Twenty years after eyeing the cute girl with the big glasses on the playground, I had the opportunity to officially commit the rest of my life to Stephanie last month in front of our friends and family.
Watching my bride walk down the aisle toward me was the most surreal experience of my life. My heart pounded, my eyes glistened, and it was almost as if time stood still as I eagerly awaited her accompanying me at the front of the church.
We exchanged our written vows, added some extra bling to our fingers, and were officially introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Ryan Atkins for the first time.
The day itself was a lot of fun, but aside from enjoying an awesome party, what’s the point of getting married in the first place?
People change, trials inevitably arise, and that “in love” feeling has no guarantee of sticking around. So why bother committing for life?
Upon getting engaged last year we began reading the book You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan. The book focuses on the fact that marriage is indeed a temporary institution (“until death do us part”) and therefore leveraging it as a tool for God’s mission rather than for our own happiness.
This resonated with Stephanie and I, and we immediately began game-planning what marriage would look like for us. Where was God calling us? How would he choose to use us? We wanted to align ourselves as a team, ready to take on whatever may lie ahead.
In the 1930s, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a staunch opponent of the Nazi takeover of the German church and insisted upon protection of the Jews. He was ultimately hanged in a concentration camp for his involvement in the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler.
Bonhoeffer is a prime example of a man who knew his life on this earth was meant to serve a greater purpose, and we get a glimpse into how this played out in what he believed marriage should look like. In a letter he wrote to his fiancée from prison, he stated:
“Our marriage must be a ‘yes’ to God’s earth. It must strengthen our resolve to do and accomplish something on earth. I fear that Christians who venture to stand on earth on only one leg will stand in heaven on only one leg too.”
As Stephanie and I embark on marriage together, we want to remember that our time on this earth is limited, and we want our marriage to reflect that by making the most of each day as a team, rather than getting so inwardly focused on our own comfort and pleasure.
That being said, marriage is amazing and we are already beginning to get deep glimpses into other aspects of the beauty of God’s creation of such a union:
Looking Stephanie in the eye, committing my life to her, and enjoying the ensuing celebration was the perfect kick start to spending the rest of our lives together. However, after the excitement of the day itself is over, the challenges of life inevitably remain. While each “high” is even more enjoyable with my wife by my side, each “low” is made more bearable by having each other and by allowing for a deepened dependence on one another and on God.
Growing together as we acknowledge that our ideal scenarios may not always be in store
Sure, it’d be nice to have just returned from a carefree honeymoon to the beach and to not be reliant on a team of others to help us manage my physical body and the logistics of each day. Sleeping a full night without being awakened by muscle spasms and being pain-free would in fact be my choice if given.
However, while we live on this side of heaven we are not always going to understand what God is up to, but can continue to grow in perseverance and trust. We also continue to believe that better days are ahead, while intentionally seeking out what God may be trying to teach us in the meantime.
Getting a glimpse of God’s unconditional love
Our marriage is not only a contract, but a covenant before God that we will stick together no matter what life throws at us. I can be 100% vulnerable with Stephanie, knowing that even in all my insecurities, shortcomings, and flaws, she will choose to love me regardless and isn’t going anywhere. We believe that God has created this aspect of marriage to reflect his unfailing love for us.
Stephanie and I are learning that the less we focus on ourselves and our circumstances and the more we focus on the greater picture of what God has called us to as a team, the more we experience the benefits and beauty of marriage.
I want us to live out the last line of the vows that I spoke to Stephanie on our wedding day: “Let’s make the rest of our days count.”
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