You’ve baked a cake before, haven’t you? Have you ever baked one from scratch? A few more ingredients are needed than the boxed mix, eggs and water. Starting from scratch we’ll need flour, sugar, butter or oil, eggs, baking powder, salt and maybe a few more ingredients depending on what kind of cake we’re making. When we put all of that in a bowl and mix it up and then put it in the hot oven for a period of time, what comes out is a cake. It’s not rocket science, it’s culinary science. We have a formula (recipe) and a process (baking) that create a desired result (cake).

What happens if we forget an ingredient? Will our cake be a success without flour? How about without sugar? Even if we leave out the small essential ingredients, the salt and the baking powder, the cake will flop. OK, it is possible to do without eggs, if you substitute something that has the same effect – like buttermilk and baking soda. We cannot, however, ignore the egg altogether. We have to have all the essential ingredients listed above.

What’s not terribly important is the order in which we add them to the bowl, how long we mix them, what shape pan we use – we can even use a cookie sheet – and we still get a yummy treat. There’s room for variation in this formula, but just not in the essential ingredients. In fact, the possibilities are infinite – from red velvet cake to hummingbird cake to pineapple upside down cake to carrot cake to German chocolate cake and beyond – the essential ingredients for cake are like the notes in a musical scale from which unlimited symphonies can be created.

You know all of this about cake – I’ve not taught you anything new – if you want to end up with cake you have to use the right ingredients. No arguments, right? Would you then agree that the same is true about anything we’re cooking up in our life? If we want to achieve a desired result, we have to start with the essential ingredients for that recipe.

Let’s look at the recipe for a successful marriage:


One godly, mature man

One godly, mature woman

A good measure of time to get to know each other

Two whole purities

A blessing from the parents (or caring adults in our lives)

Financial resources sufficient to support a family


If we put all these ingredients together, we’ve got a great marriage. Did you notice something missing in that recipe? There’s no love! What kind of marriage can you make without love? Some would argue that love is a byproduct of a successful marriage. For most of human history, there’s been no love between the bride and groom on the wedding day, but it was expected that love would grow as byproduct of a successful marriage.

What happens if we substitute one dysfunctional man for one godly, mature man? We’ll be cooking up trouble, not a successful marriage. The same is true if we substitute a dysfunctional woman for the godly, mature woman, or if we substitute a godly immature woman for a godly, mature woman. If we have grown up in a dysfunctional family, we may need to take some years to rehabilitate ourselves into functional women before we can be one of the essential ingredients in a successful marriage. If we’re young and immature (and the two generally go hand in hand), we need to wait until we’ve matured to become one of the essential ingredients in a successful marriage.

What about the blessing of the parents or the caring adult in our life? Is that really important? Can’t we substitute the blessing of friends instead? Well, if you’re 50 years old and your parents are in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s, sure, friends will work in that sort of a pinch. But when parents or the caring adult in our lives are able to give the blessing, we can’t leave them out of the recipe and get a successful marriage.

You were with me all through that cake baking thing, weren’t you? How about through the recipe for a successful marriage? Are you still with me or are you starting to disagree with this baking analogy?

You know, you can disagree all you want, but that doesn’t change the recipe for a successful marriage. Just like we can try repeatedly to bake a cake without the essential ingredients, so too, we can try marriage over and over, leaving out essential ingredients. Either way the result will be inevitable: it’ll leave a bad taste in our mouth. At the end of the day, our kitchen is a disaster when we experiment with cake recipes. When we experiment with the recipe for a successful marriage, our life becomes a disaster. Before we know it, we’re 30 years old and divorced! How did this happen we wonder? We need to go back and read the recipe and see which ingredient we forgot or where we tried to make a substitution.

Why don’t we just follow the recipe to begin with? Do we think that at the ripe old age of 18, 19, 20 or just a little older we can shortcut a process that’s ordained by God and get a new result? Do we know better than the wisdom of the ages?

When we throw a bunch of substitute ingredients in a bowl and mix them together, we will get exactly what we have made – gunk. God loves us and forgives our sin, but God seldom performs miracles in the oven. Though the guilt for our foolishness is washed away in the cleansing tide of Christ’s blood, we still get the cake we made and we have to eat it too.

Excerpted from On My Own Now: Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debt-free and Regret-free by Donna Lee Schillinger