, while carefully protecting his or her heart. This translates to choosing the right tone, the right words and the right place and time to have this discussion.
Do you see why obtaining a flourishing marriage is within reach but many refuse to reach for it because it requires sacrifice?
So back to the question. How do you have a flourishing marriage? A flourishing marriage requires self-sacrifice on both sides.
Jala was almost finished helping Mrs Lueth prepare for all the young adults who were coming over for fun and fellowship that Saturday afternoon. Mrs. Lueth’s house was big enough to accommodate several groups of young adults at the same time and she enjoyed having them over. Jala could hear Mrs. Lueth calling her softly as she finished cleaning off the kitchen countertop.
Jala sank into one of the plush brown outdoor chairs on the balcony, suspicious of what might be coming next.
“Auntie Lu, what’s going on?”
“Something’s been on my mind recently since you introduced me to that young man.”
“Oh dear!” Jala let out a sigh as she cuddled one on the cushions placing one hand under chin. “Do we really have to talk about Ephraim?”
“Aaah… we don’t have to talk about Ephraim, but we do have to talk about you. I’ve been praying for you, asking GOD what’s happening? Jala…You are in a series of reaction. I only wonder if you can see what you’re reacting to.”
Jala felt something in the pit of her stomach. This conversation has gone so deep so fast. She knew she could not be surface her answers to Mrs. Lueth. She was motherly with a dark chocolate complexion and pleasingly plump, with deep dimples that created apostrophes around her smile.
“Auntie, I don’t want to go back to where I’m coming from.” The tears started welling up in Jala’s eyes but Auntie Lue was not letting up. Her gentle countenance was most disarming, backed by her evident love. She folded Jala into a side hug which softly communicated that there was no getting away.
“You’re in quite a fight Jala. I see you waging a war against what started on the inside of you. When you end the war inside you’ll end the war outside.”
“These people hurt me! They dragged my name through the mud. Hardly any ever asked me to my face what happened. People I trusted spread lies about me and him. I’m still so embarrassed. I genuinely thought Jonathan loved me and was interested in being married to me. We got prophesies, Auntie!”
Jala was breaking and tears were flowing from her broken heart as she struggled to control her usually well guarded emotions.
“People said I slept with him! Oh my goodness Auntie. I felt like a church floozy! Me…a virgin!”
“It’s ok precious. It’s ok!” Auntie held her the more but Jala heaved until they were both on the tiled floor.
“Just let it out.”
“I never talked about it! I felt too ashamed. I messed up! I went too far with him. I could hardly talk to God after my repeated offence. Again I felt ashamed. Auntie….only to find out I was just one of the girls he was with in the church?
Her mouth opened with no words or sound, just tears. All this time Jala toughened up and blamed herself for being this foolish.
Auntie moaned alongside Jala like a midwife helping her to give birth.
“Let it out,” she comforted.
“It wasn’t even a month later he was engaged! I looked like I was trying break up their union…Auntie I wanted answers! Why did he choose me to make a fool of and why didn’t I see? How did I miss God?”
After many tears and snot, Mrs Lueth prayed her red hot fiery prayer for Jala, who was like a soaked handkerchief.
“You must forgive yourself Jala. You’ve repented for you part. Receive God’s forgiveness and freely give forgiveness to those who hurt you. The more you hold on to the pain, the less able you are to move forward. Your healing has started.”
Mrs. Lueth wiped her face.” Jala, remember that Ephraim was not there. He should not be punished for what others did.
“I knew that in my head. I felt I could not allow him to think for a moment that I was interested in him. I realized that I really enjoy his friendship once there was no threat of a relationship or others thinking there was.
Mrs. Lueth could hear the cars pulling into the cul de sac and got up to remotely open the gates from the balcony so that the early birds could park in the yard.
Walking back to Jala she added, “Don’t waste your energy trying to get people not to talk about you. My mother once told me, ‘Live free and let people be.'”
Jala quickly got off the floor, to fix up before everyone was inside the house. “Thank you Aunty Lue. I feel so light. Yes, and free!”
As soon as she disappeared in the bathroom, Chari’s loud voice filled the house.
“Auntie Lue, I smell something good!”
Abe and Ephraim followed behind carrying all the bags Chari gave them to take in the house.
“Hello my children,” Auntie did a dance coming down the stairs. She greeted them one by one and made effort to especially welcome Ephraim.
“Where’s Jala, Aunt?”
It’s been a hectic morning. She’s gone to shower.”
“So Ephraim I hear that you go to the Baptist Church not far from us.”
“Yes, mam,” answered Ephraim trying not to appear awkward while fighting the memory of his first introduction to Aunty Lue.
The three sat around the island in the kitchen, while Auntie Lue plastic wrapped the trays of food and chatted about her friends at the Baptist Church that Ephraim attends.
The bell rang again as Jala came into the kitchen greeting everyone and she grabbed the remote to open up from the balcony.
“Can I help you with anything,” asked Ephraim.
“Great, thank you. Ephraim, you take the igloo out to the balcony, Abe you get the ice from the deep freezer and Chari you come with me.”
As Ephraim headed to the balcony he hesitated as if he wanted to make a u-turn.
“Fraim, sang Jala, I’m so glad you came.”
“Really, cause I don’t want to embarrass you anymore.”
“You don’t embarrass me, but I’m embarrassed about my behaviour toward you. Could we please start over?
Jala extended her hand for a handshake.
“Nope,” Ephraim turned his back.
“But we can pick up from the where we left off in benevolence.”
Jala slowly breathed a sigh of relief, quickly shaking Ephraim’s hand.
“Friends,” they both agreed.
Auntie Lue glanced at them and gave out a “Thank you Jesus!”
Chari and Abe were just in time to create a huddle and a strong bond was formed.
Hey, we’re not done. More Church Girl Series coming. Tell us if you can relate these characters and scenarios. Jot us a line and be sure to share the story with friends. Thanks in advance!
After many days of clearing out the benevolence room, with very little help, Jala could see her vision materializing. She had a passion for the poor and devoted every evening after work for the past month, to revamping the room.
Her vision was to ‘help with honor’ way beyond just giving the poor a few food items. She finally had the approval for the construction of a small office within the large benevolence room. Jala removed the dark curtains that blocked the sunlight and brought in a few sheer panels she had convinced her friend Chari she did not need. Chari was used to Jala pulling her into the benevolence Ministry to help at a moment’s notice.
In benevolence ministry, she had latitude and could avoid being upfront, yet serve the people she was passionate about. Chari often tells her that she hides in benevolence to avoid interaction with majority of the church.
This was Jala’s passion!
“Jala, you’re back there?”
Jala could hear a coarse male voice calling her as it drew closer to the benevolence room. It was Pastor Pruitt, who played a major role in Jala becoming a Christian.
“I’ve got some help for you! Where do you want the cupboards and the shelves?
“Pleasant evening Pastor Pruit,” said Jala as Pastor Pruitt steps aside.
“This is the help I brought you. Meet Ephraim who will be doing the cupboards and shelves for the room. Please tell him where everything goes.
“Oh Hello, Ephrem, E-phraaim?”
“That’s okay. I’ve heard it all. I’ve even had someone spell my name starting with an ‘F’ for Ephraim.
Jala laughed and ushered him into the room.
“I don’t know what my mom was thinking. If she wanted a Bible name, why not David?”
“Follow me, David!”
They both laughed. Jala explained the new layout and Ephraim wasted no time measuring up the space.
As Ephraim worked, he and Jala chatted away as if they had known each other for years.
“So, what is this church like, and how long have you been a Christian?”
“Wow! That’s a lot of questions…let’s see…vibrant church, not without issues and 5 years.”
Stopping to process what Jala said, he added, “That works.”
“You might consider me a baby Christian, but I’m excited about my new life. I got saved at a church not far from here about a year ago.”
Jala was standing on her desk trying to hang a few frames, while Ephraim continued measuring outside the office.
The light flickered…
“Did you see that?
“I’m glad you did,” replied Jala.
Soon there was an explosion and the electricity was out. Hardly any light came through the window now.
Jala, frighten, tried making her way off her desk and twisted her ankle in panic.
“I’m here… I’m here. Are you alright?”
Ephraim pulled out his phone flashlight and found Jala trying to get off the floor. She was embarrassed. Jala hated to admit her need for help to a complete stranger, no matter how kind he appeared.
“Did you fall?”
“No,” she snapped. By this her ankle was pounding and painful. The tears were rolling down her cheeks and she was grateful for the darkness.
“How embarrassing,” she thought.
Realizing that Jala could hardly walk Ephraim offered to help. She reluctantly laid her pride aside and held on to David, hopping out of the room.
“What was that?”
Ephraim understood that the bubbly personality he met only hours ago was now very uncomfortable. He shifted the attention to the incident at hand as they walked down the hallway.
Upon approaching the exit door, they could see lights. There were lights of fire trucks, ambulances and a fire at the gas station across the road.
A crowd had gathered outside the church, as many prayed for those who were being placed in ambulances.
Jala realized that her pride being hurt was insignificant to the dire situation before them.
“Jala we had forgotten about you and Ephraim around the back,” said Pastor Pruitt. “Are you okay?”
By this Jala was standing on her left leg, while Ephraim braced her from the side.
As soon as Pastor Pruitt asked the question all eyes gazed puzzlingly to Jala and Ephraim. Jala knew what that meant. She could only imagine their conversations and thoughts.
“Didn’t she just meet him?”
“What’s his arm doing around her?
“They wasted no time.”
“Is he even saved?”
Again… Jala felt a covering of embarrassment. It was what she wanted to avoid the most…giving church people something to talk about. Her swollen right ankle left her no option. She had to take the help and risk being falsely accused. It only got worse when she got in her car and Ephraim drove her home.
Jala had a few things to say to GOD.
“God how could you do this! You know I have maintained a clean reputation. I’ve stay away from unfruitful relationships and things that fuel gossip. Now I seem to be caught up with a man I know nothing about…a baby Christian at that. The poor thing has no idea what he just stepped into. I will have to live this down. Why, me? I hope this guy doesn’t get any ideas in his head.”
Follow us on the next blog to find out how the guarded Jala handles the unwanted attention from her church family and poor Ephraim.
Meeting that someone, who is much more than all the other “someones” and feeling like this is home, is priceless!
There is a peace that tells you it’s safe to proceed.
You’re getting to know each other and learning the nuances of relating to each other. Some days you can see the future as plain as ever, while others you wonder if you can live with this imperfect human. How dare him not be made in the image and the likeness of the man that you constructed in your head!
After all, that man is perfect!
Still, this relationship is causing you to get over your more blatant “Meology theology.” You know the realization that the whole world does not move at your pace to accomplish your will. Yea…especially if you’re in your 20’S it takes some reckoning. Not to worry, change is at your door.
Marriage is in view and it’s scary exciting! Okay, at times it’s downright frightening when you consider how much you have to give up to become one with this unknown entity. At another glance, you wonder how you could be this blessed to have such a beautiful heart pant after yours. If you get your eyes off the image of perfection you have constructed in your mind, you can admit that his character is what you have prayed for and desired. After admitting that you love him and you’re in love with him, I have a question for you.
Can you follow his lead? A godly woman should seek to answer this question before her heart completely melts at his acts of kindness and his projection for the future. Before you consider marriage, you have to resolve that based on his core beliefs and persuasion, you can follow him. As Christians, we understand that the Marriage Maker has made the man the head of the household and the woman his suitable mate. This places the woman in a place of being very alert concerning who she allows her heart to be tangled with. If you cannot follow his lead, you will lead a rebellion against him.
“How can two walk together unless they agree?” Amos 3:3
You’d be surprised or not that you can easily attempt a coup against this man you love, for the marriage to go the way you see it. It is crucial to know that you are following the lead of someone who himself is under God’s leadership and agrees that he aims to love you as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for it.
I recall someone poking fun at a gentleman she considered suitable for me in the presence of my mentor, who snapped and wiped the smile off our faces. In a strict tone, she opined, “She will not marry anyone who she can lead, or she will!”
I had to admit that she was right. I had to marry someone I honor and respect. His persuasion and moral stance command honor before he says a word. I was confident that I could follow his lead, even when I wanted it my way. I trusted who leads him to lead our family and our lives.
So ask yourself that question having noticed his consistency of character and devotion to God. Save yourself the unnecessary trauma. Consider why you’d be challenged to follow his lead. Be honest with yourself before getting too attached.
If your answer is ‘yes,’ happy courting!
It’s love and it’s beautiful! It’s heart-thumping and nerve-racking, but sweet! There is a bond, a connection and a feeling like forever is not long enough. It’s what the movies are made of! There is the occasional step back that makes you wonder if this is “too good to be true.” But what more could you ask for when the love is undeniable?
So glad you asked. Let’s stop for just a crucial moment and turn down the background music to really take a sober look at the marriage you passionately desire. Like any iconic building, marriage needs a strong foundation. After building that strong foundation, please turn back up the music and let the church bells ring with joyful laughter.
Even before starting the building, please consult the ‘Marriage Maker’ to find out if it is worth your time, effort and emotional investment. Did GOD give you the nod? This might leave you feeling lost, so let’s be clear. Very rarely will the voice of GOD thunder from heaven in approval of your spousal choice. Instead, this requires a relationship already established with Him where you, as His sheep, hear His voice. In worship when you have drawn close to Him and sense His presence, pop the question and wait. You might not get a worded answer, but you have started the quest. He is a good Father who will not give you a stone instead of bread. God wants you to know who to marry.
For me, He guided me by His profound peace. I came to realize that many of my decisions would be made this way since He wants me (us) to know Him this intimately. God will, in addition, confirm His approval in many ways: some very logical and others crafted just for you.
The work has just begun!
Not because he or she is the “one” means that it will be smooth sailing! You both have to empty your trunk of junk from the past, air your expectations in marriage and make a plan for this new family unit that you can both agree to. You guessed it…get pre-marital counseling! By the way, counseling should start when you both decide to pursue each other for the purpose of marriage – courtship. It does not start after you have sent out your “Save the Dates” for the wedding.
This preparation period if mishandled will turn something beautiful into a horror show! Besides the trunk of junk that each person carries into relationships, each has undefined expectations that one may consider is commonly known. Oh, contrary!
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Pr 4:7
God is entrusting you to love His daughter or His son and it will require serious adjustments on both sides. Some things will come naturally for you, while others, you will be taught in the process of learning to love each other. It is work! It’s not automatic! The more you are yielded to God, the more easily you will love like 1 Cor 13. This chapter speaks of committed love, the only kind that marriage should be built on. Note…1 Cor 13 goes where no emotion nor fling can follow. It too takes work!