I’m pleased today to welcome author and reality star Brandon Hatmaker to the blog. I first learned about Brandon when my daughter and I got hooked on his reality show My Big Family Renovation, which chronicled the lives of Brandon and his wife, Jen, and their five kids as they tackled a major home renovation. Take it away, Brandon.
“Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam. And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah…” – The Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride.
That said, I should’ve got married in Las Vegas.
Don’t get me wrong. Our wedding was amazing. Wichita, Kansas is just beautiful in December, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the graffiti on the canal route partially glazed with icy runoff. And I’m sure Christy Nockels enjoyed her $50 honorarium to do the music (I don’t recall covering her travel expenses. Sorry, Christy. We didn’t know any better). And I know my groomsmen appreciated those $19 commemorative gold(ish) watches I picked up at Montgomery Wards, an heirloom gift for sure.
And who can forget the after party in the church family life center? No dancing or music is a small sacrifice when you can get a prime location like that for free. Who dances at weddings anyways? And the ladies from the senior Sunday-School class did an amazing job on the potluck finger-foods complete with an open bar (all you can drink iced tea).
Besides the fact that Jen was absolutely stunning, what I remember most about my wedding is that everyone was stressed out. The money. The planning. The time. The travel. Exhausting. And when it was over, it was over. Just like that.
All of a sudden the $5K my dad offered me to elope was a little less offensive.
We often spend more time getting ready for the wedding than we do getting ready for the marriage. And as difficult as the planning period might have seemed, it’s nothing compared to living with the same person for a lifetime. I guess what I’m saying is, marriage is hard.
I’ll never forget the time Jen was laughing with her mom about the difficulties of the first year of marriage.
This was a complete shock to me. As you could imagine, Jen was a huge improvement over my roommate in college. So I loved everything about living with Jen.
But, I was not a roommate upgrade. And I had no clue to the physical, emotional, and spiritual stress this new commitment was to Jen. I was oblivious.
I think most men are. Some never change. Especially when it comes to our careers, our dreams, our desires, and our plans for our families. We remain completely oblivious.
As a young minister at the time, I couldn’t help but notice this among other church leaders. I saw so many unhappy wives in ministry. Their husbands came first. Their jobs came first. Their dreams came first. Their way came first.
To be honest, in most of those marriages, the women were noticeably sharper, more capable, showed more wisdom, patience, and discernment than their husbands. Yet they often seemed reduced.
I remember making a commitment to stay more in tune with what Jen was feeling and thinking, not just what she was saying. And it started with a bold prayer that I think God has honored to this day:
“God, I want to be more in tune with Jen. More than anything, I want to be on the same page with her. If you want us to do something major that impacts both of us, will you tell her first? That way I can confirm your movement in our family with Jen instead of trying to guess as we go? In fact, if I perceive to hear or feel something from you that Jen’s not hearing or feeling, I’m just gonna assume I’m not hearing you right. You made us one flesh. So we’re gonna operate that way. Amen.”
And I meant it.
In 23 years of marriage, I can’t recall making one major decision without solidarity. Most of the time, it was obvious we heard God right. But here’s the truth… sometimes, it felt like we were wrong and we were left scratching our heads. Somehow it unified us when we were wrong together. No one was pointing fingers. No one was secretly bitter or struggling with anger towards the other. We just moved forward, together.
Jen and I have a great marriage. But it’s not perfect. You don’t get to see the “other stuff” because it’s private and it’s not good Facebook fodder, but I assure you not every day is lovely. Someone asked me not long ago how we hold on to our faith during the dark times of life. The truth is that we’re always in it together in both high times and tough times. Trouble divides. We are committed to unity.
One flesh. That’s what the Bible calls it.
One flesh represents God’s dream for marriage, one that is used to best to describe Jesus’ relationship with his bride, the church. One that is marked by a commitment to completely and continuously learn how to wholly give oneself to another. So much so that the idea of “two” no longer exists.
Honestly, I think my prayer worked because Jen was already committed to the idea. It took an epiphany and life-defining prayer for me to get there. But the point is that it was the beginning of me taking serious a call to one flesh.
I can’t help but wonder if all our issues are related to ways in which we act like two again, and choose self, over us.
Some of you are in the weeds in your marriage, some on the brink of divorce. I’m not saying this is an easy button for recovery. There are places in which we find ourselves that just require some heavy intervention, prayer, counsel, sacrifice, and super hard work.
But for those of you just trying to do better, wherever you are in your marriage, think about this idea of wholly and completely giving yourself to one another as a part of your discipleship in Christ.
Are you increasingly giving yourself emotionally to your spouse? Or is there someone or something else you are giving yourself more to emotionally?
Are you increasingly giving yourself spiritually to your spouse? Or is there someone or something else you are giving yourself more to spiritually?
Are you increasingly giving yourself physically to your spouse? Or is there someone or something else you are giving yourself more to physically?
While some of these areas are more important to us as individuals, not one of these areas is any less important in our marriage. We can be committed physically yet withhold our spiritual affection and we’re not experiencing God’s best. We can give ourselves spiritually but reserve our emotional best for someone other than our spouse (even a friend) and we’re not experiencing God’s best for our marriage.
It’s a different commitment physically, emotionally, and spiritually because in each area there is a different thing contending for our loyalty, affection, and attention.
The good news is that God is for you and your marriage. It was His idea from the beginning. So it only makes sense to go back to what He said about it in the first place and to what Jesus continues to say:
“In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” —Jesus