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Truthful discusssions are best for the ‘nearly married’

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June is the month for weddings, which means no few young men and women in America are sweating a truckload of details. Indeed, there is much to worry a marrying mind. We need only cast an eye to neighbors to see that much can and does go wrong in a marriage relationship, not the least because marriage asks that we live so intimately and sacrificially beside another human being.

I am an avid fan of marriage, logging nearly 25 years so far, but I have to admit that marriage is a leap of faith. Surprises await, trust is paramount, and prayer is required. When given its proper attention, however, it is neither a blind leap nor blind faith. 

If you must leap, consider a few points for preparation.

The first leap of faith before marriage is to talk about faith. For some couples, God is perceived as the easy part of marriage: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis, 2:24) But a warning: Do not confuse shared terms with a shared faith. Two people may share a belief in God, but they may be worlds apart in how they live out that belief. Push each other for working definitions and applications of God, church, scriptures and prayer.

Likewise, explore how faith shapes your definitions of male, female, sex, children and money. The modern world is pressing many difficult questions onto each of these issues and they deserve your attention. Be honest with yourself and your spouse about your level of interest (or disinterest) in the spiritual. Trust me, you have not talked enough about religious belief or unbelief.

Another leap of faith is the willingness to tell the truth. It is hard to tell another person the truth about who you are, yet it must be done for the simple reason that marriage can survive almost any truth, but few lies. For example, telling inconvenient truths about one’s past is difficult, as is telling the truth about health issues (to include mental health), but it needs to happen. Telling the truth about money, debt, and spending habits is very hard, as is telling the truth about expectations and fears, but it needs to happen. Unless you tell the truth, you are not acting in love or allowing someone to love you as you are. Take a chance on truth and the grace and acceptance that will likely come your way. And if these issues separate you, well, you were likely spared a great deal of grief.

The last leap of faith is to trust the road. A long, easy, downhill slope is not the norm in marriages that I know. There are predictable seasons of struggle (new babies, year seven, and empty nest) that are normal. Your marriage will go many places you did not anticipate and your spouse will change in ways you did not foresee, but do not presume the worst about these curves. A good marriage not only changes but requires change. Don’t presume that new roads and conflicts will inevitably force you apart, either; in fact, you may find yourself much closer with a spouse later, rather than earlier, in the journey. Couples who parachute out during struggles or extended seasons of loneliness often miss the more robust season of love awaiting them on the other side. Sure the landscape is changing, but that is what happens on long drives.     

Is there reason to leap? Sure. Just prepare for your landing with the diligence marriage deserves. 

The Rev. Dr. Christopher White is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Carrollton, Ky.