So I am super excited about this guest post, and might I add that this person is one SPECIAL guest! :) Why is this guest so special? well....maybe because I get to call him my husband in just several shorts weeks!
I shared a few posts back about what the Lord has been teaching me personally through this period of engagement (read more here) and so Ben and I thought it would be neat for him to share his perspective on this season in our lives as well. He is new to the whole blogging thing, and is Oh Simple Thoughts first guest blogger, so needless to say this is a big step for us both!
Hope you enjoy reading his thoughts, both practical and spiritual on this amazing time of preparation!
This time last year, on Easter Sunday, life changed for me. That was the day I asked Rachel to pursue a marriage-minded relationship with me...after having met only twelve days earlier and having only one one-on-one conversation under our belts. Sound romantic? On a list of adjectives that could be used to describe the beginning of our relationship, "romantic" was definitely near the bottom of the list. Rachel and I found ourselves in a rather awkward situation at first - suddenly thrust into a relationship with a near stranger and facing the expectations of the world to uphold all the stereotypical norms that define a relationship: texting each other "Good morning", holding hands, hugging goodbye, going on dates, knowing each other's likes, dislikes, and schedules, etc. Needless to say, this made for an interesting and overwhelming start to a relationship (our first conversation after that Easter Sunday one was about snow cones...that's all...snow cones). But...the Lord was faithful to us as we attempted to follow our Scriptural convictions on dating, marriage, and relationships, and it wasn't long before Rachel went from the girl that I was dating after only one conversation to my best friend. About three months later, we were engaged and planning a wedding.
Describing engagement is a difficult thing that probably seems full of contradictions. One thing that definitely describes it is fun. Ask any guy and you'll probably find that the thing we look forward to the most about engagement (besides getting married, of course) is getting handed the registry scanner and being given free reign of an entire store. In addition, simply being able to refer to a girl that you love as your fiance adds a whole new exciting dynamic to a relationship. On the other hand, as soon as you are engaged, the waiting begins. And all during the waiting, you're planning a wedding, and planning a wedding is stressful. Even if the guy isn't involved in the planning, it will still stress the girl and will affect the guy, at least indirectly at a minimum. The increase of stress between dating and engagement isn't to be ignored that's for sure. A friend of mine who got married last July seemed to have put it well when he told me that the best way he could describe marriage is that all the highs are higher, but all the lows are lower. I've found this true in engagement so far, and I know this is just a preview of what's to come. So, let me break this down the way I see it...
I'm engaged to my best friend, so obviously there is no one in this world that I would rather be spending this time with preparing for marriage and planning a wedding. The many things that we've either had to do or have gotten to do during the past 7-ish months have brought us closer together and taught us more about each other than ever before. We would both say that we feel like we know each other so much better than when we first got engaged. All of the fun and enjoyable things about dating have been magnified in engagement. But, as we have gotten to know each other better, we have also become much more aware of the things in each other that annoy us and have become less and less careful about guarding our reactions to those annoyances against the flesh. Essentially, our sin has become magnified to the extent that, when we think back and evaluate everything, we feel like we were "better people" when we were just dating. Of course nothing has really changed; we're not really worse people now than we were 8 months ago. We're the same wretched sinners; engagement has just really brought to our attention all the sin that we were able to keep hidden (even if it wasn't intentionally hidden) when we were single. It's a humbling experience to say the least! While we both have admitted that we feel rotten and dirty and unprepared for marriage, I am encouraged by a verse that Rachel often quotes, and that is Psalm 119:71, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes." If engagement has done one thing, it has humbled us and pushed us closer to Christ through the sin that we've become more and more aware of.
Lastly, engagement has been a good time for me to begin to understand how the Lord works. Ephesians 5:25-27 says, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." My marriage is to reflect Christ's love for us as the church. I think it's safe to say that this, along with the rest of Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, and a handful of others, is a common verse among Christian couples. In fact, there aren't all that many passages in the Bible directly related to how a husband and wife are to interact, but when you consider what it really means for us men to love our wives as Christ loved the church, it vastly expands the practical application for marriage that can be derived from Scripture. Anything that Christ did for us can be directly applied to a marriage. For example, 2 Timothy 2:13 says, "If we are faithless, he remains faithful - for he cannot deny himself," and 1 John 4:19, "We love because he first loved us," took on whole new meanings to me after I connected this. Christ didn't love me after I loved him first, and he doesn't continue to remain faithful to me because I remain true to him. Rather, he loved me first so that I could love him back and that is independent of my ability to remain faithful. Practically speaking, what this means for me is that even if Rachel and I are at odds, I would be in the wrong as the husband to do anything that would make her have to come after me and attempt to love me first even if she's completely at fault. In our own ways, we all fail at this because of our pride, but I am thankful that I know very clearly the example that I am to be following. The difficult part is submitting to the Spirit and not the flesh. I definitely encourage all guys to not stop at the popular marriage verses when they're studying marriage but to view all of Scripture as an example for how husbands are to lead their wives.
These are just a few of the things I've seen throughout my engagement...