For Rebekah

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You don’t often hear of a 26-year-old bride choosing as a bridesmaid someone twice her age, but what’s a few years between friends?  Indeed, kindred spirits are ageless and the friendship between them a rare glimpse of eternity–to meet someone and form an instant connection is a beautiful thing.  I am privileged to have that kind of bond with Rebekah Sangrey.  Through the years that our friendship has been forged (thanks in large part to the internet and the fact that we both like to write letters and chat!), I have come to appreciate her wit and wisdom, and her faith inspires me.  I wrote this recently and shared it at a bridal shower for her:

For Rebekah,

My little friend, what a joy you are to me!  My life is richer because of you, and I thank God that He brought us together and knit our hearts as sisters in Christ.  It has been a privilege to watch you grow and mature, and I marvel at God’s grace and love which have been shed abroad in your heart.  Soon you will be married.  You’ll walk down that aisle and say I do, and though the ceremony will be similar to other weddings, your marriage will be different than any other.  Together you’ll begin a new chapter in your lives.  Mistakes will be made, and unfortunately you’ll both be writing in pen so you won’t be able to erase them, but you can learn from them!  I wanted to share some things I have learned from my 25 years of marriage.

It’s been said that all young women begin marriage by believing they can change and reform the men they marry.  Well, I’m here to tell you that’s a lie.  We can’t even change ourselves, so what makes us think we can change somebody else?  Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.  Focus on being the right mate and you won’t have time to think about changing him.  Still, there is a thought which I would venture to guess enters every wife’s head at some point in her marriage:  “If only he would change, then I would be happy.”  That’s a lie, too.  A woman will work ten years to change a man’s habits and then complain that he’s not the man she married!  I find it ironic that women hope men will change after marriage (but they don’t); while men hope women won’t change (but they do!).

True happiness is not dependent upon having your expectations met by your husband or any other human being for that matter, nor does it come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather by recognizing and appreciating what we do have.  Learn, like Paul, to be content whatever the circumstances, for you will have times of plenty and want, sickness and health, joy and sorrow, so don’t be surprised when they come.  Life may not be fair, but God is good and knows what he’s doing, so trust Him.

Resist the urge to take the reins from your husband, especially if he is headed for failure.  Like I said earlier, mistakes will come, but recognize that failure isn’t falling down, it’s staying down, so be ready to help him back up when he’s fallen and is discouraged, and never say “I told you so!” or “If only you’d have listened to me!”  Besides, it is so much better to try to do something and fail than to try to do nothing and succeed!

You’ve heard the old adage that love is blind.  Well, marriage restores its sight!  It is our last, best chance to grow up so be on the alert for big problems disguised as big opportunities for growth.  Accept that some days you’re the pigeon and some days you’re the statue.  Don’t take life too seriously, because you’re not going to escape it alive anyway!  And don’t waste time worrying, for God knows what you need even before you ask.  Besides, worrying is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere!  When storms come, learn to dance in the rain!  There is strength in the joy of the Lord!

Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb.  It isn’t something you get, it’s something you do.  It’s the way you love your partner every day.  It is more than spiritual communion, it is also doing the laundry and remembering to take out the trash.  What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.  Inevitably, one of you won’t be able to sleep with the window shut while the other can’t sleep with it open.  One will never remember birthdays, while the other never forgets.  Be quick to forgive your husband if he forgets, by the way, and don’t reheat his sins for breakfast.  Besides, studies have shown that the best way for a husband to remember his wife’s birthday is to forget it once!

Mark Twain said that “Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths.  No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.”  I can honestly say I know what love is, and it’s glorious.  Daniel, if you get it, if you can grasp what it means to lay down your life for her, you will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams!  Rebekah, if the heart of your husband trusts in you, not only will he have no lack of gain, but your own heart and life will be full and abundant, as Christ intended.  It can’t help but overflow!  I pray that your marriage will become so strong, so intimately connected that you will know how many sneezes to wait for before saying, “God bless you!”  May you continue to fall in love with each other day after day after day.  May your marriage grow to be a reflection of Christ and his bride, and may the calling He has placed on your lives bring Him honor and glory.  Be faithful to the end for life passes so quickly, and “when things of this life are past, only what’s done for Christ will last!”  I love you!

P.S.  Thanks for helping me find my inner princess!

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