The older I get, the more I realize that my parents are intelligent. When I was twelve, I thought they knew so little about life… and then, when I turned twenty-one, they suddenly knew everything. Perhaps, could it be that I was a know-it-all when I was twelve and realized quickly how little I knew once I was grown? Sometimes it takes life experience to realize how little we really know – and that only comes with the passage of time and experience-building.
For example, when I was a teenager and long before I was married, I knew a ton about marriage – or, at least I thought I did. After all, I had read books, observed married couples, and listened to countless sermons on the topic of marriage. In fact, I could not understand why couples had trouble in their marriages – didn’t they know that love heals everything and that hugs are a magical marriage band aid? Sometimes I cringe when I think about those days when I thought I knew everything. I’m sure that I looked at a lot of relationships and wondered, “Seriously, what is their problem?”
As is often the case in life when I’ve pre-judged, I was offered the opportunity to experience the very thing I’d been judging others for years: marriage. I’m sure it is no shock to anyone that I had to eat some of my former judgments. Love turned out to be something I chose to do and not, primarily, a feeling! (Shocking!) I was also biblically compelled to show love to my spouse even when I did not feel it… and that proved to be difficult, especially at first. Additionally, I found that hugs were not a magical marriage band aid after all (shattering my expectations… one by one…). It’s hard to hug someone when you are so furious that you do not want to be in the same room with him or her. It turned out communication was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Not only that, but I found out I was a lot more selfish and stubborn than I had originally thought. I had never argued with myself about getting my own way, so I wasn’t aware of my propensity to contend with a spouse. I became that person that I had so harshly judged… the person with an imperfect marriage (gasp!).
Please, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t make it a point to walk up to random couples and offer them marital advice. Most of my judgments took place in my heart and I may have not even been aware of many of them. So many thoughts pass through our minds and hearts at one time (especially for women) that there is no telling how many times I judged a couple without knowing all the facts or without a shred of understanding. The truth is: marriages do have normal patterns (which is why marriage counseling can be effective); however, everyone’s marital experience is also unique to the couple. Regardless of how much Bill and Susie’s marriage problem may appear like Steve and Jenny’s marriage problem… they are different. Each marriage contains two very unique individuals, therefore each couple’s marital dynamics will differ from other couples.
Years later, and with a few academic degrees and years of marriage under my belt, I see the institution of marriage much differently. There is no human way to completely understand it. Only God can fully understand every situation to the core… and only He can judge. Yes, I can offer counsel, and do when others seek it from me; but, I know that only God has the ability to see the heart of man and only He can fully understand any situation. Making internal (or external) judgment statements about someone else’s marriage is a great way to ensure that you will endure a trial of your own. I Corinthians 10:12 says, “Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (ESV).
When you do witness another relationship that troubles you, then immediately pray for the people involved. Pray that God will soften their hearts towards each other, that He will show them any sin in their hearts that need repentance, and that they will be restored into right fellowship with each other. Your prayers can bless a marriage, but harsh judgments will not bring anything positive (unless they are truly open to listening and are seeking your input and then acting upon it).
If you are planning to marry, I encourage you to prepare well. Read good books on marriage and marital topics, observe healthy marriage relationships, and listen to God’s Word on the topic of marriage. And in doing so, be careful that you do not become prideful in what you have been able to learn and start judging others’ relationships. Even the most intelligent among us still have to learn how to have a good marriage. It takes a lot of work… and you will crawl before you walk… but the work is worth the effort in order to have a good marriage. Ask God to remove any haughty opinions you may be harboring against others’ relationships and ask Him to give you a teachable and understanding spirit as you prepare for your own future marriage.
In what areas have you judged others in their relationships?