Another of my sons is headed to the marriage altar to lay down his life for his best friend. Perhaps this is an unusual way to phrase it, but in my experience it’s exactly what should happen to have an enduring marriage. My wife and I may be something of an anomaly for modern marriages, having been so for more than 30 years. So it seems as our young men leave and cleave I’ve considered what advice I could pass along to them.
As I was considering some marriage essentials the acronym TULIP came to mind (No, I really wasn’t drinking some Calvinist Kool-Aid at the time). These ideas are my own and it seems some like my marriage TULIP concept, and so I pass it on as it was given to me in the wish that it may help both those already married to consider a fresh perspective and those who are considering entering into marriage as points to deepen its meaning.
T = Trust – Is a rare and fragile commodity, more rare and fragile than I believe people understand. My own experience has shown that my feelings of betrayal, anger and disappointment on many occasions could have been averted had my trust been extended with greater care or more well placed. Trust should always be earned, and is devalued when it’s given away. One spouse should have the deep, abiding trust of the other; in a measure unmatched to other family members. Love grows on a foundation of trust and with that, loyalty.
U = Unity – This doesn’t mean uniformity. It doesn’t mean that marriage partners agree on everything. It doesn’t mean that one spouse does everything as the other spouse wants. It means that the bedrock principles of the marriage are inviolable. Remember that principles are foundational, preferences are subject to change. Unity comes when couples decide together which is which. It means that whenever there are arguments, that marriage partners agree, for example, never to let the sun go down on their wrath. Never go to bed angry with each other. In my opinion, the only miracle more profound than the miracle of “two becoming one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) in marriage is a life born again by the Spirit of God.
L = Love – This letter being at the middle of the word exemplifies love being at the center of every motive, every impulse in a marriage. Love is the power fueling the other qualities. Love trusts. Love unifies. Love expresses itself in creativity and imagination. Love is patient. Love is forgiveness and reconciliation.
I = Imagination – There comes a time in marriage, long after the newness and novelty of the ceremony and honeymoon have faded away, when the marriage partners have settled into a routine and married life becomes a drudgery, drab or boring. Never lose the dream and creativity in marriage. Give spontaneity its place. Never settle, but be engaged to win all over again the one you’ve married. Recall the wedding day and imagine.
P = Patience – The sprint to a wedding is brief. Marriages are marathons. The treasure of a marriage isn’t found in a day, but in the length of days. Marriage will teach an attentive student patience through delayed gratification and self-denial. Those who don’t understand this will learn frustration. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”, says Jesus (John 12:24, NASB) To have patience in marriage to bring about unity is to singularly fall and die to one’s own ego and independence.