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‘It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.’ Those are the immortal words of Whitney Young, Jr., the great American Civil Rights leader, and I couldn’t agree more. Marriage is an opportunity that many people find themselves unprepared to embrace. Sometimes, people spend years, even decades, of their lives agonising over when ‘the one’ will show up. The tragedy is that when they do eventually get married to ‘the one’, one year down the line their marriages are in disarray and they want out. What went wrong? What happened to all the visions of living ‘happily ever after’?

Some single people do not realise that ‘happily ever afters’ are not a chance occurrence. They are usually the result of preparation meeting opportunity. A successful marriage takes more than dreams and high hopes; it requires dogged faith and commitment, a variety of skills and a hefty dose of wisdom. I am eternally amazed when I counsel some premarital couples and find that they know next to nothing about what the marriage manual, the Bible, has to say about how to cultivate a successful marriage. Many have not read a book on marriage in recent times (or ever!), nor have they ever sat down to listen to someone teach on marriage-building skills. How can we hope to succeed at a lifetime endeavour with such scant preparation?

Sometimes couples depend on a crash-course of marriage counselling six weeks before the wedding, at which point they are so wrapped up in wedding plans that they cannot give focused attention to the marriage which is the purpose for the wedding. The statistics do not lie; the level of preparation you put in before marriage is directly proportional to the level of satisfaction you will derive early in your marriage. While you may not know when the right person will show up, you are fully responsible for your level of preparedness when they do.

Are you marriage ready? Sure, you are trusting God for a spouse but, in the interim, have you done your best to acquire the skills that will set you off to a flying start? Are you better prepared for marriage this year than you were this time last year? Anybody can marry but not everybody can sustain a marriage. You don’t have to be perfect to be married but you do need to be prepared. The level of preparation you put into marriage is indicative of the value you place upon marriage. Preparation positions you for success and protects you from nasty surprises. When preparation meets opportunity great things happen.
The key to being marry-able is maturity. Most often we focus on physical maturity and assume that once a person attains a certain age they are mature enough to marry. Not so. Matthew‬ ‭19:11-12‬ in The Message paraphrase expresses it this way.

“But Jesus said, “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone. Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked—or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you’re capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.””

Marriage requires growth which transcends the addition of years. It requires an evolution in various areas of our lives until we are correctly positioned to make the best of the opportunity that marriage presents. There are three layers of maturity which I would like to address with you in relation to this subject.