This is my last month as a single: 4 things I’ve learnt
Photo courtesy of Gabriel and Cheryl
I first met Cheryl about 12 years ago while we were still in different secondary schools. Today, it’s been more than 3 years since we started dating and we’re finally getting married in June.
We’re young and inexperienced people, but I’d dare say we’ve been through a fair bit in this time. I want to qualify that I’m no marriage or dating expert — I’m just a guy trying to get it right. But I’ve taken a number of lessons aboard and I’d like to share them with you.
Here are the 4 things — 4 ings — I’ve learnt along my journey. I’ve unabashedly summed them up into a cheesy acronym for us, myself included: BOLD.
BECOMING A MAN
BECOMING A MAN
As we approached marriage, it gradually became more salient to me that Cheryl would need me to protect her. Given that this is the 21st century, this ended up looking a lot less like defending our home from roving bands of raiders than being the one willing to beat up a baby cockroach in the car.
I detest cockroaches. Abhorrent creatures. I can’t fathom why they exist. There’s something about cockroaches that makes me want to set everything they’ve touched on fire.
Before, when I was still single, finding hellspawn in the front seat would have been a divine sign to reschedule my appointments or reconsider my transport arrangements. But as the prospect of protecting and providing for my family loomed large, occasions like the fetal cockroach car incident became “opportunities for growth”.
What else could I do? I saw that I would be the man of the house soon. So I chose to bash bugs and learn how to do other things like fixing light bulbs.
I used to think that love was something like a garden of roses — but no one really told me about the arduous trek up the mountain until we had set out.
Man, there was so much we had to deal with.
- Timing: When to enter relationship, when to propose, etc.
- Dealing with personal baggage
- Setting new boundaries with the opposite sex
- Being less selfish
- Having ambition
- Taking finance matters seriously
- Resolving family stuff
- Looking for a home
But what gives me comfort and pride is knowing that God took us through each of these issues, and that we did it together. Through the friction, we learnt how to fight well.
In the course of our love, we had to cut out pieces of ourselves that weren’t good. And though that was pretty painful, we’re better because of it. Which brings me to my next point.
When two strangers really start to do life together, the sparkles wear off quickly. What once were two people’s ideas of a relationship end up rubbing against each other, until what is left is two fallen people learning how to be one.
It’s difficult and painful. But I’ve learnt that when we chose to lose ourselves in the hope of gaining something greater, we always come out better together.
That’s what a lot of people are unwilling to do: “It’s easier to just be my own person”, “A life with freedom is easier.” And the truth is, they’re right. Well, partially.
When we want to save aspects of our lives that we love and are unwilling to give it up for another’s good — that’s a problem. It might look like being unwilling to give up gaming time for couple time. Or it might be a reluctance to change one’s spending habits in view of wanting to start a family.
Loving someone involves losing parts of your life.
One of the strange things that Jesus says in the Bible is this: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) Jesus promises that in leaving our lives for Him, we will actually find real life.
By principle, when we lose ourselves for one another and for the sake of oneness — that’s real love. And that’s what it looks like to build one whole new life and love together.
Before I was with Cheryl, I wanted a relationship. But what I wanted wasn’t actually a relationship but the idea of a relationship. And I wanted it on my terms. And even after we got together, I wasted a lot of time wanting to be a boyfriend or to receive love on my terms. Many fights later, I found that love doesn’t really work like that.
“Dying to self” is a phrase Christian folks throw around a lot. Simply put, it’s the next level of losing yourself. The old self — with all its old wants and desires — no longer lives. Jesus Christ now lives in us, and so we chase the things that not only please Him but are of eternal value.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
If we strip away all this jargon, we could say that a big part of love boils down to sacrifice. Giving up myself to love Cheryl, just as Christ did for the Church.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)
That’s the heart of self-denial in love: Our love — her submission, my sacrificial love — exists to echo the ultimate marriage between Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, and His Church.
A lot of the words I’ve used might sound high and lofty, but loving someone on God’s terms is really a positive and life-giving thing. I’ve consistently found that the quicker I’ve taken myself out of the equation and figured out what God would want, the sooner the issues or differences tended to be solved.
Denying yourself is about saying “no” to what we want in the flesh and saying “yes” to what God wants.
So there, my experience as a guy in love summed up neatly in BOLD. I supposed it’s a fitting acronym given how much life there is ahead of me that can seem daunting and scary.
Love is tough. Marriage is tough. It’s a gargantuan effort, one we cannot do without God. But I know that we can all love boldly and freely when we do it God’s way. Our love exists to glorify God and so that people who look into our lives might see Him.
Friend, if you’ve made it this far, would you pray for us? Cheryl and I are getting married on the 1st of June, and we’re hoping that’s the day two lives will truly become one for His glory and the kingdom.
THINK + TALK
- Have there been areas of your life or wants/desires that you’ve been unwilling to give up in your relationship?
- How will it look like to love your girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse as yourself?
- Does your relationship glorify God?