Our first date was at George Webb’s. For those of you who arent familiar with this place, think Waffle House or a smaller, dimly lit IHOP. We talked about silly things like, “Whats your favorite feature on your face?” (my eyes), and deeper things like “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” (take care of babies). It was nothing romantic or extraordinary but it was the last first date of our lives, and the start of our life together. From that moment, I knew I wanted to be his only dinner date.

Having a God-honoring, old fashioned marriage is tough. Submission, respect, sacrifice, selflessness – those are tough words. Even more difficult than saying them and understanding them is actually putting them into practice. You’d think after 13.5 years of marriage Id have mastered one of these things. No such luck. Some days Im the perfect wife. I send encouraging texts,  I make him coffee and a smoothie to have on his way to work, I pack him a lunch, I clean the house so he comes home to his castle, I make sure our sheets are clean and his laundry is put away, I greet him with a kiss and a warm dinner.

Then there are the other 360 days a year.

These days I am the farthest thing from a perfect wife. I snap at him as he leaves the house, I dont get up early enough to make him his smoothie, I forget to clean the coffee maker the day before so he doesnt have time to clean it and brew more before he leaves, I text him a passive aggressive text about working so much, the garage gets so messy he cant even walk to the door, dinner is whatever you can find,”  and the laundry has exploded all over the house.

Somehow we get through those tough days and still love each other. There are many days that I need to ask for forgiveness as he walks through the door, or as we climb into bed. I pray that God would give me compassion for him and his long days at work. I read blogs about being a good homemaker and better ways to organize my time. Some of it works, for a time. Then a new day or week begins and I have to start over, go through more lessons on respect and sacrifice and true love. I ask God, Havent I learned this yet?! He gently reminds me, Nope. Lets try this again.”

One lesson Ive learned is that God-honoring marriages require strict boundaries. Theres another fun word. Boundaries. When we were children, we understood boundaries, rules, regulations. We understood that these kept us safe, even when we didnt really like it. We knew that we had to stay in our yard and not cross the street because it was dangerous. Maybe we could get away with it a few times; but it was risky, unpredictable. There were consequences. We knew that if we went into the principles office without being invited, that it was rude and disrespectful; it was wrong. Maybe we didnt like it, but it usually made sense. All of the sudden we are grown ups, and boundaries dont apply. We dont like to be told what to do, where to go or not to go, who to see or not to see. We should be able to do whatever we want, right? Wrong. Especially in a marriage, when youve submitted your life to another person. Two becomes one, your life is not your own. These boundaries keep you safe, secure, and connected.

Everyones boundaries are different, but there are some basic ones that any God-honoring couple would (should?) agree on. No coarse joking, not a hint of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3). Treat younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity (1 Timothy 5:1-2).  Keep the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4).  Learn to control your body in a way that is holy and honorable (1 Thessalonians 4:4).  How you go about honoring those boundaries is the tricky part. For some people it may be no computers in private places. Some may suggest no close friends of the opposite sex. For others it may be not being alone with someone of the opposite sex. Perhaps its having open doors during meetings in an office setting. Maybe its no R rated moves. The list goes on and on, and each couple needs to wrestle with how they are going to honor these God-given boundaries. Its vital to the success of the marriage.

Heres where it gets exciting. I love that my husband has boundaries. Not because I dont trust him. I do, without a moments hesitation. Not because Im insecure (okay, maybe I am but not in his love for me). Not because he has been unfaithful and given me a reason to doubt him. No, I love it because it gives me freedom! Freedom from worry and insecurity. Freedom to love him without a single doubt of where his heart is. Freedom to be naked and unashamed” (Gen2:25), because I know theres nothing or no one between us. Freedom to tell him all my failures and know his heart is still one with mine. Freedom to mess up and know he is not leaving, because he has told me he values our marriage above all else. I love that my husband will only see my eyes when hes looking across a table at a nice restaurant (or George Webb’s). I love that he will only have my hand to grasp when we go out to see a movie. I love that Im the only one to hear him sing when we drive. I love knowing these things. I am secure because we have set boundaries to never be alone with a member of the opposite sex. We talk about it, and prioritize keeping that hedge of protection around our marriage. Theres not one ounce of doubt where his heart is.

We are weak, sinful people. To set up a security system in our marriage is important. Why wouldnt we want to protect the most precious thing we have? Christ says our marriage should reflect the love He has for His church. His sacrificial, humble-enough-to-die-on-a-cross kind of love. This kind of love sets aside all pride to serve another. Serving my husband by setting up boundaries and keeping them is a Christ-like love.

Through the decade plus we have been married, there have been countless dinner dates. Every single time, I am thankful for a man who wants to honor God with our marriage, who wants to keep his heart connected to mine. And every single time, I still look across that table and thank God that I am his one and only dinner date.

Hannah Carpenter

I am simply a crazy and stressed homeschool mom living in Ohio. I have five amazing kids and one incredible husband who still loves me after 15 years. Most importantly, I am a daughter of the King who is trying to honor Him everyday through my parenting, teaching, art and writing.