Paul and I had a chance to get away, sans toddler, for a few days this past weekend. We were traveling to a wedding several states away, and the thought of a 9 hour car ride while 5 ½ months pregnant was a little daunting. I had decided I was just going to survive traveling and that the fun would really start once we arrived.
And yet, some of the best moments we had that weekend – conversations, singing along loudly to songs we loved, taking in the beauty of the mountains - happened while we were driving. And I felt God reminding me over and over that the journey is almost always more important than the arrival.
It’s easy to treat so many things in life this way. Once we’ve arrived… succeeded… landed that job... bought that house… saved that much money… we will really start living. And I think that this tendency is often deadly during engagement.
We’ve found the one we love, that we will spend our whole lives with, and we are so ready to just be married that we want to fly through the engagement period as quickly as possible. And that impulse is so healthy, so normal. If you’re not really ready to be married, you probably shouldn’t be engaged. (Engagement is the first step in a life long commitment, not a period of trial and decision with an easy escape route. But that’s a topic for a different post.)
But what if we slowed down a little and really sank our teeth into what it means to be engaged, what this time is really for, and how to use it most wisely? What if, instead of looking at the blueprints of a house so we could one day start building, we took advantage of the opportunity to lay a really solid foundation? There is so much good work to be done during the engagement period – regardless of how long it is. Taking time to value the journey early on, rather than waiting for the arrival for the important things to start, gives us the best shot for a successful marriage.
Now you might be thinking, "That’s all well and good, Carly, but what exactly are you saying engagement is for? Other than trying to survive wedding planning?"
I’m so glad you asked! It is my firm conviction that engagement is a time for practicing the skills that will allow you to partake in a life long growing intimacy that reflects Christ’s love and passion for His church. (There is a caveat here: while pressing into emotional and relational intimacy, it’s so, so, so important that we protect our physical intimacy. This is counterintuitive for sure, but God designed it this way to give you time to build a trust and safety into your relationship that I promise will result in much more fulfilling sexual experience once you're married.)
And the really beautiful thing is that Jesus didn’t leave us on our own to figure out how to practice these skills, or which ones to practice. He gave us a nifty (if sometimes a little confusing) equation in Ephesians 5 that can and should be our springboard to how we approach and navigate the unique relationship of marriage. We will unpack that more in our next blog, but for today, if you’re in this wonderful, sticky, often difficult period of engagement, would you consider that practicing being married might just be as important as planning the wedding? Would you take some time to talk and pray with your fiancé about what it might mean to lay a solid foundation for your marriage now, before you’ve arrived at the alter? Then be sure to check back next week for a few practical ideas on what laying a foundation actually looks like!
I think you’ll be glad you did.