This post is dedicated especially to my readers who are pre-marriage (but don’t go anywhere, married folks…I think you’ll be challenged and encouraged by it, too).
This post started with a conversation I had with my mom during a hike a few months back. She and my dad have this beautiful, soul-mate, meant for each other sort of marriage. They are wonderfully messy and hopelessly in love and forever loyal to each other. Like, fairy tale romance sort of stuff.
And in the midst of the naked Colorado sun and the soft breeze and homecoming-smell of pine needles, she told me that this new generation of students – they didn’t want what she and my dad have anymore. They were happy chasing a thousand different loves and a thousand different headaches.
Because, after all, love these days…it’s not a lifetime sort of thing. Marriage these days means bitterness and secret affairs and screaming fights and polite coldness. Married means a few miserable years of entrapment followed by broken homes and broken hearts and broken kids.
At best, it’s boring – a numbing slide into twenty-something pounds of weight gain and Friday nights doing dishes and rubbing someone else’s smelly feet.
And who wants that, anyway?
Then, a conversation with a friend. Thom and I trying to convince him that marriage was more than ticking clocks and social pressure and dead dreams. That this age-old institution might be worth the reputation of its hard work.
In contrast? Dating.
The excitement, the sex drive, the butterflies. It feels so. freaking. good to be dating. Life becomes a golden sweep of falling in love and twitterpated and constant highs.
Plus. You want a little secret? You don’t ever have to touch the smelly feet. Or see the broken temper. Or sleep on the couch. Or have the door slammed.
You don’t ever have to brave the loneliness of dealing with someone else’s brokenness or mess or insecurities.
And if you do? Too much like marriage. Drop that one, run away, and find bliss with someone else.
No wonder you kids don’t want to get married. What’s marriage worth holding out for anyway?
[Now, pardon me, because I’m going to have a small turning-over-the-tables-in-the-temple moment.]
Listen up, kid. You weren’t made for dating. Your heart? Was designed for marriage.
In fact, the best way to tell the story of your life in Eternity?
Your heart is not made for dating. Why do you think it shatters when someone walks away? When that door is slammed? Why do you think it whispers “forever” the minute you start falling in love?
You were made for marriage.
Believe me, I’ve been there. My husband and I dated for five and a half years. We are the dating pros. We fell in love over the course of a spectacular autumn and unbelievably more glorious spring. We had it all – letters dropped in mailboxes sealed with wax, butterflies in stomachs, tea parties under the stars in Hauser woods. The kind of romance you write stories about. The kind of romance you make into a montage in a movie.
We were blissfully happy.
But you want to know something?
I would never. ever. ever. go back.
Our hearts are not designed for dating.
Because beneath the butterflies and the sighs and the poetry was this one. nagging. question.
Will this be as good tomorrow?
A panic, a horrible panic – just below the surface. Because God forbid he doesn’t compliment me as poetically as he did yesterday. Or that he finds someone a little more sparkly and a little less messy. Or I share too much and she loses respect for me. Or I can’t find the words or time or romantic gestures to make her happy.
The house of cards will crumble.
Dating is a constant fear that tomorrow will never be as good as today. That the dream will end. That twitterpated will fade.
Darling, your heart isn’t designed for dating. We are afraid because we know the truth: a dating relationship can’t be sustained.
So, you want to know what marriage is?
Psst…I’ll pull back the veil here for you a little.
Marriage is a constant reassurance that the best is yet to come. Always.
Because unlike twitterpated, marriage vows never fade. They build and swell and turn into floods that change the course of lifetimes.
And it is so. much. better. than dating.
Who cares about tea parties in the woods when there’s someone who will make you peppermint tea when your stomach hurts and sit while you sip? Who cares about poetic compliments when there’s the long love of a hundred, hundreds more, days in his eyes? When he somehow finds you more beautiful with each blotched face, multiplying fine lines, runny nose, and hopeless sigh? When you know that he will stand by you, support you, and live with your smelly feet?
Who wants butterflies when you know commitment, and sex with the same person for the nth time (always better) and the solid current of steady, quiet man that will sweep you off your feet more subtly and powerfully than you thought possible?
Who wants twitterpated when you can be completely yourself – black-stained, messier every day, always breaking and growing and breaking again – and the love just. continues. to. grow?
Who wants a thousand loves and a thousand heartbreaks when you can spend the thousand various moments of your life and the thousand sadnesses multiplying the trust with one spouse that makes thousands upon thousands of moments of joy?
When you can have a whole life, a brave life, a strong life, a compassionate life, and a real, agape love?
You think dating’s better, kid?
Well, listen up. You are selling short. Your heart? It’s made for marriage. It’s made for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death. It’s made for the conflicts and the polite coldness and the slammed doors that with grace and love and an undying vow only build into the depths of a calm, quiet, unfailing love. It’s made for the faithful and the steady and the true.
And anyone who tells you that that’s not worth the risk, or too boring, or destined to fail – hasn’t got a clue.
So, if you’re dating just to date? Or your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t have married on the mind?
Get. The. Hell. OUT.
You were made for marriage, darling. You are being formed into the Bride of Christ. Marriage is your eternal story.
Dating? Use it as a transition, a pit stop between just friends and spouses. But don’t date just to date. Don’t pursue it as the end, or the beginning of happiness. It’s a tool, not the goal. You weren’t designed for dating.
Take it from someone who’s been there, done that. Who knows the pain of the waiting years, the wondering years, the wishful years. Take it from someone who knows and sees, and hurts with your lonely heart. Let me whisper this to you: Marriage? It’s so worth sacrificing everything for. It’s so worth putting your heart on hold for. It’s so worth hurting for. It’s so worth protecting and guarding every piece of yourself. Because when you get to marriage? It’s going to be so wonderful, you are going to want to have all of yourself to give.
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For [married] love is a strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave.
[Married] Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench it, nor can rivers drown it. Song of Songs 8:6-7
And if for some reason my small, short, still-in-the-works marriage isn’t enough to convince you, check out “the daily faithfulness of making whole decades of minutes tell the truth about the glorious gospel.” Or, the “so many ordinary moments stitched together into the testimony of a good man who comes home to his family.” Or “the vast middle part of love, too, this part right now, the part that doesn’t show up in movies and love songs.” Or the “laugh at the girl who thought new love was the best love.” Sit here and revel in the beauty of a long, faithful love.
And then. Grab your tissues for this one. Because this? This is worth the wait, the pain, the sacrifice, to be William and his princess:
Why live in the fear of a dying twitterpated when you can live with the best yet to come?
(P.S. When compliments and tea parties and letters happen within marriage, when he builds a special bike just for you, princess – these things do happen – they will be so. much. better. Because you won’t have to horde them as reassurances of a dying flame. Rather, they will become the streams building into the rivers building into the oceans building into the tide of love that keeps on building, not dying, till the end).
The best is yet to come.