When JG and I were dating, we were mentored by a couple at our church, C&N. Every so often, we went to their house, had dinner — awesome for college students, no matter what they had that night — and then C&N asked us about our relationship and encouraged us. It was so helpful to have their guidance through those years, and they know us and our relationship really well. C&N spoke at our wedding in a section we called the “charge to the couple.” They wrote this incredibly meaningful piece together to affirm our marriage and inspire us as we began our lives together. That reading was one of the best parts of our whole wedding, and I love that they did that for us.
A few months before their wedding, Becky and Pat asked us to deliver their charge. “You know, like what C&N did for you guys,” Becky said. We were blown away by the honor, and we agreed immediately. But when we sat down to put it together, it was a struggle for a few reasons.
- We wanted it to be true. Like, really resonant and true.
- I am The Writer in our little team, and I was loath to let anything go out the door that did not meet my exacting standards.
- It’s really difficult to write something with another person, especially with the intent to say it out loud. Together.
- We don’t have the same relationship with Becky and Pat that we did with C&N. We hadn’t exactly met up with them every month for the past 2 years or anything.
I proposed that he and I brainstorm a big list of things we think we’d like to include, and then we could whittle it down, eliminate, and make it all fit together. JG agreed, and we got started.
He suggested, “He likes the Steelers, and Becky likes the Ravens.” I wrote it down.
He suggested, “They can’t get mad when they aren’t winning at corn hole.” I wrote it down.
I suggested, “How about being sensitive when they have conflicting family commitments?”
He said, “I don’t think we should bring that up at the wedding.” So I didn’t write it down, and I started fuming. In fact, I didn’t say anything else. I jotted down everything JG suggested, simmering all the while. By the time he ran out of ideas, I was a boiling cauldron of rage.
JG noticed. He asked cautiously, “Is something wrong?”
I exhaled through my nose like a bull ready to charge and said slowly, “I just feel like … you want to focus on the silly stuff, and when I brought up something real, you shot it down.”
To his credit, he apologized immediately, and then he asked, “Well, what do you want to say?”
I spewed, “I don’t know! I want to say that marriage is really hard! It’s like a war that you are fighting together against everything that’s trying to pull you apart! And sometimes you don’t remember that and you fight each other instead! And that the Steelers don’t even matter when you are hurting each other! And they’re going to hurt each other! But if we can’t talk about anything real, it won’t be true!”
Whoa, there. I didn’t even know where that came from.
JG took the legal pad out of my hands and replaced it with the laptop. “Start typing that,” he said.
So I did. I talked as I typed, and I tried to resist the temptation to immediately backspace backspace backspace and microedit the words that were flowing out of my fingers. That’s is what it felt like, anyway, like the words were going from my brain to my fingers and then I just read them out loud. I typed and talked furiously for a while, and JG watched me in awe.
“So this is what you do for a living,” he said.
“Kind of,” I said.
That draft wasn’t the final draft, but it is so much easier to work with something that exists. Once we saw the skeleton, we were able to work together to rearrange the pieces and slot in some of the lighter content. I went back over time to tweak, especially after we read it aloud. I eased back on the “love is a battlefield” tone and emphasized up the “you’re on the same team now” angle. Ultimately, I was really happy with the final version. I just hoped it would resonate and ring true for Becky and Pat.
During the ceremony, JG and I stood right in front of Pat and Becky to give the charge. While JG was speaking, I made sure to smile and make eye contact with them. I loved the chance to be near to them, and I tried to soak up the time in between my sections. When we finished, we hugged them both, and Becky whispered to me, “That was perfect.”
Yes! It warmed my heart.
This is what we said:
JG: Becky and Pat, we’re honored that you asked us to deliver the charge to the couple on your wedding day. When we asked you about the role you think faith will play in your marriage, you said: “Marriage completely revolves around faith. Marriage is having faith in each other, faith in the love you share, and faith in God to carry you through it all.” We couldn’t agree more.
RA: Because you have faith in each other, you trust each other and rely on the relationship you have built. A strong foundation of faith is based on love, and we don’t mean the kind at the end of a romantic movie. When we were going through premarital counseling, our pastor gave us his definition of love, and we remind ourselves of it often. He said, “Love is a teeth-gritted determination to do what is best for the other person, regardless of how you feel or are being treated.” This is the attitude that strengthens the faith you have in each other and the love you share.
JG: Teeth-gritted determination means a lot of action. It’s not about sitting around and thinking about how great Pat is or how pretty Becky is. When you love each other with gritted teeth, you will be gracious about the rivalry between the Steelers and the Ravens. You will support each other even when you are losing a game of cornhole.
RA: But you’ll also be honest when something bothers you. You will be willing to tell each other the truth in kindness, especially when there is a specific behavior that hurts you. In turn, you will accept this truth and fight the reflex to retaliate with another critical statement. You’ll apologize when you are wrong, and you’ll forgive when you’ve been wronged. These are the actions that fortify your foundation of love and faith, even though they will be painful and difficult.
JG: You’ve already seen how hard times come when you least expect them, and suddenly, you are facing a lengthy home repair. In this circumstance, teeth-gritted determination means being patient, especially when you have spent hours on the phone with an insurance agent or you’re frustrated with a delay in the work. But physical, tangible hardship is far from the only struggle in marriage. Your individuality has the potential to be destructive to the new entity you create today. The impulse to do things your own way, in your own timing, and for your own good can threaten your relationship. You both will need to grit your teeth and choose to prioritize your marriage.
RA: This is where having faith in God to carry you through it all comes into play. Having teeth-gritted, determined, selfless love is not something humans do naturally. It’s only possible with the love of God working in and through us that we can hope to attempt it. In Ephesians 3:16-18, we read:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
We’re praying that this will be true for you.
JG: Becky and Pat, as you enter into your marriage, our charge to you is to love each other with teeth-gritted determination, with the knowledge that you are empowered to do so by your faith in God.