A house is a major investment. Before you buy, you pray and ask God if this is a commitment you’re ready to make. You count the cost to be sure you can really afford to do this. Then you apply for a loan, scrape together a down payment, sign and initial a stack of papers, and finally, it’s all yours.
You stand back and smile. You love this house. You really do. The rooms are filled with laughter. The kitchen with tempting aromas. The time around the table with rich conversation. Labor is meaningful and rest is sweet. You sing as you sweep the floors, and you happily dust the blinds on all forty-eight windows.
But after a while the dusting gets old. Who needs forty-eight windows anyway? You stop enjoying the various nuances of light and view and start begrudging the work. Charms become flaws. That creaky place in the floorboard that you used to think was quaint is now simply . . . creaky.
Laughter turns to bitterness. Conversation to quarreling.
And outside, the wind and rain beat against this house and the sun bakes it. Paint fades then chips. And you realize your love has grown cold.
You have a choice to make.
Move on. Or fix it.
Marriage is a lot like a house. We may have prayed for guidance, counted the cost, and truly intended to keep all our commitments before we plunged in, but after a while the stars in our eyes grow dim.
We forget what charmed us about this person, and see only his flaws. Instead of thinking of creative ways to bring him delight, we obsess about his annoying habits. The way he chews his food or bites his nails or leaves shaving cream in the sink. We wish he would do this and wouldn’t do that, and the wind and rain beat against this marriage, and it teeters.
Again, we have a choice.
Of course, people who decide to move on usually realize that the next house eventually loses its charm, too. And no matter where you live, dust gathers and maintenance takes work, and there are some hard-to-reach spots that require attention.
If you’re going to do this right, you’ll need scaffolding.
And not any scaffolding will do. It needs to be unshakable and firm. And, yes, merely assembling it and climbing on takes a lot of courage and hard work. But once you’re there, you can lean all your weight into the task at hand.
So, what are the scaffolding components needed to build and maintain a weather-proof marriage?
The Word of God as foundation.
Prayer as framework.
And the planks?
Honesty. Communication. Affection. Kindness. Confession. Trust. Gratitude.
These are solid, sturdy, and sure to hold fast. And then there are two other planks I know I couldn’t live without.
Have you ever been to a wedding, and somewhere on a little table there’s a basket and a bunch of note cards, and married couples are encouraged to leave a word of wisdom or advice for the newlyweds? Yeah, me, too. And I almost always write the same thing:
Laugh often, and forgive immediately.
Because laughter is the music that reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. It’s the soundtrack that reminds us life is an adventure, not a series of unfortunate events.
And forgiveness? If we forgive immediately — if we refuse to entertain self-pity or accusing thoughts and choose rather to remember how very much we’ve been forgiven and how very much we daily, hourly, moment-by-moment need God’s mercy, we’ll receive power to look past the dust and the fading paint.
If we choose to love like God loved us — while we were yet sinners — we’ll begin to see once again the charms that made us fall in love with this man in the first place. We’ll again delight to add all the tender little touches inside and out that make a marriage a home.
You love this house. You really do. The rooms are filled with laughter. The kitchen with tempting aromas. The time around the table with rich conversation. Labor is meaningful and rest is sweet. You sing as you sweep the floors, and you happily dust the blinds on all forty-eight windows. And then you stand back and smile.
Let the storms come. You laugh at storms. You’ve built this house on a rock.
And your scaffolding is strong.
P.S. George is painting this house — our home for almost 20 years — in preparation to sell it soon. This is where we raised our children, where our world collapsed, and where God took our brokenness and created unspeakable beauty. If you know of anyone who might like to buy a charming and treasured East Texas home that has been filled with life and love, friendship and faith, music, laughter, and dancing, send them our way.