I have this Bible at home. It is worn out and falling apart from years of use. It belonged to my grandfather. The notes and circled verses in the Bible tell of his conversion to Christianity, his love for his wife, and a few other details. He was one of the greatest men I have ever known. Though he wasn’t perfect, he was consistent as a role-model. I used to love to sit with him for hours and hear stories about him and grandma. I figured if anyone knew how to live out what it means to be a Christian in the context of a marriage, it was him. So one day, a year or two before he passed away I had the opportunity to ask him to reflect on what it takes to build a strong marriage. I learned a lot that day, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was that he was genuinely friends with my grandmother.
He shared about how in each venture they undertook, from the farm, to owning a grocery store, to working together in a retirement home, that he loved having a work situation where she was never far and could be by his side. They were truly great friends and worked well together. If I was going to use my grandparent’s blueprint for a successful marriage, one thing was clear, Avia and I would need to work well together.
This is really an important issue when it comes to picking and evaluating a future spouse. Men and women were meant to compliment one another. That is the gist of Genesis 2:18. God did not intend for Adam to tend the garden alone and made Eve to be his helper. Men and women were made to work together. So the question was, would Avia and I work well together?
To evaluate this and make sure we were building a relationship on trust rather than emotion we took several practical steps. We didn’t kiss for the first several months that we dated. We searched for common interests. We babysat kids together. We cooked meals together. We played indoor games like Scrabble. We played tennis together (and learned its better if we don’t play on the same team). We worked on crafts together (like sewing identical teddy bears and painting small ceramic houses). The point was to work on common projects and see how we related. Most of this we did in her parents kitchen or living room where they could see us interact.
During this time we also sought out the advice of couples of all ages. We sat down with newly wed couples and asked what they wished they had done to prepare for marriage. We interviewed older couples with grandchildren and asked them the secret to their success. We watched them interact.
Through this process we learned a lot. We learned to communicate. We learned it was okay to disagree. We learned what we liked and didn’t like. We learned how to express our feelings. We learned our weaknesses. We learned our strengths. We learned that we were growing more in love with each other.
Then one night as we were reading the Bible we came to Ephesians 5. I told her we should study that passage and really start preparing for marriage. She told me that she didn’t have a ring on her finger and I hadn’t talked to her dad. She was wise to put a hold on the emotional commitment that such an action would bring until their was a serious commitment toward marriage. It brought us to a serious point of reflection to see if we were ready to start making preparations for marriage.