What qualifies me to say anything about fat and happy marriages? Well, hopefully I have one. Perhaps our marriage is not “fat and happy” maybe we are on our way there and currently in the “chunky and cheery” category. Well, my wife and I have been married for five years now, six this May, look at us go! I might not have a lot of street cred in your eyes, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to offer. The suggestions below come from wisdom, some from others more seasoned than myself, and also from my own trials and failures. Whether you have been married for five days, or fifty years, I think the principles below still apply. And, if you agree or disagree, you are free to let me know.
(1) Remember what your marriage means. Your marriage is not about you ultimately. The relationship between a bride and groom is a picture of something beyond themselves, but also something they are intimately connect to. Your marriage is not a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Jones, but a display to the world of the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). Remembering this will help keep everything else in perspective. Your marital bond is to be one that is biblically defined and bursting at the seams.
(2) Confess, repent, and go. When you sin, don’t hide it (Psalm 32:1-4). The best thing to do when sin enters the relationship–and it will–is to confess it, ask for forgiveness, and carry on. Confessing your sins to your spouse, particularly those committed against him or her, is one of the most humbling actions a person can perform. And we all need to be humbled. When you confess and repent, and receive forgiveness, go. Don’t act like it wasn’t confessed and don’t act like it wasn’t forgiven. Jesus died for it, you confessed it, and your spouse forgave you. It’s done, don’t live like it is demonic monkey riding your back. Act like it is buried in the backyard six feet down and covered with concrete, because it is.
(3) Keep short accounts. This advice comes from Pastor Wilson in his book Reforming Marriage and ties in to the last point. If you are the one sinned against and your spouse confesses his or her sin to you, forgive ’em. Move on. It’s done. Don’t wait until next month and say, “Remember when you…” Don’t be an accuser. Don’t be the Dragon. Jesus will not stand before the Father and hand Him a list of all your sins. He won’t. He paid the penalty for them, and you died in Christ. The wages for your sins are paid in full. Your sins are done away with. Don’t be a dragon, be a Christian.
(4) New mercies everyday. God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), why aren’t yours? Your marriage, remember, is meant to represent to the world (your children, friends, coworkers, and anyone else watching) the Gospel of the Jesus Christ. Is your marriage characterized by mercy, grace, forgiveness, joy, fat and happy hearts? Sure, you have your hard days, but when the day is done are you better for it or bitter for it?
(5) Have sex, often. Ready for a run-on sentence? Here goes. Because your marriage is a picture of Jesus and the church, and because the culmination of that relationship is the Communion Table where you bodily assume the body of Christ in bread and wine and thereby become one flesh with your Husband, you ought to renew covenant with your spouse by becoming one flesh with him or her. Phew, read it again. The Lord’s Table is to be celebrated weekly as the Bride gathers to commune with her Husband. You live with your spouse so…you can work out how often you should be having sex. Sex in marriage is covenant renewal, just like Communion in the church. You want to renew your vows? Have sex. You want to affirm Gospel grace with your spouse? Have sex.
(6) Pursue your duties. God is the matchmaker. He is sovereign and He is the one who put you with your spouse. Certainly, you fell in love and your tummy was all bubbly and you swooned when thinking about your beloved. We are also Christians, and we believe what the Bible says, namely, that God has joined you together (Mark 10:9). Your bubbly feelings match perfectly with sovereign hand of God. So, God put two sinners together to have and to hold until death parts them. What could go wrong? Right. Most everything. So, what do you do? You remember that your spouse’s heart belongs to Jesus and you can’t change it only He can so, fulfill your duties even when your spouse is being a lout. Let Jesus deal with your meat-head husband or your frigid bride. Respect your husband, even when he is not respectable. Love your wife, even when she is not lovely. There are no conditions on these duties except that you hold the office (husband/wife) for which they are commanded. Wives are commanded to respect their husbands. Period. It doesn’t say to respect them when they deserve it. It says respect them. Likewise, husbands are commanded to love their wives. Period. It does not say that you love your wife when she is lovely. You are a husband, love your wife. You are a wife, respect your husband. Your first obligation is obedience to Jesus, no matter what (Ephesians 5:22-33).
(7) Go to church. You cannot have a marriage that glorifies the relationship between Christ and the church if you are not part of the church. Duh.
There are other things to add, of course. Like pray for and with your spouse, read the Bible together, hold hands everyday (very important), never stop talking to one another, and so on. However the number 7 feels right to end with, so there you have it. 7 principles for having a fat and happy marriage, or chunky and cheery, if you prefer.