Updated: Feb 2, 2018
June 3, 2006. That’s the day Abbey and I made our vows to each other before God, family and friends. I remember that day so well. Someone had prayed over my hair (not lying either) that it would look nice. It did. (Side note: if you know me very well at all you know my hair is like a gospel analogy. I cannot achieve a good hairstyle by works alone. My hair is need of grace and mercy with every passing day.) I had on a nice suit and tie. I was nervous and excited. My bride-to-be was stunning. Her white dress paled in comparison to the beauty radiating from within. I remember when the door opened, and I saw my beautiful bride standing there coming to join me at the front. Pictures do not do moments like this justice. That image is forever burned into my mind, and all the emotions and thoughts surrounding it with it. I was marrying my best friend. I was marrying the most beautiful, godly woman I had ever known and ever cared to know. We made vows to each other that day having absolutely no clue what would happen next.
I remember in the first few months of our marriage that people would ask how everything was going. We often answered by telling people how much harder marriage was than we anticipated. About six months in to our marriage I remember thinking about the way we talked about marriage and wondering why it was so hard, and then I had a comparison come to mind. I began to think about our progression as humans from infants to adults. Marriage is very similar to this progression that we all go through. We were basically six months old. Our best forms of communication were crying and throwing fits. At six months, we were finally able to sit up without falling over. At nine months, we could crawl and at the one-year mark we were full on into mashed up foods and saying our first coherent words. What I basically realized in all this was that in many ways we were rushing our marriage. We were trying so hard to be what we saw couples that had been married for 30 years be. We are Christians after all; this shouldn’t be hard, right?
In reality, it is hard. Very hard. Two sinners coming together as one is never easy. The day you say “I Do” is similar to the day one is born. Everything is new. For “nine” months you have formed the main things you will need to survive in your new context. Nothing inside the womb or the engagement process could fully prepare you for what will happen next. You say “I DO”, you kiss, you walk down the isle as the new Mr. and Mrs., everyone cheers for the new couple, you leave the reception, board a plane for the beach and moments later someone is already crying or angry. Yes, it happens about that fast. You see you just got married. You just became one. This is all brand new, and neither of you have a clue what you are doing. You will spend your first few years trying hard to communicate with one another. The days you nail it are like the day your child walks by himself for the first time. Go out and enjoy a nice dinner! Celebrate this grace from the Lord. I believe that when you see marriage through the lens of human growth it helps slow everything down and takes away some of the “freak out” moments of marriage. Not every conflict needs three months of counseling.
My wife and I are about to be 8 years old in marriage years. We are no more experts on marriage than an 8 year old is at life. We have experienced a lot to be fair, but we have much life ahead of us. I can say this, I absolutely love and adore my wife more today than the day we said “I Do.” She is far more beautiful and godly and amazing than the beginning. We have cried, hurt, had multiple sleepless nights, freaked out and seen each other at our worst. We have laughed, rejoiced, served, encouraged, forgiven and loved one other deeply. She is my best friend in the whole world. I share everything with her. We, as most humans do, tend to think it can’t get any better than this. Then we meet a couple like George and Becky Woodward at Redeemer who have many more years on us in marriage. We see and hear about their love for each other and how it just gets better and we realize how arrogant we are in our youth. And here’s what’s crazy about all this. The Woodward’s would be the first to tell you that they have a long way to go still. While they serve as an example to many of us, their marriage is not the goal of our marriages.
Ephesians 5:30-31 says, “’Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 here, then he expounds on it calling it a mystery. The mystery he says is this – the Genesis 2:24 passage is about Jesus. Jesus would leave home and come after His bride, the church. He would become one flesh with her. Jesus’ marriage to his bride is what all of our marriages are all about. Marriage is a gospel announcement to the world. This is why it is so sacred and holy and not open for debate. The goal of our marriages is show the world (in a flawed way) Jesus’ pursuit of the church. Men aren’t commanded to love their wives like Christ loves the church because it’s a good model for marriage. They are commanded to do so as a testimony to the world that Jesus has loved us sacrificially and has come for us. Wives aren’t commanded to submit to their husbands like the Church to Jesus because that’s a good model to follow. No, they are commanded as such because God means for the world to see what it looks like for the bride of Christ to submit to her husband, Jesus. Your marriage is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. That end, as with everything else, is God’s global glory and for your good. So want some really good news?
GOD CARES MORE ABOUT YOUR MARRIAGE THAN YOU DO! He wants it to succeed more than you do. He wants it to flourish more than you do. Marriage should cause us to worship Jesus more and more. Marriage should make us more and more aware of how sinful and rebellious we are. Marriage should be a daily reminder of our desperate need for Jesus. If you want a marriage that makes it 40, 50, 60 years you don’t need Jesus. Yes, you read that right. Plenty of people who do not believe in Jesus have stayed married for a long time. However, if you want a marriage that matters, you need Jesus. If you want a marriage that sanctifies, you need Jesus. If you want a marriage that fulfills its designed purpose then you absolutely have to have Jesus. He must be the center. This is non-negotiable! Aside from the few exceptions, divorce should never be an option. If your marriage stinks, I can assure you that marrying another sinful human is not going to make it better. Our marriages are only as good as our submission to Jesus.
My hope in writing this is two-fold.
1) I hope it encourages married couples, no matter how long you have been married, to slow down. You are not in a sprint, but a marathon. God is patient. We need to be patient. Sanctification is the rest of your life. Get help where and when you need help. Freak out less as you realize that not every argument is the end. Enjoy the journey, and more importantly enjoy God who has given you marriage for His glory and your good.
2) Stop believing lies. Lies that your spouse is the problem. Lies that your spouse completes you. Lies that your spouse is your hope and salvation. Lies that your marriage is beyond repair. Lies that you don’t have problems. Lies that you are too good for counseling. Lies that you don’t need Jesus and/or the church. If there was ever a spouse who could make the argument that the other spouse was the problem that would be Jesus. Yet he does not see us a problem beyond repair. He died for his wife. He cleansed her. He washed her with the Word. He came after her. He did not run. He did not give up. He did not waver in his affections for her. He did not bash her. He is gentle and kind with her. He is loving and gracious with her. He never leaves her side. Jesus is every marriages only hope and sustainer and healer and reconciler. So believe truth! Jesus is Truth (John 14:6)!
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
-- Hebrews 10:24-25