Some practices wind up more memorable than others—especially when you get married after one.
“We kind of made it up [the ceremony] on the fly,” Woods said. “Coach Ham is one of my favorite coaches. He’s been teaching me a lot about fatherhood and other things.”
Woods and Myers, who have a four-month-old son together, woke up not expecting to be married by the end of the day. But once Bishop found out Hamilton was an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, they pieced together a pre-practice rehearsal, had football practice, then pulled friends together at midfield for the ceremony.
“Life of being a college football coach,” Hamilton said. “You get to be a part of kids’ lives. It was fantastic for me to share that with them.”
Cool story. Ready made for the Hallmark or Lifetime channel. A great way to save the financial stress and planning chaos surrounding most wedding ceremonies: no family, minister ordained online with no expectations, no meals or building structure or invitation list to fret over. Microwave marriage.
But in the spirit of an open letter to the newly christened Woods family, a thought to consider: While it’s a great decision to enter into the commitment of marriage for both your son and each other, be careful not to approach the rest of married life the same way you tackled the ceremony. A “let’s just wing it” strategy will not work for very long.
We can do better than that, and like a finely tuned engine, marriage can be so fun—and so deeply fulfilling—if you’re putting the right fuel in it.
Under the assumption that Coach Hamilton wasn’t able to squeeze much pre-marital counseling in before the wedding rehearsal or football practice that day, here are a few more steps to pursue as you move forward on this exciting journey—steps applicable to any young married couple who wants a healthy marriage.
Take your spiritual growth seriously
As an athlete, folks are all around you to help you grow physically. You have teachers all over campus whose primary interest involves your intellectual growth. You can even find plenty of help to grow emotionally.
But don’t sleep on your spiritual growth. It may seem harder to find, but it’s probably the most important aspect of cultivating a healthy marriage.
Why? If for no other reason than a good marriage demands constantly practicing both the giving and receiving of forgiveness, and the best forgivers in the world are those who can remind themselves constantly that God has first forgiven them. Like the man who complains he has no shoes until he meets a man who has no feet, an offended spouse naturally has a difficult time forgiving others until he remembers he’s been forgiven an insurmountable debt by God. When that truth sinks into a person’s soul, it should produce a humility that creates an environment for forgiveness to happen.
That kind of depth—and so much more—is found under the category “spiritual growth.” Self help guides won’t get you there. Inspired intentions don’t pack the power. Only a commitment to cultivating your spiritual life allows access to what you’ll need to make it.
And don’t try to grow completely alone. Get a spiritual mentor. Someone who knows the Bible. Someone who has walked with God longer than you. If you can’t find someone willing to pour into your spiritual life, reach out to an organization like Athletes in Action or FCA and they’ll help you.
Get involved in a Bible teaching church
This goes hand-in-hand with having a spiritual mentor, only now we’re on a community level. In a good church, you’ll find resources to help you grow: other people, weekly teaching, online recordings and seminars. Plus, there is something about hearing the Word of God in the context of a community of people that edifies, challenges, and essentially helps you grow in ways you can’t or won’t on your own.
Getting “involved” could mean the simplicity of weekly attendance at a service. It could mean becoming part of a small group. Possibly engaging in some form of service together helping others. All of these community touch-points help you get your eyes off one another and onto what God is doing in the world. Sharing life with folks outside the college community prepares you for the rest of your life in the real world outside of football and campus life.
I know you don’t have time right now. Frankly, nobody ever does. But getting connected to a local community as husband and wife will help you immensely as you get started on this journey. You may not be ready right now—especially while in-season—but don’t slack on it indefinitely.
Hang out with other couples who are serious about marriage
Marriage just doesn’t get taken all that seriously these days, and that’s unfortunate for us both as individuals and as a society. Too many messages come at us that make marriage seem trivial, just an antiquated habit that we’ve progressed beyond. The vows offered to you even wound up laced with humor, as though we might be found guilty of making this moment too weighty.
At every turn, you’ll have to fight to take marriage seriously. It’s critical to find some other friends who value it too—ASAP! Folks in the church are exhorted to “spur one another on to love and good deeds,” and nowhere is this verse more immediately relevant than in your home. Find at least one other couple that isn’t ashamed to be taking marriage seriously and spend frequent time with them.
Hanging out with other dudes that will encourage you to always go home and do the right thing will actually help empower you to do it. Hanging out with dudes that are committed to the club scene will only make your task that much harder at home.
Intentionally educate yourself about marriage
In one sense, getting married is as easy as finding an ordained coach who agrees to read a set of vows at midfield after a practice before declaring you married.
But to fulfill God’s plan for marriage in Genesis 2:24—to leave, cleave, and become one flesh—involves a lifetime of study. It will take far longer to pass this exam than any challenge school ever offered.
Fortunately, folks with wisdom about marriage have written, spoken, and recorded their thoughts so we can access them at all times. Read books like The Five Love Languages, a book that will save you much confusion when trying to communicate love to each other. Check out modern classics like Love and Respect or His Needs, Her Needs or Sacred Marriage, all books that will help you think both deeply and practically about marriage. How about Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married?
Don’t quit the first time you wake up hating each other
If you haven’t already, you will. You’ll go through days wondering why you ever signed up for this. But don’t quit.
Your roommates got on your nerves at times, right? Now you just have a permanent roommate. Here’s the mystery behind staying together: If you’ll hang in there when you don’t feel warm toward each other, if you’ll humble yourselves repeatedly to forgive each other, if you’ll make choices in one another’s best interest instead of only your own, you’ll find intimacy. And life. And a sweetness that’s literally only available to those who hang in there to the end.
So don’t quit. See number one on this list and keep trusting God to keep going and to change you into the man and woman you were created to be—discovered through staying married to each other through good times and bad!