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By Lilyan Andrews

When one thinks of getting married, they typically think of the blissful moments they’ll be spending with the person they love. But what if I told you that marriage is more than just the sweet happily ever after ending in the movies you watch, or the picture-perfect social media posts you see. Marriage is hard work; work that’s totally worth it! And that hard work is not just for earthly joy, but eternal salvation as well. Through the trials of marriage, one can be refined to reach the Kingdom. 

That’s not to say that you need to be married to gain salvation. A life of singleness and celibacy can also refine you in different ways that will also lead to holiness. Above all is God’s grace that allows us to spend eternal life in the heavens with Him. 

In the Coptic wedding tradition, a couple is adorned with beautiful crowns during the sacramental ceremony. Crowns that represent glory and martyrdom. Martyrdom because marriage is all about sacrificing your life for someone else. Sacrificing your time, your desires, and your needs to put someone else’s time, desires and needs first. 

In the ceremonial prayers, the following passage from Ephesians is read:  

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5: 22-27)

Both of these commands from St. Paul call on us to set aside our pride and whole-heartedly serve the other. This command is much easier said than done, and if you’ve ever been in a relationship, you know exactly what I mean. But the good news is that through the sacrament of marriage we have the help of the Holy Spirit Himself in laying down our life for one another. It’s a beautiful sacrament, and a mystery indeed. A mystery that allows two people to become one, in flesh and spirit. 

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware gave a beautiful sermon in this Eastern Orthodox wedding and said, “In every true marriage, while there will be joy and fulfillment, there needs also to be unselfishness and sacrifice, but may the sense of joy always prevail.” 

Marriage is, without a doubt, a means to sanctification and salvation. If you think you’re perfect, just get married, and you’ll have someone tell you how imperfect you are. A spouse tends to point out the flaws in us that we might be blind to, and instead of letting that cause division, let it be a catalyst to repentance and betterment. 

God has many different ways of refining us, of putting us through the furnace of fire. I pray that we are refined and chastised before entering into marriage, so we may be able to bear the refinement that comes with being one flesh with someone else. 

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10)

Lilyan Andrews is a priest-wife, mother, engineer, blogger, and a certified life coach. While she is passionate about many things, she loves teaching and coaching others about healthy relationships. She has an active blog that has reached thousands in over 15 countries, where she writes for Coptic youth on struggles they face. She’s a NJ local, but serves with her husband, Fr. Antony Andrews, in St. Mary and St. Antonios Church in Queens, NY. If you want to know more about Lilyan, check out her blog ( Lilies and Thorns.