This past weekend our family had the honor of attending the wedding of my older cousin Fred and his beautiful bride Susan. Their love story is one of a kind, the way love stories are supposed to go in-our-stories-with-happy-endings-minds.. A few months before the wedding Susan asked if I would say something during the ceremony. Here is what I spoke from my heart:
Today we are celebrating two amazing people standing before us giving their gift of love and commitment to each other. This is probably not the first gift Fred and Susan have given each other, nor will it be the last.
Several years ago my husband gave me a one of a kind present. For years I had been gently suggesting that he groom the prominent unibrow that he sported. He, being the manly man he is, flatly refused any grooming. Then one Christmas he handed me a jewelry box. I opened it up to find a small clear baggie inside filled with his eyebrow hair. I looked at him and sure enough, his forehead was plucked clean into two distinct eyebrows. I laughed and laughed, and to this day love the fact that Jonathan gave me such a sacrificial gift out of love. By the way, he gave me permission to share this story. I’ll introduce you to him later and you can try not to stare at his forehead.
In marriage, there are other gifts we give each other. They are not the kind we wrap up nicely and hand to our spouse, but intangible representations of our love. One of these that I believe to be important to marriage is the gift of laying down our expectations of each other. Expectations are a normal part of being in a relationship with someone, but often unmet expectations become the source of discouragement in a marriage. We tend to set ourselves up to be let down when we expect our spouse to rise to an invisible bar we have set for them, we expect our spouse to be perfect, or we expect our spouse to meet all of our needs. In our subconscious agenda of expectations, we forget we both are the whole human package—flaws, greatness and all!
Here is a quote from Gary Thomas, the author of several great books on marriage:
“No spouse comes in a perfect package. No spouse can do it all. Your job as a partner in marriage is to fight to stay sensitive to your each other’s strengths.”
There is power and hope in focusing on strengths. When we realize we are two messy people who can’t do it right all of the time, we find peace within. To come alongside us in this journey we have a loving God who can bear all of our burdens, meet all of our expectations, satisfy all of our needs…our deep needs that often we expect from our spouse, like acceptance, understanding, compassion, provision, security, and unconditional love. The Bible says in James 1:17:
17 Every good gift and every perfect present comes from heaven; it comes down from God, the Creator of the heavenly lights, who does not change or cause darkness by turning.
That turning, that is a human condition. God does not turn, shift or change. He is a constant, steady loving presence who gives us the ultimate model of a healthy relationship.
So let’s give the gift of releasing our spouse of unrealistic expectations. Let’s walk in grace and celebrate the blessing of marriage. Fred and Susan, my guess is that you both are already very good at giving this gift to each other, and may the rest of us follow in your example.