This last summer, one of our youth was married. It was a beautiful wedding. The bride was beautiful. The groom was overjoyed. The ceremony was lovely.

    But let’s be honest, I was there for the party.

    Not the party as in the free-food-and-drinks party, although that part of weddings is always a nice bonus. I was there for the party of two people, who began a journey together a few years back. Two people from two very different worlds, who met in one sheer act of God, at a random get-together. Who smiled from across the room, who mustered up the courage to walk across said room, and who risked a little more of themselves each day to discover one another. Who were neither perfect nor perfectly in love, but were imperfectly ready to be all in. That, my friends, is worth a party.

    I walked over to a cushion-y, couch-y area of the reception and realized everyone sitting around me was under the age of 28. That’s cool. I can hang with the best of them. Then I noticed that they were all furiously scrawling words on tiny pieces of paper. Hmm. I was intrigued. There was a framed sign labeled “Date Night Jar.” Guests at the wedding were supposed to write down an idea or two for date nights. The bridal couple promised to fulfill one or two of these date nights each month over the coming year. As I mentioned earlier, the intensity with which several young adults sat around and furtively wrote out idea after idea was worth noting. I mean, these people sitting around me were date night idea machines. As I wrote down “go out for ice cream and hit up a walking trail,” the guy next to me included a green screen experience in his date night suggestion.

    Okay. Bring it on, Date Night Guy. I amped it up a notch with “rent kayaks” and “try Japanese cuisine.” Date Night Guy’s buddy wrote down “take a Thai cooking class” and “Michigan lighthouse tour with sunset picnic.” I gave up, slightly defeated but ready to hit the s’more bar.

    Dancing the night away with my husband later on the ballroom floor, something dawned on me: When had we forgotten to party? When had we forgotten to celebrate what we had?

    The message we believed was that date nights matter. Dating your spouse was an important part of keeping your marriage vibrant and joy-filled.

    The version of this we had fallen into, though, was this:

    • Date nights, maybe once a month, are obligatory, because we know it’s healthy.
    • Date nights, while super nice in concept, are expensive, and we have lots of other things to spend money on, so we’ll put $20 toward it and try to be “creative.”
    • Date nights that require planning? Ugh. There is a lot of planning in our life, so planning a date night sounds exhausting. . . . Let’s just go for Mexican.
    • I’m tired. Are you tired? How about we date night it up at home and order in after the kids go to bed?

    None of this is terrible, but date night no longer celebrated what we had and who we were and what we worked hard at every day. Date night was relegated to “Aw, that was nice.” And nice is fine, but we cannot forget that marriage is worth celebrating. The effort and care and attention given to grow a marriage as well as God’s faithfulness in holding it all together and making it something wonderful, even when it’s hard, deserves a clink of the wine glass. A moment to stop and say:
     
       “Thank you!” and

        “Praise the Lord!” and

        “Remember who we were when we danced at our own wedding?!” and

        “Watch out, next twenty years, because we’re just getting started!”

    King Solomon implores the reader in Ecclesiastes 9:9 to “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun” (NIV).

    That verse is maybe a little difficult to choke down, but let’s read it a little differently than you may have at first glance.

    Enjoy life with your wife. Enjoy each other. Enjoy the mundane and the average. Enjoy sitting on the couch together and lying down to sleep at night in the same bed, but also enjoy life with your wife (or your husband). Make the most of life together. It is so easy to relegate marriage to the back burner and settle into our marriages. We end up wondering in a few years, like my realization on the dance floor, that we forgot to enjoy life together. Let’s do it! Enjoy life! Embrace something new together. Put energy and effort into a night out where you can each be the younger version of you, a moment with less responsibility and more adventure. Eat new foods. Literally spice it up (spicy food is commonly known in many cultures as an aphrodisiac) and figuratively spice it up. Ask new questions that are silly or delve deeper to create a space away from the everyday. Often, new questions open up the conversation to long lost dreams and hopes you never even knew your spouse had, a spicy spouse you forgot was underneath all those burdens of life.

        “Would you rather eat octopus or alligator?”
         “If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?”
        “What was your favorite movie when you were a kid?”
        “If you worked at a different job, what would you do?”

    Enjoy life with your wife for a two-hour time span when the world around you can melt away a little bit. Put a little effort into it.

    Solomon’s outburst seems a little moody, but you have to give him credit that life can be toilsome. It is full of weight. I think the young adults around the Date Night Jar were able to be creative in a way that I was not because they weren’t plagued with the reality that the sky really isn’t the limit and every date isn’t roses and chocolates. However, there is absolutely nothing to stop us from thinking and dreaming. We might learn a thing or two from those crazy suggestions.

    Solomon also has another lesson if we pay attention to the rest of the Book of Ecclesiastes that we wouldn’t want to miss:

    It’s so easy for life to be meaningless.

    But with God, every single minute of it has meaning.
    That means that every single moment of your marriage is meaningful—from the dirty sink full of dishes to the quick kiss as someone heads out the door, to the dinner conversation to the shoulder to cry on when you have lost someone you love . . . because there is a God who breathes life into every piece of it, in His Son. He breaks open relationships that felt long dead and awakens passion we thought we had lost. Sometimes His fresh, life-giving Spirit rises up in huge moments, and marriages are reconciled or restored in a way we will never forget, but so often, with His Word, He speaks new life into our marriage each and every day. We can share this Word with each other by leaving little sticky notes of encouragement from Scripture on our spouse’s pile of work papers, by texting a Bible verse to cheer them when the days get busy, by whispering a prayer together before bed, or by strengthening them when they are not even aware of it.

    This here is the real spice, friends. Spice added to life. The Word, our God, is a spark of meaning in every marriage through a Savior who makes everything interesting and vibrant and fresh.

    So let’s show the young ’uns what we’ve got. Spice up your date night. Celebrate your relationship and your growth and all the time spent on something so worthwhile. And then celebrate a faithful Savior who has given us this beautiful gift—a marriage filled with meaning and purpose.
     

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