by Rachelle Whitfield
My husband and I started premarital counseling several months before the big date. I was on staff at a church and it was a requirement in order to get married at the church. We were being counseled by Pastor R, who just happened to be my department head, so I already had a pretty close relationship with him. His wife was a friend, his kids were growing up right in front of me, and I admired him in a fatherly way.
One day we were discussing ministry business in his office. As we wrapped up, with the most googly eyes I asked him, “Isn’t he (my fiance) amazing?” He responded that he was very nice guy, but we would never have a “maximum” marriage.
I am sure the conversation did not end there but that is absolutely all I remember from that day.
Needless to say, I was crushed. I was in my mid 30’s and I had invested several years of dating in this relationship. I became angry and felt Pastor R was judging “my amazing man” without even knowing him. The conversation in my head listed all the amazing qualities that he didn’t see in a couple of one-hour premarital counseling sessions.
Within a few months I left the church; I was in love and there was nothing that was going to change my mind about getting married. We conveniently cancelled counseling sessions because of scheduling conflicts.
Side note: I do not recommend or support leaving your church. There had been some theological issues I had been struggling with for a while; this was just the one more thing.
We landed at a growing church that encouraged connection through small groups. Our “Life Group” was three older couples much further along in the marriage journey. Okay, much further along in life than we were (inserting LOL emoji). They were in much different stages of life, but they poured so much love and encouragement into our lives. They shared their daily challenges, even after being married 15, 20, and 30 plus years.
They said, “Marriage is not a bed of roses, but it is worth every thorn.”
Two years into our marriage I would have said Pastor R was right–I will never have a “maximum” marriage. I found myself lying in bed praying, “God, get me out of this mess I haven gotten myself into.”
Y’all, he answered my prayers. Just as he answered my prayers to send me a husband, someone to love and spend the rest of my life with, He answered my prayer to save my marriage. Y’all, God answers our prayers.
I had to decide if I was going to thank him and praise him when he answered in different ways than I expected or wanted.
This year, we celebrate 16 years. And just as that day I was not sure what my pastor meant by a “maximum” marriage, today I still have no idea what a “maximum” marriage looks like. I do know, I wouldn’t trade the marriage God has created for me for anything other in the world.
I have friends who have been married 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, even 40 years and the authentic and transparent ones look just like mine. They have struggled over finances; they have struggled over children; they have struggled through deployments and work commitments; they have struggled through seasons of one or the other being “unequally yoked” (a much longer story for another post). They have STRUGGLED. What have each of them had in common with my marriage? STRUGGLES!
How to Flourish in a “Maximum” Marriage (to me)
- Pray often. Pray that your marriage flourishes, pray for your husband, pray for you as a wife. Pray…
- Surround yourself with women striving for a growing, flourishing, thriving, strong marriage. Surround yourself with couples who are committed to marriage for life.
- Get help! Find a godly couple a little further along than you to mentor you both. Or if your spouse is not into that thing, find a woman a little further along in the marriage venture who can mentor you. Get marriage counseling, visit your chaplain, seek out your Military Family Life Consultant (MFLC). Get help!
I am sure when Pastor R told me I would not have a “maximum” marriage, he did it from a place of love and from observation of truths he had seen walk through his door every day. And I have worked with many military families as a financial counselor and thought to myself they are never going to make it.
But I always ask them, “Do you really want to fix this and make this work?” I just wish he (Pastor R) would have asked the question, “Do you want to have a maximum marriage?” and then followed up with the steps that would set us in that direction.
Father, the enemy wants nothing more than to take our marriage down and stop the plans that you have for us. He knows that you want to use us for your purposes in history and he wants to steal our joy. But we pray that you would protect us from the evil one and that you would cover our home and our relationship. In the good and the bad, in the ups and downs, we pray for security in you. We pray that you would even protect us from the harm that we could possibly do to ourselves knowingly or unknowingly. Help us to resist the enemy. Help us to stand strong in our faith. Make us steadfast in our pursuit of you and in pursuit of your will. Be our shield, Lord Jesus, when Satan attacks and be our refuge when we don’t know where to turn. We place our full faith and confidence in you and your love. We recognize that we will only find what we are looking for in you and we commit our lives to you. Amen
Dr. Tony Evans