Growing up, girls get a lot of marriage advice. Don’t settle. Be patient. Pay attention to the way he treats his mother. You’ll attract what you expect. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. All that’s true. Don’t marry for money. True as well, though not the huge problem we thought it would be.
One I often got was, Don’t marry someone expecting them to change. But I have come to see this, at best, as a half-truth. You could say more truthfully, Marry someone expecting them to undergo a great sea-change, as you will, no doubt, yourself. For there is more to be remembered in us than can be seen, and more to come than we are comfortable imagining.
I changed the minute I met the man I’ll marry soon. I’ve changed since that time, and I will change still, if God is gracious. He is changing too. This might seem terrifying if you are paying any attention. I have heard of systems of courtship that try to nail the specimens down to a board, all but torturing confessions out of each other: sins, gifts, strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, personality type, political position, denomination, baptismal stance, distinguishing scars and marks, and how you will respond in every theoretical situation under the sun.
Some of you may have had all this down before marriage, but honey, not me. And even if I could know truly what my strengths are today, would they be the same in ten years?
I have no distinguishing scars, but please, just give me time.
I was talking to a friend the other day who was going through medical school with her husband, planning to become a doctor as well, when suddenly, she changed. She decided she wanted children. So she quit school and they moved closer to extended family. Now she’s spending her days remodeling an old house. She sent me a picture of freshly painted green kitchen cabinets. I didn’t know I was good at this, she said in all seriousness. She is not the same woman her husband married, but he’s never seemed happier. He didn’t seem like the wanting-a-housewife type. He didn’t marry her expecting a change. But somehow, somewhere, they did. Who changed first? Or maybe the one-flesh thing really works like it should sometimes.
This doesn’t mean that you wake up one morning with a different person, but rather that we are more than our current opinions and strengths, and that God’s plan will expand our narrow confines and enlarge our hearts, and that Christian marriage not only has the power to withstand this, but will even cause these changes, as you are seen so completely by someone and someone who loves you.
As Mike Mason writes, in The Mystery of Marriage,
“This is what makes marriage such a thrilling enterprise: that it has power, much more than other more obviously disruptive forces, to change the entire course of a life. Some people go into marriage thinking that they will not have to change much, or perhaps only a little bit along the lines that are perfectly foreseeable and within their control. Such people are in for a rough ride. Then the terrifying and inexorable process of change sets in, they dig in their heels and refuse to budge, and the ensuing tug-of-war wreaks havoc in every department of their previously comfortable existence.
Marriage, even under the very best of circumstances is a crisis— one of the major crises of life— and it is a dangerous thing not to be aware of this. Whether it turns out to be a healthy, challenging, and constructive crisis, or a dangerous nightmare, depends largely upon how willing the partners are to be changed, how malleable they are…. So be prepared for change! Be prepared for the most sweeping and revolutionary reforms of a lifetime.”
So if you, dear old reader, would like to tell me something about marriage, let me hear it and now’s your chance, for in a month to the day, beside a duck pond in Orangeburg, South Carolina, I won’t ever be the same again.