“I just know God put us together and no one can talk me out of it.” During our year of dating and engagement, I spouted various versions of this phrase. When I talked to my friends about Eric, I went into each encounter completely confident and ready to pounce if anyone even suggested I might need to give it more thought or reconsider. After we were married, one of my friends said, “Heather, after you brought God into it, I knew there was nothing I could say to make you think it through, so I did not try.” Another friend did try… and I made it clear that she was wrong (I might have been a little surer of myself in those days than I am now, or at least more defensive ~smile~). There were some tears, some apologies, and some repairing which came; but, I am happy to report that she and Eric love each other now and all is well.
Though it is unlikely my friends could have talked me out of getting married (even if I had listened to their concerns), I can see now how much of my decision had to do with emotions and even physical feelings. When I say physical feelings, I do not mean happy butterflies in the stomach indicating deep infatuation; rather, when I say physical feelings, I mean I felt at peace in my gut! I was finally in a relationship where I did not feel the burning fires of anxiety flaring just above my stomach. There was calmness in my heart. I believed the Holy Spirit was not leading me away from Eric. And, because I felt at peace, I did not spend time considering… “Are we a good match?”… “What will life look like for us in twenty years?” … “Is it possible that I could be wrong about this pairing?” … “Should I spend time in prayer about this decision?”
At the age of twenty-two, I was old enough to be married and young enough (i.e., immature enough) to be dangerous. I was young enough to “know it all” and old enough to make my own decisions. By all rights and customs, I was ready to get married. There was only one problem… I really did not know myself.
- I had never lived alone. Even in college, I had a near hometown friend as my roommate and my parents footing the bill.
- I was less than a year into my first full-time job when we got married.
- My life’s goal to this point had been marriage and children. I had done little to explore other interests. I knew I liked studying personality and relationships but did not have a clear strategy for incorporating these interests into my long-term plan.
- Other than a ten-day college mission trip to Guatemala, I had not traveled anywhere of consequence.
- My teen years was a series of one relationship after another, learning bad habits and ungodly ways of dealing with others’ hearts.
Even if Eric had literally been the best possible match for me, there was a crucial element missing which threatened our relationship: I did not fully understand what I believed… I did not have a creed. Outside of my foundational belief in Christ crucified, buried, risen, resurrected, and returning for His own (cf. Luke 23:33; John 19:38-42; Matthew 28:6, 24:42-44), I was not in touch with what I believed about myself, the world, and … in many ways, my faith.
If I could talk to pre-marriage Heather, I would say, “Girl. Find yourself. Read. Study. Explore. Discover what you believe and why you believe it. Be your own person before you join your life with someone else. Your future husband wants a whole woman with a mind of her own, not someone who simply follows his beliefs blindly on Monday and then fights against his leading on Tuesday. It will take some effort, but it is worth it. You will be happier and your marriage will be sturdier. Instead of feeling like a child in your marriage, you will feel like an adult married to another adult. Sound nice? You know it does. Grow first. Marry second. You will not regret it.”
Five Reasons Having a Personal Creed Matters to your Future Marriage
- What we believe at our core impacts most of our actions. It is possible – even somewhat easy – to make decisions which violate our beliefs when we are swept away in the emotions of a new relationship. Before we got married, Eric asked me if I would be willing to give up pork and shellfish to marry him (note: not a salvation or faith issue…) and I agreed to it without giving it much thought or doing any research. Years later, I think, “Why did I say I would do that?”Had I done the research, I might still have come to the same conclusion – even if just because I loved Eric and wanted to please him. However, I would have made the decision based on a sound mind and not a sweeping emotion. Knowing what we believe is important because we will do what we believe. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you.” (Proverbs 23:7, NKJV)
- We can easily be drawn away into incorrect theology and unhealthy relationships if we do not know what we believe (cf. Ephesians 4:11-14). Recently, those people have revered as spiritual leaders seem to be falling away from the faith. Some say, “they backslid.” Some say, “They were never truly saved (i.e., born again, regenerate) in the first place.” Others say, “They have abandoned the faith.” While my heart breaks when these figures (some of whom I once trusted) no longer adhere to Christian doctrine, it reminds me that our hope must be in Christ and Christ alone – not in any man. No man is infallible and so many people blindly follow a pastor, evangelist, teacher, or music minister without reading God’s Word for themselves. We have to know what the Bible says and what we believe, or we will easily be drawn away by false prophets. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15, ESV). If you desire to follow Christ with your spouse, the first step is to know what the Bible says and let it shape your beliefs rather than relying solely on commentary from a trendy church leader. Humble men of God encourage their congregations to listen to their teachings and then hold them up to Scripture to make sure what they are saying is true.
- Not disclosing your beliefs to a future mate is unfair to him or her. Since our beliefs directly direct our actions, it is only right to make our beliefs and worldviews known (to the best of our ability) to our potential mates. If you know your significant other feels strongly about border control, but you are in favor of open borders, should you keep that to yourself? No, not if it is something about which you feel strongly… because your differing beliefs on border control flow out of a deeper political belief system. Something that seems small might turn out to be a major contention in your marriage; and, if you allow your partner to think you agree with him or her on matters when you secretly do not, that is fraud. Honesty may be more difficult in the moment; but, in the long run, it is the most peaceful way to live.
- Your children will follow in your footsteps – and your spouse’s footsteps. Even children who seem to be completely different than you will still be affected by what you believe and how you live. What do you believe? What will you teach them as a result of what you believe? What does your boyfriend or girlfriend believe? Do you know? If not, are you comfortable having children with this person not even knowing where he or she might lead them?
- Studying, contemplating, and forging a personal creed now will bring up important topics to discuss with your significant other before you pass the point of no return in your relationship. Once a couple is engaged, it is more than likely they will marry even if several notable differences arise between them. Creating a personal creed (completely and fearlessly honest) opens the door to have frank and necessary conversations with each other so you can be confident when you do propose/accept a proposal. Feeling your relationship is right (like I did) is nice and all, but knowing you are on the same page is priceless.
Did I Cause Eric’s Gray Hairs? Yeah, Probably.
Eric and I dealt with our share of struggles early on because of my lack of self-awareness. Even now, though much older, I tend to hold many of my thoughts and opinions inside. Eric on the other hand is happy to spread his viewpoints everywhere. ~smile~ (We are built differently.) But, even though it is not in my nature to spout my beliefs from rooftops, it is important that I actually know them. When I am unsure of a theological argument, I should study the Scriptures and prayerfully discover what I believe. When I am faced with a political/worldview question, I should look at the facts and come to my own conclusions instead of taking the lazy way of agreeing with Eric, or Mom, or friends, or media simply because they show passion on the topic. When faced with a quandary about how to treat someone, (e.g., loan money, listen to complaints, offer temporary housing, give counsel, etc.) knowing my beliefs and why I believe them gives me a foundation by which to make decisions (e.g., loaning money ruins friendships, perpetual complaint listening breeds negativity, etc.)
Even now, despite my record, Eric approaches me with questions about my beliefs on various topics; and, while I have general ideas about what I believe, I rarely have the facts to back them up which drives my data-driven husband nuts. ~smile~
People grow and change every day, so it is not feasible to expect your or your partner’s beliefs to remain static; but, it is still important to look at the world, read the Bible, talk to a variety of people, pray, fast, seek God, read books, seek perspective, and write down what you uncover – what you believe. You can deal with changes as they come.
Next week we will work through steps to construct our personal creeds! Have an amazing week!
Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. – Abraham Lincoln
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. – C.S. Lewis
This man’s spiritual power has been precisely this, that he has distinguished between custom and creed. He has broken the conventions, but he has kept the commandments. – G.K. Chesterton, from Manalive
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (I Peter 3:14-16, ESV)
How would you convince your significant other of the importance of a personal creed before getting engaged?