The first semester of my freshman year of college was perhaps the most fun I have ever had. Or at least it was up to that point.
I had moved away from home for the first time, was rooming with my best friend, and became fast friends with a group from my University’s speech and debate team. We spent late nights watching comedy skits in our dorm rooms, we had dinner together regularly, we went over to my parents for Sunday afternoon lunches. We were thick as thieves.
Some may have said it was inevitable that at least two of us would end up together.
And that we did.
I met my husband that semester. He was part of that friend group. Little did I know, the entire time we were building our friendship, he was planning something else. He was dreaming of our future, sure that I was his and he was mine. But before he did anything, before he pursued me romantically, he let our friendship play out.
And that it did.
I loved getting to know my friend, Austin. He made exceptionally lame but incredibly funny jokes. He always made sure his friends felt safe. He loved Jesus a whole lot. He always seemed to be around the corner whenever I needed him.
Oh! And let’s not forget those muscles.
When we finally became an item, our friendship bloomed. He was my confidant. He was my brother in Christ. He made me laugh like no other, he made me think like no other, and he made me want to follow Jesus like no other. I just knew that he was it. He was the guy I would marry.
And that we did.
When I look back on that first year of knowing Austin, I am so thankful our relationship began in friendship. It started with trust. It started with fun. It started with the friendship kind of commitment. We didn’t take one another for granted because we knew that mindset could end our friendship at any point. We valued one another. We spoke with gentleness.
I wish I could say that we always do the same today.
The truth is hard: friendship is hard to keep up in the bonds of marriage. I tend to take him for granted more because I know he made a commitment to stay. I tend to bury myself in my phone when I am overwhelmed by the day rather than in his arms–after all, I know his arms will be there. I tend to take out my frustrations on him. I tend to treat him less like a friend than I treat others.
And I am ashamed of that.
Half of marriages end in divorce. Half.
And I have to wonder if this is the reason: we have decided that since our covenant is sealed in love, we no longer have to like each other.
I wonder if we have so idealized romance that we forget that in between date nights and intimacy must come friendship.
I wonder if we have forgotten our foundations.
I know I often forget.
I often forget those late nights in Pierce Ford Tower giggling about the mishaps of the day. I often forget running across campus in the rain, throwing caution to the wind because we were just going to end up soaked. I forget laughing at his jokes even when I don’t get them and I forget how he would look so intent at the story I told even when he didn’t get it.
But more importantly, I forget Who our friendship originated from. Who it is built on.
We forget how to cherish one another like a friend. We forget how to value the others’ feelings, their hopes, their dreams. We forget because we aren’t setting our eyes on the greatest friend.
We take for granted the nights, just the two of us.
Then we find ourselves in a hole.
In the months after the birth of our daughter, Austin and I have found this particularly hard. We are sleep deprived and easily irritable. We are vulnerable and insecure about our new roles as parents. We are on edge, wondering if we are doing the right things for our daughter.
More than that, we are separating our relationship with one another from our relationship with our Maker.
It’s so easy to get lost in the responsibility that we forget to be friends.
We try to make each other do the right thing. I try to make him hear me like I want him to. He tries to make me speak to him the way he wants me to.
But how are we supposed to sustain our relationship if we can’t even preserve our friendship?
How are we supposed to communicate the hard stuff when we aren’t communicating the sweet stuff?
How are we supposed to trust one another when we turn on the TV rather than talk about our day?
How are we supposed to reach our goals if we don’t dream together? If we don’t laugh together? If we aren’t first having fun together?
How are we supposed to trust each other if we aren’t willing to sacrifice for the other?
Friendship is not something to graduate from. It is something to build.
So we are challenging ourselves to bring our friendship back to life in our marriage. We are bringing back the romance. We are talking about everything. We are dreaming about our future. We are laughing.
Much easier said than done.
You see, the basis of friendship isn’t romance. It isn’t conversation or dreams or laughter. It isn’t just having fun.
It is sacrifice.
Friends love one another so deeply that they are willing to sacrifice for one another. Think about it:
Jonathan and David.
Ruth and Naomi.
Rory and Loralai, Corey and Shawn, DJ and Kimmy.
(Okay maybe those last three aren’t the most awe-inspiring examples.)
You see, we don’t sacrifice in marriage just because we can. We are doing it because we have to. We have to value one another as if today is our last together. We have to because we want to beat the odds. We want to lower the numbers.
I believe wholeheartedly that Christian marriages should stand out from the crowd. Not because we have it more together than everyone else. Not because we show ourselves to be hypocrites. Not because we go to church every Sunday and Wednesday and go to small group on Tuesdays. Not because we do anything right or wrong.
We should stand out because we have the most beautiful picture of friendship to replicate. We have a sacrificial-come-down-from-your-throne-giving-of-yourself kind of friendship. The kind of friendship that knows no bounds. The kind of friendship that loves before it thinks of itself. The kind of friendship that would die for another.
We have a Jesus kind of friendship to follow.
It gives grace.
It shows mercy.
It carries a cross on its back.
Greater love–greater friendship–has no one than this.
Christian marriage should look like Christian friendship. We don’t get a pass once we say our vows.
We are standing before our children showing them what Christian friendship looks like. We are standing before the world showing them what Christian friendship looks like. And when we do that well, when we do that with all intentionality, we look like Jesus.
We make Him stand out and we fade into the background.
So let’s start pursuing friendship in our marriages. Let’s start enjoying one another to the fullest. Let’s start loving like Jesus loves not because we signed a paper or said a promise, but because He did it first. He made His vow to us. He carried His cross and only asked that we carry ours in return.
He did all of this because He loves us. Now it’s time that we put down our pride and start loving one another.
It’s time to start sacrificing. It’s time to cherish our friendship like Jesus cherished us on calvary.
It doesn’t have to be a big gesture. It might look like getting up early to make breakfast for your husband. It might look like taking the midnight feeding over for your wife. It might look like turning off the TV to talk and laugh.
It might look simple, and it might be huge. It’s nothing compared to what has been done for us. Sustaining friendship in marriage doesn’t look like a TV show. It probably doesn’t look like our parents or that super perfect couple in our church.
It looks much better. It looks like Jesus.