Some time back, my wife and I attended a beautiful wedding between two young people who faithfully promised, before God, to cleave to each other as one family for the rest of their natural lives. There is no more joyous ceremony than that, particularly if you understand that marriage and family are actually God-plane relationships. God ordained these institutions to help prepare us for eternal life in His divine Family.
That’s what makes a God-centered wedding so momentous. If the two remain faithful—to God first, then to each other—it marks the beginning of an exciting journey that leads right into the Kingdom of God.
As we observed that young couple, my wife and I couldn’t help but reminisce about the days that led up to our own marriage vows—and the wonderful years of marriage we have enjoyed since that time.
Like those two young people we congratulated, my wife and I were brought up in wonderful, God-fearing families. Marriage, we had been taught, was a career that one must prepare for. That meant using textbooks like The Missing Dimension in Sex to understand God’s perspective on dating, love, marriage and sex.
A good marriage, we were also taught, doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a submissive attitude toward God and hard work to make it happy and fulfilling.
Early on, when the romance is brand new, the work it takes to build the relationship can seem so effortless and smooth-going. For me, it hardly seemed like work at all!
When the soon-to-be wife of my youth lived far away from me, our eagerly anticipated weekly, three-hour phone conversations seemed as if they were short, five-minute chats. The handwritten letters and notes we exchanged would go on and on—page after page. And when I received them, I read them again and again.
When she moved to Oklahoma, those phone calls and letters turned into long walks together, stimulating conversations, family socials, game nights, church activities and dancing. The more we dated, the more we talked, the more time we spent together, the more we knew how much we loved each other.
We went through marriage counseling together—studied The Missing Dimension in Sex together. During the engagement, we worked together to plan the wedding—create a budget, look for the venue, order the buffet, write the guest list, mail invitations, choose music and arrange the honeymoon.
All that planning—the many years of preparing for our marriage career—culminated in the most joyous ceremony there is: our glorious wedding day! The elegant ceremony only lasted about 15 minutes—but what an exhilarating, emotionally draining experience it was for my wife and me.
We still laugh about the lighter moment we shared amid the formal setting.
For the start of the wedding, just before the bridal party entered the hall, my wife had choreographed a moving three-minute candle-lighting ceremony. It ended with our mothers walking onstage to light two candles.
In the ceremony, after my wife and I made our vows and exchanged rings, we took the two candles, joined their flames together and lit another, larger “unity candle.” After that, we were supposed to blow out the two smaller candles—which we did. Unfortunately, the forceful blast my wife exhaled also managed to extinguish the unity candle.
The one flame we meant to keep burning had quickly died out! It was the one hiccup to an otherwise flawless ceremony.
Over the years we have been married, you could say we’ve had our occasional hiccups. But the flame we lit together during our courtship—and faithfully promised to stoke forever after—is still going strong. It’s not always as easy and effortless as it once was. In fact, once the newness wears off, it is easy to let down in some areas.
For example, I don’t always open the car door for my wife like I used to. But you know what? When I do, it still makes her smile. And that’s the thing—all those little things that added up to a lot of love and affection still work, if I do them. She still loves a bouquet of fresh flowers—a thoughtful card or an unexpected chat over the phone. When I make omelets on Sabbath morning, it always reminds us of our honeymoon. We still make time for and thoroughly enjoy those long conversations. We try to plan getaways from time to time. We schedule lunch dates on the calendar. We still love to dance. And hold hands. And say I love you every day. We kiss every morning, before I head off to work—and again at night when I return home.
I guess you could say we’re still dating. It’s such an important, yet often overlooked, key to building and maintaining a great marriage.
In Revelation 2, God praised the first-century Christians for the way they began their relationship with God. “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (verse 4). They grew weary in well doing. They stopped doing the things that made the relationship flourish early on in their spiritual romance. And notice—it doesn’t say God abandoned them. They left God. They left their first love.
In verse 5, God offers this simple solution: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.”
Herein lies the key to building a successful family relationship, whether it involves a newly begotten Christian and Jesus Christ or a newly married couple. Remember all the romantic little things you repeatedly did at the very beginning of your courtship? Keep doing them, God says.
If you do, the flame of your first love will never go out. ▪