pre-marital and post marital counsel
from the rocking chair of 54 years of growing in love
As we’re driving down the freeway of life, we have to pay attention to the signs. Don’t cross the double yellow line. Don’t go over the white line on your side of the road.
The same holds true in relationships. We need to pay attention to what the signs are. And as we get to know each other we need to truthfully ask: What are some of the yellow flags? What are some of the red flags? And can we discuss these together, appreciating them and wholeheartedly agreeing on the signs?
On the freeway of life (and love), speeds are often excessive. How many yellow flags does it take to slow you down? How many yellow flags equal one red flag? If you don’t slow down, you’ll probably either take the wrong turn or have a crash—spiritually or matrimonially. That’s when injuries can occur—pain, sorrow, and regrets.
Pay Attention to the Signs
If you have not married yet, answer the questions truthfully, with an unfeigned heart. Pay attention to the signs. Don’t go down the wrong road!
If you are already married, consider your ways. Even after you’re married, you still have to obey the rules of the road.
1. Which direction are we going?
Examine yourselves first. Are you in the faith? Are you both on the same page spiritually? This isn’t just a yes or no answer. You’re starting out and you have to be going in the right direction. Can you recognize if there’s any spiritual growth in your traveling companion? Or is it winter time and there’s no growth? Is it all icicles? (This could be a yellow flag, or a red flag.) If there’s no growth, don’t go down that street. Yellow Flag? Wait! Red Flag? Run! (1 Corinthians 13:5)
2. What do you want to be when you get there?
You are now becoming what you are going to be. Do you want to be, or be married to, a happy old grandpa or a grumpy old grandma? Are you observing your friend’s reactions to surprise, stress, fatigue, shortages?
3. Before we even start, have we passed the test of time?
Do you really know who you’re traveling with? How long can you wait? Can you wait through trying circumstances and situations?
4. Are we living life to serve the Lord or is it just a fun trip?
How long do you plan to keep serving the Lord on this trip? Everyone likes a fun vacation, but do you really enjoy what you’re doing to serve the Lord—or is it just that you were asked to come along?
5. Where are we going to spend our time when we stop?
Is this an entertainment-oriented trip, a service-oriented trip, do you have someone that you need to visit? Where do you spend your free time? What does your friend spend his or her free time doing?
6. Are we content on this trip?
Can you be content in this old car? Can you be content with the passenger you’re traveling with? Do you think you can change her as you’re traveling together? That’s a yellow flag. Do you think you can change him? That’s a red flag!
7. How much money do we need for this trip?
That could be a yellow flag. If you really want more and really need more money, that could be a red flag.
8. Are we on the narrow road?
Have you read Matthew 7:13-14, 22? Have you discussed it? Are you agreed on which road you’re going—the broad way or the narrow way? Can two walk together except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3) If you failed question number one, and you haven’t discussed this, re-read, re-examine, re-consider. Marriage is also a narrow road, and few there are that find it.
9. Are we taking a lot of extra baggage on this trip?
That’s a yellow flag. Can you go down the narrow road for a long time with all this extra baggage? You have to strive to enter in at the narrow gate. How much do you need? (This goes back to #6 and #7.) If the car is overloaded with baggage or expectations, you’re not going to make it. You can’t take a lot of extra baggage along, nor can you be going in the opposite direction for it to work.
Time to stop and add up your score.
If you can’t discuss them, that’s a yellow flag.
And if you can’t agree on them, that’s a red flag.
Yellow Flags = Caution! Slow down!
Red Flags = Stop! Look! Listen! If danger exists, do not proceed!
How many yellow flags does it take to make a red flag? If three or four yellow flags are all you can stand, that’s a red flag: stop and reconsider (Haggai 1:5, 7), go back to go.
Or can you in Christian love put up with the one on the trip and spend the rest of your life traveling this road in His service and have a happy marriage?
Pre-trip things we should be discussing are possible problems along the way: politics, religion, morals, manners, money, likes, dislikes, standards of behavior, and child discipline.
Work on the rough spots here and now. They are potholes in the road. Don’t just paint them over the same color. Rough spots cause friction, friction causes wear and tear, and tears tend to fragment unions or directions. A square and a circle can very seldom be teammates, and rough spots get rougher when the going gets tougher.
Only the oil of the spirit of God can smooth out these rough spots if we allow Him to indwell and work in our hearts. And that is sanctification of the Spirit which we need to accept, and if we don’t accept it, that’s disobedience.
Spotting Rough Spots
- Are you both born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God? Can you discuss this freely? Are you both led by the Spirit of God? (Galatians 5:18) Do you really walk in the Spirit of God? This is the protection against fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and having a car wreck matrimonially speaking. Are you bearing spiritual fruit? (Galatians 5:22)
- Commitment and surrender should be synonymous. If you’re going to tie the knot then you probably better be able to commit and surrender and give up to your traveling companion. (Romans 12:1)
- Can you measure his or her commitment? To you? To God? Does he really know the Lord? Do you really know him? If he spends very little time, attention, etc. on you, how would you measure his commitment? What if he says he is committed to the Lord and spends no time reading His Word, in prayer, or worshiping…?
- Will pressure from a job, activities, or family demands affect his or her commitment, dedication, and consecration to you and to the Lord?
- How does he treat his mother? His little sister? Does he show respect, love, and affection? Or is it only disinterest? If so, watch out!
- What are your standards for income? Can you be content with what you have or do you need a lot more? Can you be content below the average income, standard of living, housing, clothes? What about missionaries living on much less than you have? Would you sacrifice to help them?
- What is holiness? Is it just something at church or does it affect your walk? Is your sanctification progressing as 1 Peter 3:15 says it should be?
- Some people don’t believe in repentance, but it means a change of purpose. Can you change one another’s purpose or direction or is that the job of the church, the mate, or the Holy Spirit?
- If the guy says one thing but doesn’t mean it and then changes his mind, is it true repentance, turning around going the other way and intending to go the other way? Or is it just an emotional or volitional response—“I will change because then I can get what I want”? Is it a life-changing response? You need to recognize that before you start on this trek. Can he say “I’m sorry” and show it? So that you know it?
- What is the standard of worship?
- What is your and your mate’s focus right now? Will it change? Yes! Expect it! Can you handle change? Can you discuss this? Can you adapt to change?
- Disagreements will occur. Small, medium, large. How do you handle the small ones? Can you submit? Can you give up your rights? Even if the other person is wrong (in your way of thinking)? What is your point of reference for determining a solution when you can’t agree?
- Can you define loving with your “whole heart”? How much is your “whole heart”? Do I love my neighbor as myself? Do their ways irritate me? Am I a complainer with my neighbor? If I can’t get along with my neighbor no matter where I move, then how can I get along with my mate? (And if he tells you that his neighbor has never gotten along with him no matter where he moves, guess what? It was him, not the neighbor, and he won’t get along with you, either!)
- Can you define love? In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 there are eight positive and eight negative definitions of love. Can you read, discuss, learn, live, and love this way?
Pressure and Leaks
Down the road we will experience pressure from extenuating circumstances like flat tires, running out of gas, and getting lost. Will pressure affect our commitment to the destination?
That’s why time is really of the essence in learning these things. It takes time for pressure to build. Under pressure you may spot some leaks! Leaks are definitely yellow flags. And leaks usually get worse as time goes on. A blow out is a red flag. Our attitude will usually show in these situations. Is the attitude to impress others rather than to honor the Lord?
If you have not married yet…stop, look, observe, think! Consider your ways! How many yellow flags does it take to make one red flag? If you’re unconcerned about “little things” now, watch out! Little things, neglected, grow into bigger things!
If you have already married…consider your ways! Read Ephesians 5:22-33 together, discuss, and pray. Try with the indwelling Holy Spirit’s help to conform to the image of Christ and His pattern of love. He will lead us even when we are disobedient and unlovable because He gave Himself for us. That is the ideal pattern of love.
Consider your ways as you’re traveling along. What is your attitude to your neighbor, to your husband or wife, to the Lord who gave you each other? It’s too easy to take a detour. Consider your ways. Amen!
Photographs: Bill and Jessica Brink’s honeymoon road trip across the USA in 1954