Marriage is one of the greatest gifts God’s given us. To be able to have such a deep and lasting relationship with another person who you can do life and ministry with is incredible. Marriage isn’t something to take lightly, it’s a covenant between yourself, another person, and God.
I love expressing my love for my wife on social media. I want people to know how much I love her and how wonderful marriage can be. Yes, marriage can be tough at times, but too often our society degrades marriage, making it seem so hard, frustrating, and burdensome. I want to do the opposite. I want to show everyone it’s a good thing to find someone to spend the rest of your life with.
Often I’ll talk with the guys in the locker room about my relationship with my wife. They may or may not have a serious girlfriend, but many of them talk about things in the locker room they shouldn’t. I try to challenge them, “Do you think that’s cool to do? Do you think that kind of loose lifestyle is a challenge? Try something that’s actually challenging. Get in God’s Word, entrust your life to Him, and work on finding someone who will do the same alongside you.” It’s important for a husband and wife to be able to trust each other. It can take a lot of hard work and patience, but there’s nothing like knowing that person will always have your best interests at heart, just as you do for them. It may be easier to jump from one bed to another, but that kind of a lifestyle leads you to an empty road where you’ll be left wanting.
I used to ask my father, “How do you know when you’ve found the person you should marry?” To which he would reply, “When you know, you know!” At a young age, I didn’t understand that. But that’s exactly how it was for me and Danielle.
During my rookie year in the NFL, Danielle was in college, finishing up an internship with a PR rep who worked with one of my teammates. My teammate had mentioned during the season that he and his PR rep wanted to hook me up with an intern. He even gave me her number, but I didn’t call her; I didn’t even know who she was or what she looked like! Social media wasn’t so prevalent then so I couldn’t look her up on Facebook. Though I did keep her number in my phone.
Later that season I was making appearances in Tampa before the Super Bowl when the PR rep, who I had never met before, ran up to me frantically. She said to me, “Remember the girl we wanted you to meet?” I said yes, thinking it was no big deal. But when she came back and I saw Danielle walk up with her, I was in awe. I immediately wished I had called her sooner. I was stunned! As we began talking, I soon realized how intelligent she was, and then I found out she came from a Christian family and loved the Lord. I was immediately drawn to her. At the end of the night, she started putting her phone number in my phone when she realized it was already in there… She was a little surprised and I fumbled through an explanation before saying, “Ok, I’ll call you! Bye!”
The rest was history.
When you go through life with somebody, experience the same things with them, and invest in their future, you’re drawn closer together. My wife and I don’t take the old school approach in our marriage. I don’t come home, drop the paycheck on the table, and leave her with the kids. Ours is an equal partnership. She works hard while I’m practicing and competing, and in the offseason, I try to help out with the kids as much as I can so she can have some time off. During which she’s able to devote more time to her clothing line and pursue things she’s interested in.
We’re constantly bouncing ideas and strategies off each other for parenting, work, and ministry. We learn from each other. We encourage and challenge each other to be the best version of ourselves we can be. We’re transparent with each other in everything we do, striving to be better Christians, parents, and spouses.
We’re all born selfish. We grow up having everything provided for us. Then when we’re on our own, we learn how to provide for our own needs. But soon, we experience what I call the “Totem Pole Effect.” You get married and suddenly you have to put someone else before yourself. Wanting to serve and care for them, you learn to sacrifice your wants and needs for theirs. You’ll do anything you can to make them better, happier, and stronger by the love you show them. You go down a notch in the totem pole. Then when you have kids, suddenly you’re at the bottom of the stack. God’s first, followed by your wife, then your kids, and then there you are. These investments are humbling and they’re hard work, but they’re life-giving—worth every second.
My wife is so special. I am so blessed to have her by my side. When we got married, she came up with the idea to create a book of notes she would send with me every time I travel. In this book, we write each other notes, stories, poems, little things that happened throughout our days, encouragement, and prayers. She puts this book in my travel bag before I leave for a night away. I always know when I get to the hotel, I have a message waiting for me. I then write something back to her, which I give to her when I return home. It’s a fun way to stay connected. Communicating with her like this while I’m away makes me feel like she’s right there with me.
I take my role as a husband seriously. Christ calls us as husbands to treat our bride as He treated His—the Church. He laid down His life for His bride and we are to do the same. As Christ served His disciples, washing their feet, so I am to serve and cherish Danielle. It’s my job to always protect and encourage her—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of His body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the Church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” —Ephesians 5:28-33
I’d lay down my life for Danielle any day, just as Christ did for me. Being a husband to Danielle is a huge responsibility, a privilege, and the greatest blessing I’ve been given.
Matt Forte is a running back with the New York Jets and a regular contributor of The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.