15 Years of Marriage: If I Knew Then…

Time Bandits. Back to the Future. The Terminator. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The Timetraveller’s Wife. Numerous Star Trek movies. Timecop. If you’re super-intelligent, you’d have noticed a common theme of time-travel in those movies!

Hollywood seems to like using that theme, and we as consumers seem to (still) be willing to suspend our disbelief long enough to entertain the thought. I mean, really – who wouldn’twant the ability to know in advance how to avoid major disasters? What the next Lotto Jackpot winning numbers would be (and no, this isn’t a conversation about gambling)? What the next “big thing” on wall street will be, and how to “never lose on stocks”?

The mind boggles with the possibilities.

Well this September, I celebrated my 15 year anniversary of being married to my wonderful, beautiful, intelligent & fabulous wife, Renee. And, I’m not proud to say, for the first 10 or so of those years, I was not a great husband.

Compared to who?

I mean, compared to the average husband, I was probably pretty good: I didn’t get violent, I didn’t humiliate her, I didn’t have any affairs, I didn’t secretly gamble-away our money… but that’s not the issue.

The issue is this: I shouldn’t have been comparing myself to the average husband – I should’ve been comparing myself to Jesus, and how he laid down his life for his church.

That change in benchmark, changes everything.

Looking back on the last 15 years of marriage got me thinking – what would I tell a younger version of myself about marriage, if I had the chance?

Renee and I were married young. I was 21. She was 19. We were two young kids really, who loved each other, thought we were pretty mature, and were looking forward to our “happily ever after”. What I’ve learned over the last 7 years about God and his design of marriage has meant the difference between me being an “average Christian husband”, to a man who now has a strong marriage – a marriage built on friendship, trust, love and commitment.

Please don’t read more into this than intended – I’m not claiming for a second that I “have it all together”, or that I’m not still on a journey like every other bloke. And if there’s any change in me at all, it’s not about me and my abilities, but about God’s love, patience and grace. Heck, I struggle. I fail. I fall. But I pick myself up by the grace of God & have found I’m faster to forgive (Renee, my kids and myself as the case may be).

So, I’m 36 as I write this: what would I tell the 21-year-old version of Glen Parker? I’d like to think my “self talk” would go something like this:

It’s not about you – it’s about Jesus

Lay down your goals at the foot of the cross – submit them to God. If He’s behind your goals & dreams, they’ll bring you life and blessing… but be prepared to let them go if you’ve made them an idol, or they’re not inline with God’s bigger picture.

Jesus gave up (literally!) everything for us; He was tempted by Satan himself to claim that which was rightfully His… but Jesus knew his Father’s plans required him to deny His own desires.

In the same way, you’re called to lay down your life for your wife! If your own ambition, goals & dreams are acheived at her expense, you’ve lost the most precious gift God’s given you outside of salvation itself.

Listen to your wife – she knows stuff

Just because your wife says things like, “I just don’t feel right about it“, “That guy just… I don’t know.. there’s something just not right going on there“, “I have a sense that we should (not buy that TV right now / talk to [someone older & wiser] before we decide” doesn’t mean she’s being emotional, superstitious or afraid.

Not 100% of the time, but most of the time, she’s listening to her intuition or a prompt from the Holy Spirit. Don’t be pig-headed… listen to her, talk through it if you want, but don’t dismiss it. And don’t be surprised if you ignore it and the results prove her right!

Your wife is much more in touch with her emotions than you; look through the words at the heart behind those words. What’s she really trying to say? What’s her body language tell you about what she’s feeling? For goodness sake, ASK HER how she’s feeling… don’t simply try & interpret the thoughts in her head based on the words coming out of her mouth!

Shutup & listen

Women talk more than men. Even more than you. She needs to feel heard, so bite your tongue (you’ll get good at it, trust me) and let her finish before jumping in with a witty anectode, a solution to a problem she doesn’t have, or a defensive reply.

Your wife will feel valued when she believes she has been heard. If you want to drive a wedge between you and her, just stop listening to her.

Make time in your week to sit down with your wife over a cuppa, look into her eyes and ask her genuinely, “So… how are you going?” Then… shutup. Listen. Observe. Take note of areas where you may be able to help her out, pray for her or ask more questions to get to the source of her comments.

Take the lead

Yes, you think your wife is strong – but if she’s strong, it’s only because she’s trying to make up for where you’re lacking! When some women are in marriages where their husbands are not leading, they will naturally “rise up” and fulfil that role. Doesn’t mean they like to, doesn’t mean they want to – they often take on this role out of frustration, fearing that if they don’t step up, their family will be uncovered or lacking direction.

This may not come naturally to you, but practice it like you would practice changing any other habit. Be the one to come up with ideas for the next family holiday. Be the one to suggest plans for the weekend. Be the one to encourage the kids in setting goals, and set some with your wife.

Trust God, have faith- quit worrying

There are more verses in the scripture about worry, fear, anxiety etc than there are about love. This should tell you something – God knows we are fearful, pathetic little sheep! We worry about everything… and when we’ve got nothing to worry about, we worry that we’ve got nothing to worry about!!!

You are the son of the living King. You have NOTHING to fear. You lack nothing. Trust in your Heavenly Father, and do not waste your energy worrying about things you could take to Him in prayer. Hasn’t he sustained you this far.

A sample of some key verses for you to meditate on (emphasis mine):

  • Phil. 4:13“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”
  • 2 Cor. 9:8“And God is able to make all grace about toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
  • Hebr. 11:1“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
  • 2 Tim. 1:7“For God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
  • Gal. 3:29“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
  • Heb. 13:6“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'”
  • Rom. 8:37“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
  • 1 John 5:14-15“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”
  • Josh. 1:9“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • Isa. 41:10Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Stewardship, stewardship, stewardship!

It’s not “prosperity gospel”. It’s not “poverty gospel”. It’s stewardship – of your time, your money, your resources, your health… everything that God has given to you.

Recognise that everything you have, you have because of God – and if you don’t respect it, manage it or appreciate it, you’ll probably lose it.

God wants to entrust you with more, but like a loving father does, he won’t place more into your hands until he has observed you are qualified and able to handle the increase. Giving more “stuff” to a spoilt, ungrateful son is only going to increase the rate at which that son brings harm and shame upon himself. Be grateful for what you have – in all areas of your life – and demonstrate a willingness to take care of all God has blessed you with.

Get accountability… now!

You are not the final authority. You do not know everything. And if left to your own devices, you (like most other guys) are going to get a LOT of things wrong.

Find someone you know, trust and respect, who can hold you accountable in every aspect of your life. This should be someone who will speak the truth to you in love, call out “development areas” and encourage you along the way.

Never let yourself be in a situation where you are answerable to no-one but yourself.

Perhaps I’d just end up putting myself to sleep if I tried to teach myself these things. Maybe I was just too close-minded, stubborn & willful at 21 to listen… even to myself!
Only God knows how that hypothetical event would unfold. But here’s what I know – I’ll be teaching my own son (8-year-old Ethan) as much of this stuff as I can. Gently. Over time. So it sinks in as his understanding develops.
And with God’s help, by the time he’s 21, he’ll be that much wiser than his “old man”… and that much more equipped to lead his own family.
The next 15 years will, I imagine, fly by even faster than the previous 15. So, with God’s help, I hope to have a whole new list of “life lessons” at 51 that I wish I could’ve shared with the 36-year-old version of myself!


One Response to “15 Years of Marriage: If I Knew Then…”

  1. Joel Gollan says:

    Great advice Glen! God is using you mate to help me be a better husband and dad, praise God! Love the references from His Word aswell, they certainly add big weight to your words and life experiences. Thanks!

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