Before I started the World Race, I fancied myself a woman who could be ready for marriage. Seemingly familiar with its joy and challenge, I’d think, “sure, if the right man comes along, I’d be ready to head down the isle.” But man, was I far off. Throughout my life, I’ve witnessed some beautiful marriages that have taught me the foundations but never have I ever had my very own “trial run” at the day-in, day-out grind. I am an experiential learner and the last seven months have prepared me for that lifelong commitment more than my first 25 years of life combined. No, it’s not because I’m dating someone. It’s not because I’m actively looking to be with someone. It’s not that I’ve even been around a bunch of men I could picture myself marrying…in fact, it’s the exact opposite. Her name is Carly Miers and it’s though our sisterhood I’ve got to practice marriage. Now, stay with me.
I’ve lived with this fantastic woman of God for the last seven months. Let that sink in. I’ve woken up to her bright, shinning face for the last 28 weeks. Who is the last person you’ve lived life with for that many consecutive days in a row if you’re not married? Sure, many of you can say roommates but let’s be real, you can avoid roommates like the plague if you want without any drastic repercussions. But avoidance in ministry leads to division and ultimately a weak representation of the gospel. And avoidance in marriage leads to divorce. That’s crazy to think about, am I right? No wonder marriage comes as a shock to most new couples. It’s no wonder the first year is the toughest. You wake up on day 41 and think, “Huh, you’re still here?” Then again on day 97, “Wow, you’re still around.” Then day 139 comes and it dawns on you, “You’re not leaving, are you?” And in a lot of ways, that’s what I’ve experienced over the last 196 days. I’ve come to understand what it means to be known — in all my challenges, joy, sorrow, sin, holiness and mundaneness — and loved. She's shown me how to choose those you've said 'yes' to even when everything in you says no. She's sought me out even in my best hiding places. I’ve soared next to Carly in our highest of highs and I’ve fought like hell with her in our lowest of lows and in return, our friendship has taught me about marriage.
1. IT TAKES MORE THAN TWO TO TANGO
I used to glorify the idea, “Just me and my person. Two people, bound tightly in love and ‘togetherness’, what could go wrong?” But friends, that’s not health, that’s co-dependancy. Carly has been one of my best friends since the beginning and with every month spent together, our friendship continues to grow. We’ve been on three different teams together and it’s through welcoming others into our friendship that I’ve discovered the beauty of community. Living life in a group of people — not an “I’ll invite you in when everything is cleaned up, be it my living room or my heart” — but TRULY doing life side-by-side in all its joy, heartache and challenge has shown me what we’re made for. Marriage, just like friendship, is not an isolated affair. A couple is not designed to enter into the most intricate, complicated, multifaceted, delicate and edifying relationship and expected to thrive alone. Even on a deserted island, there is always five attendees at the party: You, your spouse, God our Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit. And since God Himself exists in more than two, I’m compelled to believe we ought to as well. We need people to see into our relationships and shed light. It’s not a ‘nice to have’ but rather a necessity that if passed up will lead to detrimental holes in the fabric of relationship. We need other’s wisdom, prayers, helping hands and love to make it though and guess what, they need you too. Yes, it takes time, heart investment and counting others more significant than yourself AND it’s worth it. Community is worth it. Because we all see God in part, we need each other — rather we need the Jesus that lives inside each other — to discover more about and experience the fullness of God. Community is the Church and the Church will inherent His Kingdom which is community at its perfection.
2. PRAY BEFORE YOU SPRAY
Ya’ll, I am quick to feel and quick to reveal - you know exactly how I’m doing 99% of the time. I also happen to be a huge external processor. Add these two things together and it has potential to create confusion, conflict or unnecessary speed bumps in relationship. Carly knows this about me and in every conversation we have, her first question is almost always, “Have you prayed about this yet?” It’s wise to refrain from saying anything to or about people Jesus hasn’t heard first. In any trial, feedback or conflict involving you and your spouse OR anyone else, ALWAYS bring it to Jesus PRIOR to discussing it. The Bible commands us to be slow to anger…the best way to slow a racing mind: prayer. Why do you think Jesus still responded with loving patience to His (sometimes frustrating, dense) disciples? He woke up early every morning and prayed to the Father! And praise the Lamb, we have an engaged Father who listens and responds! He is not far off and complacent. He cares so deeply about us, His children AND unlike us, He knows everything about all hearts involved. Why wouldn’t He have brilliant perspective to give? He is the wisest Counselor and He wants nothing more than for our marriages and relationships to reflect His love and for our fellowship to display His Kingdom.
3. USE YOUR WORDS
My friendship with Carly has reinforced one of my deepest values for all relationships, marital or not: communication. Once you’ve received God’s perspective, talk about it! Words sifted through prayer and delivered to your counterpart have a beautiful way of dissolving walls, whether perceived or actualized. They dissemble lies, give perspective, soften hearts, clear the air, shed light and foster life. Relationships are solidified when we discuss anything and everything with honesty and vulnerability. Once worked through with Jesus, nothing is “too much”, “undesirable,” “better left unsaid,” or “off limits.” Because Carly and I choose to enter into conversation — to wade in the waters of words — happenings that could result in strife are quickly dissolved and we both are closer to Jesus in the end. Hallelujah.
5. LAUGHTER AND PRAYER ARE THE ONLY THINGS THAT WILL KEEP YOU SANE
Some things will be hard. It’s unavoidable. Some things will be seemingly bad, undesirable, infuriating, unenjoyable, scary, provoking, irritating, boring, maddening or saddening but there is always, always, ALWAYS time for prayer. There is always room for laughter. And the fact is, relationships need both to thrive. We are people of God with sound minds…pray often, laugh more and stay sane.
Thanks for being here. For laughing and crying with me. For teaching me about community in all its messy joy. For allowing God to use you to help mold me into the woman He created me to be for my community and future husband. Thanks for dragging me back to the cross each time I wander off. And thanks for allowing me the honor in doing the same for you. I love you, friend.
***PLEASE NOTE: EVERYONE I'VE COME INTO CONTACT WITH, BEEN ON A TEAM WITH OR DONE MINISTRY WITH/FOR HAS TAUGHT ME SO SO SO MUCH. I just haven't woken up to all of them for 196 nights. It's pretty unique for the Race to keep two people on a team for so long and God's given me a crazy cool opportunity to learn through it and share it with you all.