By Alicia Bruxvoort
“Celebrate always, pray constantly, and give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in. (This is God’s will for all of you in Jesus the Anointed.)” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (VOICE)
The best marriage advice I ever received was to stand on a chair and clap.
I was 20 years old with a sparkling ring on my finger and shimmering dreams in my heart. And I was certain my upcoming wedding marked the beginning of my own happily ever after.
I’d made it a habit during my engagement to meet frequently with my mentor about love and life and marriage. We’d huddle together in the back corner of the Student Union, chatting about the challenges of two selfish people becoming one. We’d discussed intimacy and affinity, fighting fairly and forgiving.
And we prayed. Oh, how we prayed over the marriage that would soon change my name and my life.
Then, one afternoon, I asked, “What’s your best advice for a happy marriage?” My mentor cupped her coffee mug and paused. Suddenly, she smiled and looked me straight in the eye.
“Be your husband’s greatest fan,” she said. “Find something to celebrate every day, then stand on a chair and cheer out loud for your man.”
She swallowed a giggle and glanced at her own wedding ring. “It may sound silly,” she conceded, “but it’s worked for us.”
I laughed and promised to refine my cheerleading skills. And, for a while, I kept my word.
As a newlywed, I stood on a battered old kitchen chair in our tiny white-walled apartment and applauded my man with gusto. I cheered when he landed a job delivering pizzas, when he made omelets for breakfast and when he hauled home baskets of clean clothes from the laundromat. I cheered when he passed his school exams and when he fixed our leaky faucet.
But I wasn’t the only cheerleader in our little family.
My husband climbed on chairs, too. He applauded when I made a batch of un-burnt brownies. He cheered when I survived my first day of student teaching. And he whooped and hollered when I got my first article published in the local newspaper. My man rooted for me when the rest of the world seemed silent, and his cheers drowned out my own internal critic’s noisy clanging.
Time passed, seasons changed and eventually those hands that had clapped with unabashed abandon became filled with babies, bills, diapers and the daily grind. And one morning, five kids and 10 years after I’d promised to be my husband’s greatest fan, I awoke to the hopeless hush of a weary heart.
I watched a sweet older couple strolling hand-in-hand through the park as I sat in the sandbox with my little ones, and wondered how anyone could keep love’s flame alight for a lifetime. I was only a decade into marriage and some days, I felt like the spark in my heart was waning dim.
That night, while my husband worked late, I complained to the Lord about the sorry state of my marriage. As the moonlight cast silver shadows on the dirty living room floor, God whispered, “When was the last time you cheered for your husband?”
I’d rooted for my son when he’d caught a fly ball at his baseball game. I’d clapped for my daughter when she’d made it across the monkey bars. And I’d cheered for my toddler when he’d eaten all of his peas.
But I couldn’t remember the last time I’d applauded my husband for anything.
The image of a beat-up kitchen chair flashed through my mind, and hot tears filled my tired eyes. I dropped to my knees with a tidal wave of conviction flooding my heart and an earnest prayer spilling from my lips, “Dear Jesus, show me how to become my husband’s greatest fan once again.”
In today’s key verses, the Apostle Paul doesn’t mention standing on chairs or clapping our hands, but he does command us to celebrate always…
Not just when we feel like it. Always.
This kind of celebration isn’t a well-planned party or inspired whimsy; this kind of celebration is a choice. It’s a deliberate barrage against ingratitude, a calculated attack on apathy.
To celebrate our spouse always means looking for what’s right rather than bemoaning what’s wrong. We focus on hope rather than wallow in disappointment; we acknowledge extraordinary grace in life’s ordinary grit.
To celebrate always is a daily decision to fan the flames of love in every season of the soul…’til death do us part.
Standing on furniture and clapping loudly is optional, but rejoicing in good times and bad is not. Of course, if I were you, I’d practice a few spunky moves when nobody’s looking.
’Cause after 22 years of sacred matrimony, I’ve learned that cheerleading may be hard on my kitchen chairs, but it’s good for my marriage!
Dear God, I want to be my husband’s greatest fan. Grow in me a grateful heart and teach me how to celebrate my marriage in all circumstances. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.