On-the-Job Training for Marriage

By Shellie R. Warren

I’m 36. I’m single. And I currently have four blogs that center around marriage preparation and marital covenant.

*How Did You Know?: A blog that features stories from married couples about how they knew their one was the one.

*Before You Jump the Broom: A 15-part biblical study for single and engaged people.

*10…Again: A website in which people nominate biblically-based marital covenant couples for free-of-charge gifts and vacations.

*On Fire Fast Movement: The tag line basically says it all: Preparing single women for marital covenant (which is far more than being a bride, having a wedding or even “just” a marriage!).

Wow. Four blogs about marriage and again, I’m not married. I’m not courting or dating, either (and yes, to me, there is a big difference between the two). And because I’m not one of those gals who likes to pressure herself unnecessarily, I can’t even begin to tell you when that status will change. Matter of fact, these days, when people ask me if I have a boyfriend, my response is, “I’m four years from 40. I’m too old to have a ‘boy’ anything.” And yet here I am…still, what some would say “preoccupied” and others may say “obsessed”… with marriage.

What gives?

Well, now that I’m actually putting some real thought into it, there are a couple of reasons. For one, I am a fan of biblical truth, although many would say that I often see things with a bit of a spin. Paul said, “He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord” (I Corinthians 7:32), and although it seems a lot of people are forgetting this fact, marriage is of the Lord. Matter of fact, it was one of the very first gifts given to mankind when God said that it was not good for man to be alone and that he would create a helpmate for him. That the two would/should/could leave their mother and father and become one flesh. That they were to be naked and not ashamed (Genesis 2:18-25). And so, to me, marital covenant is the responsibility of all believers to maintain.

My second reason is a bit more personal. I am a product of a generational curse of people who were not happily married to their original covenant partners. Now there are some, including my own mother, who are peacefully-and-joyously married to who they are with now (in her case, her third partner), but as someone who went through one divorce a little shy of age three and then experienced a separation between my mother and stepfather at the age of 15, I definitely know what it’s like to be a child of a broken marriage. It’s not good. Even when some of the circumstances for ending the relationship are, well, pretty bad. The second split, along with a variety of other issues, was impetus for my first book, Inside of Me: Lessons of Lust, Love and Redemption. I remember when my one-and-only-to-date late fiancé once said in the heat of an argument (in which I was the only one yelling… or for that matter, arguing really), “You don’t deal with conflict well. Why is everything about breaking up or leaving with you?” Damien was right. For years, that’s all I had ever known. Fighting. Trying. Leaving. Ultimately. He was different. Although Damien passed in 1995 at the age of 21, to this day, I still have a relationship with his parents… and they are still married.

I dunno. I guess after doing relationships so wrong, 14 sex partners and four abortions later, I guess I started taking one of the more popular definitions of “insanity” seriously. I was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. However, on this side of healthy (and abstinent, four years and counting), I now realize and fully except that the “acting married when we’re not” hamster wheel left me so e-motion sick that I thought it best that I try something else for a while.

My mother often says that, “Discernment prevents experience from being your teacher.” So I finally decided to look into what marriage is supposed to be rather than settling for the myriad of poor examples that had been demonstrated for me: in my family, in church, in my social circles, in the media… everywhere.

Books like Sacred Sex by Tim Alan Gardner, Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas and Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs definitely got the mental wheels to turning. But it wasn’t until the day after I broke up with my last-and-final boyfriend (ever!) and started penning a devotional series entitled, Make Him Weak in the Knees (In Prayer), a modernized look at all of the Old Testament couples in the Bible, that I started to see marriage not just differently but purposefully. Suddenly, Scriptures like “He who finds a wife” (Proverbs 18:22) made real sense. Be a wife… first. I wanted to go much deeper into the beauty covenant than simply accepting the information I had been provided as it relates to the responsibility that comes with being a wife.

For instance, my own study time revealed to me that the Hebrew word for “helpmate” is “Ezer Kenegdo,” which loosely translates into “lifesaver.” Ain’t that a trip? The Lord said, “It’s not good that man should be alone. I will make a lifesaver for him.” I learned that the Amplified Version of John 14:26 describes the Holy Spirit as a helper. Genesis says the same thing about women. That let me know that the Holy Spirit reflects the feminine side of the Godhead (because after all, according to Genesis 1:26-28, men and women are made in their image, right?) and so it would be good to really pay attention to the roles of the Holy Spirit and try to reflect a lot of those character traits when it comes to how I deal with those around me.

And the “no boyfriend” thing? Well, I have a motto: “What married women go through is called ‘committed’. What a lot of single women go through? That would be called, ‘settling’. Hindsight has taught me that I would simply rather marry my friend. When you’re “just friends” with a guy (something that’s really easy to do once he knows that you’re not giving it up until after the wedding), you get to really know him. I mean, really know him. Without sex, his guard (or is it his ego?) tends to be down and so you find out about his credit score, STD scare, secret habit that he’s never told any other girl because he was afraid of what she would think. When you’re “just friends,” he is not as afraid of what you will think, which means the pressure is off and true communication is on. Real intimacy begins to take place.

Another thing I learned and I love is that the Hebrew word for “sexual relations” is “yahasey min,” which the King James version of the Bible translated into “knowing” each other. The Greek word for “fornication” is “pornea.” (Right—where the word, “pornography” comes from!) Married people don’t do what single people do. Hebrews 13:4 says that the marriage bed is pure. I don’t know one couple who had sex before marriage and who didn’t wish they had real intimacy first. It’s easier to wait; it’s easier to build on a real foundation, when you’re, well, just friends.

Coming into this kind of information led me to starting blogs. I could’ve packaged it into books, but it just didn’t feel right. There’s a time and a place for that, but what the Holy Spirit had been revealing to me, He didn’t charge me for and so I wanted it to be freely available to as many women who wanted it and more importantly, needed it. In walked all four of the blogs, but the one that is most regularly updated is the “On Fire Fast Movement.”

It started on Facebook in November 2009 after I came across a scripture that said, “…who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire” (Psalm 104:4). Personally, that was a huge light bulb moment for me, because 1) in all that I was going through at the time regarding healing from my own past sexual abuse and misuse, being in a “refining fire” resonated with me and 2) to me, that Scripture was another take on how a wife should be perceived: a minister. After all, ministry is just another word for service and in a marriage both parties should be ready, willing and (spiritually) able to serve one another.

The revelations that have come since being “still and single” have been amazing and a lot of them are captured on the “On Fire” blog. I consider my abstinence a “fast” of sorts, and so there are different kinds of fasts featured. Two that have changed a lot of the members’ lives are “The Past Fast” (which is also featured in my second book, Pure Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Integrity) in which I, myself, fully forgave my molester; and “The Frog Exorcism Fast,” which may sound crazy, but it was birthed out of being at Cracker Barrel one day and seeing a “Frog-to-Prince” toy. Something a lot of people may not know is that, biblically, one of the things that frogs symbolize is apathy. In the fast, we prayed for various men in our lives and wrote them letters of encouragement in the hopes of breaking their apathetic attitude as it relates to their purpose, relationships, their spiritual connection to God…you name it. One of the women who participated officially ended her toxic relationship and is now happily married and expecting…with someone else. She believes the fast played a big part. Another thing that most of the participants did was get a hope chest based on Romans 5:5: “Hope does not disappoint,” because it’s my sincere belief that if marriage is a desire of your heart and you take what Christ said seriously about it, that you must have a certain aptitude and grace to be successful at your marital covenant (Matthew 19:11-12, Message). Then not only is marriage attainable, but a good, solid, lasting one is well within your reach… at the right place and time. Delay is not denial; it’s usually just a time of preparation.

Yeah. All this marriage stuff is going on and I’m a woman with no ring… yet. But you know what? As I was praying about how to pen this piece, the Holy Spirit gave me a visual. When you interview for a job and you’re hired, there oftentimes is extensive training before you’re put “on the field.” Seeming qualified is one thing. Being qualified is something else.

Am I preoccupied with marriage? Obsessed even? I don’t think so. I think that the Lord is faithful and that He has already answered my prayers. I asked to be married only once. I asked to break the generational curse of being married more than once. And, I asked to get as much information as I could to serve as a “spiritual insurance policy” against any marital damage. It’s amazing what you find when you seek.
So how do I feel about training to be a wife, spiritually, before becoming one, literally? On this side of life, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hmph. Something (I’m sure it’s the Holy Spirit) tells me that my future husband wouldn’t, either.

©Shellie R. Warren/2010

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