The Magic of Marriage by Nena Ndioma

The Sunday School topic at church yesterday centered on marriage. As the lesson progressed in the young adults class, I could see the longing in the young people’s eyes for an uncomplicated answer, an easy way toward ensuring they ended up with the right life partner – one who would ensure they maintained a joyful married life; one who would be there for the long-haul.

I explained that the solution lies in a combination of prayer and practicality. Prayer for God’s guidance and wisdom is essential, but after praying, you have to do your due diligence, using the wisdom He has given. You have to accept the guidance that He makes available (by not ignoring the red flags He shows you because you’re too much ‘in love’; by being open to listen to the impressions of others that have loved you and known you much longer than your suitor has, etc.).

Ultimately, you have to know how God speaks to you way before marriage – and you have to listen to what He impresses upon you when marriage time comes around – rather than ignore His voice and assume everything will turn out okay just because you ‘prayed’ and just because you’re a Christian.

Not completely satisfied – still hoping to find the ‘magic bullet’ – a young lady in the class turned to an older woman with at least thirty years of marriage under her belt, who happened to be in the class, too.

‘Can you give us some advice on what exactly we should pray about? What should our prayer points be, exactly, as we prepare to meet our life partners?’ she asked eagerly.

The older woman being addressed thought about it for a second, and then wearily gave an answer, pointing out that every Christian woman wants a partner that knows who God is, can go to God in prayer, etc. These were, thus, examples of things to pray about.

The young ladies took down notes furiously as she spoke. They took copious notes during the entire class, come to think of it.

As I sat back and watched this scene, I silently blessed the young ladies and wished them well. My sister’s long-standing argument also rang in my ears: ‘There’s an element of luck in this thing,’ she has always maintained. Although I disputed this when I was younger, the older I get, the more I’m tempted to agree with this assertion.

I think there are two things involved: you can either do your due diligence and respond to red flags as actual danger signs – or you can hope that ‘luck’ will shine on you. When I search through my inventory of friends and acquaintances with happy marriages, I find that each person falls in either of these two categories - luck or due diligence.

I have friends and acquaintances that got married way too young – before they even knew what life was about. I know of some who got married to their own converts not long after the conversion – something we were always warned against when I was a younger, unmarried lady. Some got married to obviously weak, not-too-committed Christians who suddenly ‘sat up’ where the things of God are concerned right after the wedding. Others ended up married to people they barely knew, with no real courtship to speak of. Although I’m certain some marriages borne this way end up back-firing, each of the people that I have in mind have been happily married for years.

So, although my Christian world-view clashes with the notion of ‘luck’, I’m beginning to think there’s got to be some element of luck involved, at least some of the time. However, depending on ‘luck’ in finding ‘The One’ is a precarious way to go, as luck is, by its very nature, unpredictable and unpromised.

If I had to do it all over again, I would go for doing my due diligence. I would be much more business-like about it (which I find that men tend to do really well), doing my research to find out if partnering with this person would be a good ‘business deal’ or not – and if not, telling myself the truth about this – and honoring myself enough to listen to me (i.e., God within me).

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t stifle myself to keep the peace, or to squeeze myself into the portrait of the perfect potential wife. I would just be me, knowing that this would be more than enough for whoever is really supposed to be in my life for the long-haul.

In not insisting on ‘being me,’ I was complicit in the demise of my marriage. I thought that not asking too much of life, of my marriage, was smart. Safe. Brilliant. I thought not asking too much would ensure that I got everything. I thought it was my magic bullet.

I was wrong.

In my bid not to ask for much, not to be demanding, not to expect much, I gradually began taking on more and more responsibility in the relationship. I honestly thought that this sacrifice would solidify my place in my spouse’s heart. That I would be paid back with gratitude and everything else that comes with it. I thought my husband would, as a result, ‘arise and call me blessed.’

I see now that it seemed easier to me, at the time, to take on more and more responsibility, to do with less and less of him, than to confront the issues in the marriage that were eating me alive. It was easier to try and be Superwoman, managing on my own, than to talk everyone’s ears off about our actual issues, until I found a real remedy.  I see now that it was easier to be Superwoman on the outside, than to precipitate a process that would lead to a never-ending cold war between us. I would rather be Superwoman back then than contend with a cold war.

And so, behind the demeanor of the perfect Christian wife, standing by and submitting to her husband, hoping against hope that God would see me and rescue me like He did Sarah … was a palpable fear. I was scared to death about the direction in which my life was headed. I felt like I was in a fast race car, spinning out of control – and I was not the driver. All I could do was sit in my seat, holding on for dear life, and pray like crazy for God to keep me safe.

I essentially became lazy about my own life, without really realizing it. It was easier to try and juggle multiple balls in the air than to take the time to decide what I really wanted out of life and what I needed to do to get there. At least, with all my responsibilities, I had the excuse that I was too busy doing ‘noble’ things to think about myself. It was easier to believe that God would take care of it all, and that my only job was to be faithful to Him. As long as I took care of His business, He would take care of mine. Taking responsibility for myself was not in my job description.

Well … you know what they say about faith without works.

These are some of the things I wished I could have said to the young ladies in the youth Sunday School class.

I didn’t, though.

They were hoping for a magic bullet, and who can blame them? We could all do with a little magic in our lives.