INTRO FROM BARB: Let me begin by saying that our daughter, Sharnessa (age 22 at the time this was written in April of 2000), has a heart to learn, whether it's from books, life's situations, or people she respects. Seeing much "good fruit" in the marriage and lives of her dear friends, Sarah and Colby Phillipps, Sharnessa (living in England at the time) wrote to Sarah (living in Washington state) asking for her advice for a happy marriage several months before her own wedding. (Sarah has been a close friend of Sharn's throughout their teen years, with Sharnessa being a bridesmaid in their wedding a year ago, and Sarah to be one in Sharnessa's upcoming wedding.) When I read Sarah's response, I was SO impressed and blessed by the wisdom in this precious gal, far beyond her 22 years! Sarah, who exudes the love and grace of Jesus, has found the secret of marital bliss that many never find; and in the only place it can be found: at the foot of the cross.
(By the way, I'm the one who entitled it "Keys to a Marriage
Made ~ and Kept ~ in Heaven"; this is actually "just" Sarah's sweet letter to
her friend, but I felt it should have a fitting title.)
Keys to a Marriage
Made ~ and Kept ~ in Heaven
by Sarah Phillipps
I have been thinking a lot about marriage advice that you asked for. We have read several books, but we haven't read really anything that the Bible hasn't already told us. I think that because you were brought up in God's ways, the change from single to married will be seamless.
I have learned to control my emotions better than before. Before I was married I didn't have someone in my face every time I turned around; now I do, and I can't afford to have a bad attitude. I used to get mad and slam cupboard doors :-) and get all grouchy, but I quickly learned that I affect him, too. I can ruin his day if I can't get it together.
Marriage is a built-in 24/7 accountability partner. It prunes and polishes you. You can't miss time with God, or be a slob, or spend too much money, or not do what you said you were going to do because, if you do, you hurt the one you love. The consequences are greater when you are married. It is good, but some people don't know that it does that, and they resist it.
Colby and I were talking yesterday about how serious marriage is and how basically you are saying "I will give all that I am to this marriage or die." The only way to break the marriage vows is to die, if you know what I mean. It is a mighty risk to think like this, but it is also the most satisfying way to live, to know that your favorite person is as dedicated to you as you are to him.
When you come up against BIG decisions, ones that change the course of history and go to the heart of who you are and you cannot agree on what to do, choose what is best for you as a family; not your personal development or his dream, but what is best for "us." You cannot lose; God will always bless it when you choose your family. Sometimes you each think you hear God, too! But, one choice is better for the family. This has saved us years of resentment in several areas. I can't blame him and he can't blame me; it was the love of our family and our future that made us do it. :-)
Let each other know that your marriage is number one. Of course God is first, that is the most important thing for a healthy marriage. We have made it through some hard and challenging times because we would tell each other that our marriage was number one. In one of Colby's past occupations they were advised to tell their spouses that their "job is number one and spouse is number two." That would explain all the broken marriages in that field! Colby was much wiser; knowing that his heart was with me, I did not feel that I had to compete with his job for his devotion.
The final thing that I would say is to guard your marriage with all your heart. Every day ~ sometimes every hour ~ we check ourselves to see if our marriage is all that God would have it be. Sometimes life gets crazy and we end up really stressing out at each other. At these times we call a time-out on the world and cancel the rest of the day's plans. Then we do whatever it takes to get our marriage back in line with God. It is different every time. I know that you believe these things and your marriage will be happy and healthy! It is really simple; actually, you just treat each other with the love that Jesus talked about. Often, it takes more love than you have in you, and at those times you ask God for a "refill." :-) There is no excuse for not having enough love for your husband. God's supply is limitless!
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