Generation Cedar

A Letter to My Children About Marriage

A Mother’s Letter to Her Children About Marriage: Pursuing God’s Purpose for True Happiness

Dear Children,

Should the Lord give you the good gift of a husband or wife, and I hope He does, there are a few things I want you to know.  Things that you may not hear from anyone else, and certainly not on TV or other media.  Sadly, your church may not even tell you.

Marriage, sweet little people, is not for your happiness.  Happy as I want you to be and hope you will be, you must yet understand that marriage is God’s design and His purposes must be pursued for you to be truly happy.  His end is holiness and He will use all things in a life devoted to Him to fulfill that end.

To my girls:

Marry a man whose first pursuit is Christ.  After that, he is not hard to please.  Admire him, cheer him on and show gratitude, and he will fall over himself trying to please you.  Smile often, speak well of him always, and do whatever is necessary to try and maintain a pleasant mood about you so that it transfers to your home, making it a place where he and your children love to be.

You’ll have bad days, of course, crying days even, and that’s when you go to your bedroom, kneel on the floor and beg the Lord to carry you.  Then get up, get a fresh perspective (crayons will come off the wall), and try again.  Above all else, make a home.

To my boys:

Marry a woman whose first pursuit is Christ.  After that, she may be hard to please only if you don’t know “the secret”.  What is that?  I’m glad you asked.  The secret to pleasing your wife is to make her feel safe and treasured.  You may have to move out of your comfort zone to do this at times.  She won’t always readily translate the oil change to love, though it means that.  But let me give you a “secret question” a question you need to ask her often.  It’s not just in the asking, though.  Be sure to focus your eyes on hers, maybe even touch her shoulder or face, and then ask:  “What’s on your mind these days? ”  And then be ready to listen.  She will perceive this as your protection over the matters of her heart.  Tenderness, listening, protection.  That’s what she wants.

To you all:

If your wife or husband does something really stupid, forgive.  If they do it again, forgive again.  Forgiveness must be the propelling force in your lives each day. Dwell on their strengths, and push out thoughts of their weaknesses.  Take every thought captive–choose to love.

Here’s that part you are not going to hear often:

If you find yourself “not happy”, having lost attraction, disinterested, etc., you are not permitted to even think about a divorce.  If you find yourselves arguing more and more, don’t think for a minute that “the children will be better off out of this”, because they won’t.

The vows you took on your wedding day were not suggestions.  They were covenant vows, before a Holy God, family and friends, to stay with this person the rest of your life, even if you don’t feel like it.  You swore a solemn oath and if you can’t live up to it, don’t get married.  Decide up front that your marriage is irrevocable.  There is far more motivation for getting along if your “marriage house” has no door.

(This does not apply to an abusive marriage–there is always a door for that.)

Do not share intimate thoughts or feelings with anyone of the opposite sex.  Do not find yourself alone for any length of time with such either.

Divorce is not a “private option.”  It will affect multiple families for many generations.  When you “separate what God has joined” you permanently injure far more than just yourself.

Guard your marriage as fiercely as you would guard your own life.  Treat your spouse as an extension of your flesh, just as God sees you.  Treat your spouse like other family members.  You know, “You gotta love ’em, they’re the only family you’ve got.”

I want you to be happy, I surely do.  But I will pray for you to be holy.

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59 Responses

  1. “speak well of him always”….if I could give anyone good advice for marriage, this would be it. It’s your own reputation you’re damaging speaking ill of your mate. I’m not talking about hiding abuse or the occasional good natured rib about not changing out the tp roll. I’m talking the “he’s so unhelpful/lazy/negligent of my wants” that so many mom’s groups and women’s book studies have deteriorated into. My only opinion of women (or men) who participate in that kind of behavior is “wow, your poor spouse”.

    And taking divorce off the table BEFORE you cut the covenant…amen!

  2. Good stuff. We just had our 4th anniversary last week 🙂 and there’s been a lot of forgiveness of stupid things so far(on both sides :)).

    We shamefully through that D word around early on after the fireworks had dissipated, but thankfully we met the Author of Love and learned that love is a choice, NOT a feeling.

  3. AMEN!!!
    Thank you, Kelly, for speaking Truth and for you and Aaron teaching it to your children. What a great letter that your children can pass down to future generations to show them what their grandparents taught their children. What a blessing!!! Thank you for sharing.

  4. We phrase it this way – “always be good to the other person”. It sounds simple, but if you are doing this, it makes it really hard to let a momentary flash of anger or upset decline into bitterness and misery.

  5. One thing I have tried to do in my marriage is to always just assume the best. I want to assume that what he is doing is for my benefit because he loves me. It has taken years of marriage to get to this point, but he has earned my trust over and over.

  6. That was really great. Marriage can be so tough sometimes. I know I really wish I had someone tell me those things a long time ago.

    You are such an inspiration. Thanks!

  7. Fantastic letter. Forgiveness is essential in a marriage. Also being willing to apologize when you’ve said or done something wrong. A sincere apology can make a huge difference.

  8. What sound advice! We need more and more men and women of God speaking this because it is a message that is so counter-cultural. Thank you for speaking Truth in love.

  9. Mice? Kelly, you almost made lol (which I don’t normally do at the computer). This was a wonderful letter. I may have to print it out and save it for the day when my 7 year old son decides that maybe girls are ok after all.

  10. So beautiful! You are so right, our top priority should be Holiness for us and our following generations. After that, everything else is icing on the purest cake (a great foundation).

  11. Cheyanne,

    Using extreme hypotheticals is a little ridiculous, don’t ya think? And since my first advice is to marry a spouse “whose first pursuit is Christ”, the chances of the extremes you offer are slim to none. Thanks though for disregarding all the other information that was written to combat the current “leave if you feel like it” mentality that resides in marriages. Oh AND the information that I’ve shared already several times about the family we are helping RIGHT THIS MINUTE who had to leave an abusive spouse. Yeah, better to think I’m just a whacko so you won’t have to pay any attention to the real message.

  12. This is wonderful reminder- for my children and myself. My dear husband is not a Christian yet, but hopefully and prayerfully he will become one through the lessons I teach our children and the lesson I live day to day. Thank you. PS I re posted this on my facebook page.

  13. GREAT message! I’m printing it to share with our teens at church. ~ Careful on the anger with Cheyanne. She obviously needs to meet “Love”. His name is Jesus. I John 4:8 But it’s sad that something in her life has made her this bitter toward the wonderful, God-ordained, plan of marriage.

  14. Great advice, Kelly! I totally understand you being irritated with Cheyanne. Yes, she needs love, but there comes a fine line when we are to stand up for our beliefs and not falter…especially on our own blogs. It’s like someone coming into your own house and being a bad guest. You know? ; )

  15. Beautiful, truthful advice…..and it applies even to those who are abusive and beat the kids. When you are in it until Christ comes, you seek the solution to extreme problems differently than those who say, “Oh, NOW I have the right to get a divorce” and the God of all miracles has room to work.

  16. Well spoken. The begining is essentil to the whole of it, “We don’t marry for happiness, we marry for holiness.” If those of us understood that before we said “I do,” a lot of issues that arise would not be issues. I would only add one thing; If ther is problem the first thing is not to blame the spouse, it is to look at self and how self has sinned against God and/or spouse. If we deal with our own sins then the sins of our spouse would not be so big.
    Thanks again, finding words to say to a 2 year old daughter is hard but she will not always be 2.

  17. with your permission, i’m reposting this on my facebook. these are the exact things we have told our children (7 kids, 30 yrs of marriage)over the years. at our daughter’s wedding, my husband spoke about his least favorite word being “try” and that too many people will say, “we’ll try to make this marriage work.” “try” is just another way of saying that there’s another option. he said, there is not try…only do. you commit. we’ve watched way too many marriages in the church completely crumble needlessly, and most of the time, the bottom line is folks are unwilling to love selfLESSly.
    re: cheyanne: i have to echo the sentiments here. i do know people that have married christians that are in abusive relationships and it is wrong. an adopted child in CA was just recently beaten to death by her christian father applying a recognized christian method of child training. sounds like to me that cheyanne perhaps has borne the anger of someone that in the name of christianity actedly in sin by abusing her or someone she loves. she’s throwing out the baby with the bath water.

  18. This teaching is needed. I do believe though, that teaching on abuse is needed, too, and is less understood than the concept of marriage as a life long commitment. Too many marriages are reprehensible because of a victim and and an abuser – and the victim’s very nature takes on guilt for ever thinking of establishing a boundary. The abuse loves it, and the victim continues to be battered. I am in a restored marriage, but it it because I finally realized that forgiveness is not the antithesis of establishing boundaries. Committment does NOT mean one allows him/herself to be literally bruised, beaten, and verbally assassinated.

  19. This is beautiful. I, unfortunately, have been through two failed marriages. One due to years of infidelity after which he finally left. The second due to abuse of one of my children in which I had no choice if I wanted to keep my children. I struggled for a long time as to what I could or should have done differently. It all boils down to truly trusting in God and unfortunately, there were several years of my life when I did not trust God completely and I took things into my own hands. It is heartbreaking to see the struggles that my children have to deal with now because of choices that either I or their fathers made. My greatest desire is that my children will grow up and truly place their trust in God to find the right mate and not rush into a relationship that may not be right simply because they feel pressure from society.

  20. What is your advice for young people who don’t feel called to marriage, or prepared to honor its covenants? I agree that “don’t get married” is fine advice – certainly many unmarried people throughout Christian history have led exemplary lives – but it seems like a difficult step to take when the faith of your fathers honors family and children so highly. (And the popular culture is just obsessed with hustling young women into white dresses whether they’re spiritually ready or not!)

  21. I would like to say that this letter was a breath of fresh air. Nothing like this is ever said anymore. Society is bombarded with couples divorcing – divorce is no longer a tragedy, but a news story. How did we end up like this? I plan on printing this out and keeping it on my fridge, to remind me of what marriage is really all about.

    To Cheyanne: Honey, I have been divorced for 4 years now. I was married to an extremely emotionally abusive man. But, I stayed true to my beliefs and my marriage vows. Divorce was not my option, it was his. He left me. He filed for divorce. No matter what happens in your marriage, God knows and He will be there to forgive if you seek His forgiveness. His love is not conditional.

    The message of this letter is NOT to say that, no matter what, you cannot break those vows. This letter was not meant to address extreme situations where you or your children’s health and well being are jeopardized. In those instances, God will be there with open arms to comfort you. This letter is to say that is not OK to break your vows just because you are bored, attracted to another, or just irritated with each other. Divorce is not a way out, simply because you are not happy.

  22. I think you probably are, Monica (though Kelly’s wiser in experience here, so she may disagree). Where I’d draw the line, though, is sharing any intimate experience at all with your husband. It’s so darn easy to breach this: we see endless TV shows and even one darned irresponsible Christian book (on my part) where women are either complaining about sexual frusterations with their husbands to their friends or sharing nice experiences. It doesn’t MATTER whether the experience was nice or not; it’s private, and if my hubby was sharing our “beautiful last night” with his friends I’d be beyond furious. Plus, women talk; it’s not for nattering lips to hear about Sherry’s hot renewal time with Jerry. The only exception, I think, would be if the husband’s doing something harmful and the wife isn’t sure how to respond.

  23. “We don’t marry for happiness, we marry for holiness.”

    That’s a very incomplete statement. There has to be love there; you don’t just marry someone because they’re a good Christian and you’ll be making a holy union. That sort of thing, marriage for “duty” I suppose, is a road to misery. I won’t marry a man unless I’m certain he and I were designed by God to be together.

  24. I agree that EVERY part of life is meant to be about holiness, not just happiness, and that true happiness comes from obeying God; this is how He designed us and we can’t be happy any other way, after all. We have to be careful, though, in saying to others that certain things, especially marriage, are only about holiness; that sounds offhand like the horrific life of religion without faith: cold, empty, sterile, going through the motions with no heart life. If you were to tell a non-believer that being a Christian is about holiness and not happiness, they’d look at you pityingly as a person shackled to suffocating rules beyond the reach of life-breath, all for something that to all appearances denies natural design. It’s true, of course, that Christianity is about holiness, but my point is that such statements need FAR more explanation. Otherwise, both the Christian life and model for marriage would sound even to me like a stifling habit instead of true healthy living.

  25. Jennifer – “We have to be careful, though, in saying to others that certain things, especially marriage, are only about holiness; that sounds offhand like the horrific life of religion without faith: cold, empty, sterile, going through the motions with no heart life.”

    I’m sure that’s exactly what people think about me and my marriage when my husband gives me a less than discreet holy slap on the butt! XD

    Don’t forget that there is a contex for everything in life, even on blogs! 🙂

  26. THE KEY: Lower your expectations. Nothing makes us more unhappy than others not living up to what we want. I love it when my wife makes grilled cheese for dinner…Perhaps not much to some, but SHE MADE DINNER! It’s a win! Every small act is an act of love when you don’t expect it. I find this the key to my happiness!

  27. This was very good advice and sounded like it came from a very loving, kind, thoughtful person. However, upon reading your response to Cheyanne, your true self came out. I was disappointed to read from your sharp tongue.

    1. Jennie,

      I praise God that He daily refines me, and that I have learned a lot about how to give an answer since that comment, written 3 years ago. It certainly doesn’t excuse an answer couched in sarcasm, but knowing how much verbal battery I receive *behind the scenes* might help readers give me a bit more grace when I fail. I pray this is the case with you.

      1. So well put, Kelly. You are a beautiful sister in Christ, and I thank you for what you do here. You are a great blessing to me, and I know to many others.

    2. Was that spoken with a sharp tongue or a wry sense of humor? Being of the opinion that Cheyanne rather missed the point and decided Kelly was advocating something she was not…I “heard” Kelly’s tone as humorous. As often as she is misunderstood and misrepresented and words are falsely attributed to her here…ugh…I doubt I could show such restraint. My response would be actually sharp and sarcastic….”YES…that is exactly what I mean! God ordains that women and children are chattel, to be used and abused at will by men. No matter what, you can never leave, even if it means your husband is thus allowed to kill you. God thinks that is AWESOME. I am SO glad you read my mind, because I couldn’t actually SAY that.” So, yeah, good thing I don’t write a blog. Ahem.

      1. Chrissy,

        Yes, it is very hard to restrain when someone answers so foolishly and I sometimes feel like writing exactly what you wrote. I appreciate that you recognize my less-than-graceful response doesn’t reveal “my true self.”

  28. Great post! I have a question however. I’m a married mom to 3 and hopefully more someday. My sister who has grown children who are following the Lord has a son who has gotten engaged. The problem is when he came to them they said “no, it’s not time, and we feel she is not the one”. He ignored them and is pursuing this unity anyway. How do you encourage a young man to honor his parents in this manner? They have even e mail the parents of this young lady to no avail. Help!

    1. Kristina,

      I hope you don’t mind me adding my two cents worth to answer your question, along with anything Kelly may say on the subject.

      The short answer is that, since this young man is an adult, he is free to make a different choice than what his parents feel is best, and it is not being dishonorable for him to do so.

      You said that “he came to them.” Whether he was asking for advice, or simply telling them he was engaged, or whatever purpose he had in speaking to them about it, it is still his decision, and no adult — not his parents, not you, not anyone else — should feel dishonored by his seeing the situation differently.

      From what I see, based on your comment, there are two good things he did here: he “came to them,” showing he was interested in communicating with his parents, and “he is pursuing this unity [with his fiancee].”

      Marriage is all about pursuing unity! That is (or should be) a priority for a married couple, and he is already preparing for what should be a lifelong endeavor.

      He is no longer obligated, as an adult, to be in unity with his parents’ wishes, and he should be encouraged to seek the Lord in the choices he makes as a man. He cannot concern himself with being in unity with his bride AND with his parents. It is impossible, and can lead to numerous relational problems when parents try to intervene in their adult children’s decisions.

      Encourage your sister to feel free to offer advice to her son when he solicits it, but to understand that he is biblically free to accept, modify or reject any advice he is given, and that he is not dishonoring his parents or God in how he chooses to act (or not act) on parental counsel.

      And, please, no adult should be emailing the parents of the young lady on this matter, either!

      Pray for the couple, counsel them biblically (when they ask), and let the young adults learn to work in unity with each other and God.

      [From the parent of two, almost three, adult children.]

    2. Kristina,

      I agree with 6 arrows, as hard as that might be for a parent. If he is walking with the Lord, especially, he has come to adulthood and parents are to be counselors to adults, but not their decision-makers. If they are still having to make decisions for him, it implies they haven’t raised him to maturity. Probably they have, but they need to recognize that. If there are legitimate reasons why he shouldn’t not marry this girl, they should appeal to him, from one adult to another.

      1. Thanks to both of you, Kelly and 6 arrows! This young man has a history of making very poor, wishy washy decisions throughout his life. He was adopted from a 3rd world country at the age of 2 and has severe attachment disorder so making decisions that are based on wisdom is difficult for him therefore his parents have had to really pray with him in re to decisions that need to be made. They definitely recognize that as an adult he needs to make his own decisions however with his history they are very concerned and are concerned of course with him entering into a marriage when he is far from being ready. Thanks again for your quick replies!

  29. Thank you for sharing! It is the most beautiful and truthful letter I have read. I will certainly share it with my children and grandchildren. Thank you sooo much!!

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