I have been thinking about marriage quite a bit lately. Granted, I am in the business of weddings, so it is always somewhat on my radar, however it has been hitting me on a more personal level as of late. One of my parents is getting ready to tie the knot again (I won't say which one since it's not my news to share), a photographer has asked my husband and I to be models for an upcoming styled anniversary shoot, we are getting ready to celebrate our real second wedding anniversary, and we are coming out of period of refinement in our marriage. As I have been thinking about marriage and the trials Don and I have already had to overcome in our few short years of being married, I am understanding with greater revelation the many misconceptions about marriage in our generation. The two lies pervasive in our culture is that marriage is either 1) not worth it (or worse, disposable) or 2) that if you love someone it should just be "easy." Neither of these are true, marriage is both worth it and hard work. And I hate to admit it, but I have believed both.
For years I didn't believe in marriage. I flat out dismissed the whole concept, and to me marriage seemed to be a death sentence; a prison of pain, lifelessness, and boredom. After watching my parent's troubled marriage for years and the subsequent aftermath of their divorce, experiencing my own pain after a plethora of failed relationships, and listening to how our media portrayed the popular (yet skiewed) male standpoint on marriage, I had given up hope. I had this deep desire to love and be loved (even though I would never have admitted it at the time), but I thought it was easier to be "strong" and not admit my need for companionship or a husband that would pursue me rather than to face the fact that I was desperately seeking something deeper. I eased my pain by pursuing the excitement of "falling in love" but then when the excitement would fade (as it always would) I would end up once again face-to-face with my reality: I was broken and none of those failed relationships were going to fix me.
As my relationship with Jesus began to strengthen and I let Him become my true love, and I understood His heart for marriage, the walls I had so carefully crafted began to fall to the ground in waves. This tough, strong woman I had created that always fell for the wrong guy, pushed men away, and never wanted to become "needy" began to desire a man that was strong enough to lead and guide her. I no longer wanted to be the leader in the relationship (I thought by leading the relationship I could control the effect it had on me), but I found myself wanting to be led by strong, capable hands. I wanted a man that would love me like Christ.
Over the years, we have made marriage disposable in our world. It's as if marriage is a commodity that can be bought and sold as it's use runs out. I read an article from GQ last night about Ashley Madison, an online network for extramarital affairs. Ashley Madison is the eHarmony or Match.com of cheating. You can use their services to create a profile and find other married folks looking to meet up and cheat on their spouse. The article was from the viewpoint of the women that use the site. Most of them admitted to being happy in their marriages and felt like their spouses were great guys and wonderful dads but said they had become "bored" and were looking to spice things up. Their way of doing this: hooking up with lots of random guys. Some of them had a don't ask - don't tell policy with their husbands and others were just downright sneaky about their exploits. These women seem to thrive on the thrill of leading a double life. Now, this kind of behavior is something you'd expect from a man, but I was surprised to read about how many women were beginning to share this same disregard for their marriages. One wife went so far as to say she was doing her husband a favor by keeping herself satisfied sexually outside of the marriage. Another said that no one person can fulfill all of your needs so she decided to use several men to make sure all of her needs were being met; this is selfishness incarnate. My heart was aching for the spouses. Our media often conveys the message that if we are not getting what we want, we should be and need to look elsewhere. The problem with this thinking, however, is that (as the woman from the article discovered) no one person (or career) can ever fulfill all of our needs; only Jesus can do that. If we look to people to fulfill our needs then we will merely bounce from person to person never finding a place to land. No one person is capable of bearing the weight of all that humans require.
There seems to be another misconception regarding marriage in our culture: that when we meet the right person things should just fall into place and be easy. Don and I have already had trials to overcome in our marriage; and when those troubles come up, this lie is the easiest to buy in to. Now, I know there are certain circumstances like infidelity or abuse that can make marriage nearly impossible to withstand (and I totally understand needing to get out of those situations), but for the most part, no marriage is without trials and many things can be resolved. Marriage is the joining together of two imperfect people with different life experiences, personalities, thought patterns, and flaws into a dependent and lifelong union. There are going to be set-backs. Marriage should be shaping both parties as each person's flaws are exposed and smoothed away through the process of refinement. It appears that God has designed marriage to reveal our true natures, smooth away our rough edges, and make us more like Him. As Tim Keller says in his book, Sacred Marriage, "What if God's primary intent for your marriage isn't to make you happy. . . but holy?".
Often the marriages that are the strongest, are the ones that have come through the fire and yet have not been consumed. When we overcome adversity we not only become stronger, but we also have a greater appreciation for the things that are dear to us. It is through the process of failure and reconciliation that husbands and wives can put into practice grace, forgiveness, and sacrificial love. When I got married I learned that I was not naturally good at being sacrificial. It is something I have to work on. I have to work on loving someone else more than myself. I have to work on not allowing my selfishness, pride, and laziness to impact our marriage. I have to work on always wanting everything to be easy. I have to allow God to reveal areas of growth that are still needed in my walk with Him. Marriage is not always easy; sometimes it can be very challenging. This is something people don't often admit. They won't tell you how hard the road may be or has been at times. However challenging though, marriage has been the most beautiful gift God has ever given me (apart from His love, healing, and salvation). As my husband has been willing to work on our marriage even when it could be easy to walk away, he has shown me what unconditional love looks like. This is one of the first times in my life I have truly experienced the heart of Christ for me, and I have seen it through my husband's eyes. Marriage causes our deepest insecurities, fears, and selfish tendencies to become exposed while simultaneously providing intimacy, companionship, fun, love, and joy that is unmatched by any other earthly relationship. Only God could be so wise as to make something that could both fulfill and sanctify us at the same time.
I will end by saying that for those of us starting out on this marriage journey it won't always be easy, but there are people who have successful marriages that can provide support. Kudos to all of you who have been married for 40, 50, and 60 years. I know the road was rough at times. You are an inspiration. You may not know it, but you have shown the younger generations that it can be done. Thank you for that.
Thanks for stopping by.