No, this isn’t going to be a sappy post. But since I took my first church in 2002, Kim and I have had a whole lot(!) of people tell us that they can see how much we love each other.

How does that happen? How can a marriage that begins just like most other marriages end up being one where two people are madly in love with each other over 21 years after they said their “I do’s?”

I don’t know what other husbands would say but I sure have my own answers. Here are a few of the things we’ve learned in our marriage.

1. Make sure that Jesus is at the center of your marriage.

Friend, I’m not just saying this because I’m a pastor. I would say this if I had never been called into the ministry. I’m saying this because I know it has been such a source of blessing in our marriage.

Honestly, if Jesus were not at the center of our marriage, I don’t know how we would have handled much of the tragedy and difficulties that has come our way.

While Kim and I would be the first to say that we have far to go on our road to Christlikeness, we both agree that we need Jesus each and every day. We strive to yield first place to him every day.

So, what does it look like for Jesus to be at the center of your marriage? Let me share what it looks from Kim and my experiences.

  • You aren’t perfect but you are trusting in the One who is.
  • Your relationship with the Lord doesn’t just happen on Sunday mornings. You bring Jesus home with you, and to work with you, and to the restaurant with you, and to every place you go.
  • You spend time in your Bible and in prayer everyday. And these activities aren’t simply to be done so you can check them off your list. You do them because you need to listen to and speak to Jesus each and every day.
  • Your relationship with the Lord becomes who you are, not simply what you do.
  • Things like walks in the park or around the block often turn into times of prayer where you pour out your heart to the Lord, you praise Him, you gain perspective – you simply enjoy inviting Jesus into even what seems like the most mundane of activities.
  • You talk to your spouse regularly about what you see God doing, where it seems that His activity doesn’t currently make sense, when He has graciously intervened on your behalf and you have got to praise Him, and so much more.

2. Go through the tough times together.

Tough times will either rip your marriage apart or forge a deeper, lasting relationship.

So, when tough times happen, give each other space to grieve but then grieve together, encourage each other, and look for God’s fingerprints together.

Let those tough times drive you to your knees. Hold hands with your spouse while going to the Lord in prayer together. You may even want to lift your hands in praise together or cry together as you pray.

All I know is that Kim and I have been through a boatload of hard times – but God has used those times to bring us closer together.

3. Celebrate each other’s victories.

The goal of marriage is oneness. Two are supposed to become one. That doesn’t mean that the husband and wife lose their individual identities. It means that the two identities coexist and create a team identity.

So, when your spouse wins, you win. So celebrate it!

In a world where sin abounds and self-centeredness causes many people to enviously resist applauding other people’s achievements, your spouse should always be able to count on your applause and heartfelt pride in their successes.

This affirmation only increases the marital bond.

4. Let your spouse define beauty for you.

Culture will try to define beauty for you. If you buy into its seduction, you may then look at your spouse and feel that they don’t measure up.

But if you insist that your spouse defines beauty for you, then each added pound or wrinkle will not be a problem.

Further, you will come to realize that the beauty the culture presents is superficial – it’s a mile wide and inch deep.

5. Be quick to forgive.

Your spouse is a sinner just like you. They will mess up just like you. So, apply the Golden Rule. Since you desire for them to forgive you, then you need to forgive them.

Further, as you grow in your Christian faith and realize just how quickly and completely Jesus forgives you, you can’t help but extend that forgives to your spouse.

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Friend, there are so many lessons that Kim and I have learned in our marriage. So many things have brought us so much closer together.

If fact, I was telling one of my sons recently that I felt so much love for Kim when I said “I do,” almost 22 years ago. But when compared to the love I have for her now, I wonder if I even loved her on our wedding day. That love two decades ago is so inferior to what we now enjoy.

So, yes, I dearly love my wife. We’ve been through a lot together and have grown together. But if our love keeps growing, and I have every reason to believe that it will, I can’t wait to celebrate future anniversaries!