I was thinking recently about the whole idea of reflecting on what I would say to my 21 year old self from the vantage point of today. It made me wonder what I would say to my newlywed self about love, romance and marriage. Here’s my letter I’ve written to Debi Gray Walter, age 19 (my age when Tom and I were married in 1979.)
I know you are afraid of all the changes about to take place in your life–moving away from all that is familiar to embrace a new life with Tom. Having only dated for the past 8 months, it’s to be expected that you’re nervous. But God has given you everything you need to be the wife He has called you to be. There will be days ahead of loneliness and uncertainty, but God is going to use this time to draw you and Tom closer together.
You may think you know Tom, but the years ahead are going to reveal how much you don’t really know him. And he will soon discover that he doesn’t really know you either. Your romantic ideal will be tested because true love isn’t based on your ideals, but on reality. God has chosen Tom to be the one with whom you’ll share all of life–the good, the challenging and the heart-breaking moments. Be brutally honest and self-disclosing. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into all Truth. Even when the truth you are discovering about your heart and Tom’s heart tempts you to despair.
God hasn’t brought you and Tom together to live a perfect life. He has brought you together to help you grow more in your relationship to each other and to God. As iron sharpens iron, so too, will your husband sharpen you.
Don’t neglect your relationship with the Lord. Allow Him to be the One you depend upon for all things. Your husband was never meant to be your Savior. He is your companion and the One with whom you will walk side-by-side closer to the Throne of Grace as each year passes, but only God can fill the role of Savior.
Children are going to attempt to put a wedge between you. Your time will be consumed with training the next generation, but don’t love them more than Tom. Be always conscious that your marriage is primary and lasts your entire lifetime, while the throes of parenting lasts only for 20 – 30 years. Be diligent to keep the home fires burning so that when your kids are grown you will have a strong friendship to support the changing season.
Seek others who can give you godly counsel as to how to be the best wife you can be. Read great books on marriage. Spend time praying for Tom daily. Do all you can to resist the temptation to hide your motives, your fears and your failures. Tom needs to know the real you, not the one you want him to see. Don’t worry so much about outward appearance, but focus on the heart. Let Tom teach you how to be a servant who doesn’t need the accolades of men.
You may not realize it now, but Tom will become a deep source of wisdom in your life. Don’t waste time second-guessing his leadership, but trust his ability to hear God. You may think he’s the man of your dreams, but you will discover he is much better than anything you could have ever dreamed or hoped for.
Most of all, don’t measure your marriage by the marriages of others. Love is a choice, not a feeling. Commit to love Tom more everyday regardless of how you feel, and find creative ways to express it. Be uninhibited and unashamed in your showing your love to him. Let your yes be YES, as often as you are able.
Enjoy your marriage and remember above all that it is a reflection of Christ’s love for the church. Every choice you make is meant to glorify God. Keep this as your focus, and it will enable you to do and say things that will build your marriage, instead of saying things that will tear it down.
Let God’s Word dwell in your heart richly. It has the power to lead you and guide you in your daily choices in a way nothing else can. It is the best marriage manual you will ever read. Heed it’s wisdom above all other earthly wisdom.
Most of all–delight yourself in the gift of marriage. Have fun and share what you discover with others!
If you do these things, you will be greatly blessed.
Debi Gray Walter, age 54
I challenge you to consider what you would say to your newlywed self. If you choose to write such a letter, won’t you share it with us by commenting or linking your blog to this post? Let’s help newlyweds today by sharing with them what we would say to ourselves.