My youngest daughter, Natalee, just turned nine. Nine small years of belly laughs and fart jokes and snuggles bundled up in one body. Natalee is all sorts of fabulous because she’s sweet-as-pie, tender-hearted, and ridiculously generous with her time, her affection and her goods. If she has something in her room that you want, it’s yours. Barbie dolls? Sure, take your pick. You see some crayons you like? Take ‘em! She’ll even give you her beloved, ratty, old teddy bear if it will make you feel better. The girl just loves to give.
Natalee is also at the age where she’s noticing the concept of love. It’s pretty simplistic, but she gets the gist. Man sees beautiful woman, woman notices handsome man. They talk, laugh, fall in love. Get married, kiss, have children. Live happily ever after. This is endlessly entertaining and hilarious to her. She giggles when her Daddy and I kiss goodbye, and makes a smooching noise as we leave for our occasional date night. Kids!
The other day, we were playing Hair Salon. Of all the games I’ve played with my daughters, Hair Salon is by far my favorite. It basically consists of me sitting in the chair at the beauty salon and getting beautified by THE most fabulous stylist on the face of the planet, Natalee. And the girl has skills. Plus, who doesn’t love having their hair brushed and styled?? Sign me up.
As we were gabbing and playing Hair Salon, a marathon of Say Yes To The Dress played softly from the TV in the background. Akin to her recent recognition of love, my daughter is also newly fascinated with weddings. The fancy dresses, the gorgeous flowers, the tall towering cakes. It all serves to entice little girls who dream freely about princes and fairy tales. I was getting a fabulous up-do, when a particularly sensational dress popped up on the TV screen and caught my girl’s eye. Before long, we found ourselves in the thick of a wedding discussion, darting from one detail to the next. Natalee started to list off the things she wanted for her future wedding. I simply adore these types of conversations with my children. When Olivia or Natalee dream out loud, my heart leaps at the thought of them as their eventual selves. Fully grown beauties with rich brown hair and sparkly eyes, pursuing goals, contributing, thriving. I love to hear what the Lord has nestled into their hearts, and how they see their lives five, ten or twenty years from now.
I took the opportunity to steer the conversation slightly away from the wedding and more toward the marriage. Weddings are delightful and I dig ’em, but everyone knows it’s just a day. An important day, sure. But a day. But marriage, that’s a whole other thing altogether. To be in the trenches with someone else, your chosen partner, facing the day-in and day-out struggle of keeping a relationship alive is no joke. You have to want it. Fairy tales are just that, tales. So I wanted my girl to have a template now for how God sees marriage and what she should be looking for. If she knows what a Godly man looks like, her expectation for how to be treated will be rock solid and unshakable. And because I believe Father has already selected a mate for her, she will know this man when she meets him. Here’s what I told her.
- Your husband will sound a whole lot like God when he speaks to you. Not because he IS God, but because God is the maker of our mouths, and He promises to help us speak with the leading of the Spirit (Exodus 4:12 NAS). If we are in tune with the Spirit, our words, actions and love should reflect that of the Father as indicated in Matthew 10:20. This is how God sounds: rich in encouragement, edification, reassurance, and grace. His words toward us are void of condemnation and harsh criticism. You aren’t going to find Father calling us cruel names. He’s not cursing at us. He reminds us that we are more than spouses, parents or some company’s employee….we are His children and we will be spoken to as such. Kings speak with kindness and with an ever-present agape love. The King’s children should speak the same way.
- Your husband will prefer you. And she will prefer him. Because Father designs marriage to look like this: we will leave the mother and father who raised us, and cleave to one another in a new life forged as a couple (Genesis 2:24). Cleave, the act of adhering closely, clinging, remaining faithful. The only way to do this is to prefer someone above everyone else in your sphere. Clinging is hard when we’d prefer to be somewhere (or with someone) else. But the man who decides to give you his time over his friends or the sports game or his job or that party, is a man who prefers you. Preference expresses honor, respect, security and most importantly, LOVE. Father God shows each of us unwavering preference at all times, no matter what. And a man made in the image of his Creator, following the leading of the Spirit, who prefers the wife and children God gave to him, is pleasing to the Lord.
- Your husband will know you are a treasure, even in your imperfection. Because the Word describes a good wife as far more precious than jewels (Proverbs 31:10). Also, Malachi 3:17 reminds us that we are God’s jewels in the making, His specially selected treasures. And if a father describes his daughter as a jewel, than we can safely assume he wants the man who marries her to think the same thing. Father God is no different. A man who sees his wife as a imperfectly perfect but wholly precious treasure will treat her accordingly and that delights her heavenly Father.
There is more to teach my daughters. So much more. About getting to know one another’s character, about keeping your body a holy temple meant for just one, about how God sees submission from both men and women, about the paramount conversations to have before you strut down an aisle all dolled up, about how God’s design for marriage is not to be domineering but rather uplifting. Some of these lessons have happened, some will happen later, and most of them are an ongoing effort meant to raise up my girls with a grounding in what God desires for her as a married woman.
The truth is that I will know Olivia and Natalee as adults far longer than any other stage I’ve known them yet. The baby stage is one tiny year. Toddlers are only toddlers for a while. And the school years end at 18. But the adult stage goes on for decades. So everything we do now has the greatest impact on all those years that span the 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond, long after their daddy and I have passed away. We’ve paid out a good chunk of very hard-earned money to send them to an excellent private school. And we’ve taught at length on how to serve humanity, how to care for their bodies, how to pray, how to make killer brownies and a really respectable red sauce over penne. So many life skills packed into 18 teeny tiny years that fly by. Beyond anything else we can teach them, the biggest investment James and I can make is to teach them how to be daughters of the one and only forever King. After all, that’s what they will spend most of their time doing in the days they are allotted.
I sure do love a good wedding. But their marriages are where it’s at, y’all.