As required reading for pre-marital counseling, my soon-to-be-husband and I read the book, “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas. One of Gary’s main principles explains that the purpose of marriage is to make us holy, not happy. (Okay, it’s also the subtitle!)
As an engaged woman, that statement grated on every fabric of my being. All of my hopes and dreams were months away from coming true. Muttering “I do!” would be the key to my life’s fulfillment. How dare this author imply that marriage wouldn’t make me happy! How dare he suggest that marriage would squeeze out the worst in me! How dare he presume there was still sin in my heart that needed to be brought to the light for God to reveal and redeem.
I wasn’t interested in marriage as spiritual growth. I wanted happily ever after. I faked my way through conversations about the book’s content. In my heart, the concept was too aggravating to dwell on.
Now, after almost eleven years of marriage, I’ll confess. Gary Thomas was right. Marriage didn’t make me happier. But, it’s sure done a work on making me holier.
This has been “one of those” weeks for our marriage. Some of the issues we face now are the same issues we struggled with a decade ago. And, I wrestle feelings of discouragement. I wonder: Will it ever get easier? Will I ever wake up one morning and marvel at what a breeze marriage is?
I doubt it.
I don’t say that to be Debbie Downer. Rather, I’ve replaced the fantasy of marriage with the reality. Marriage is a covenant between two sinners. And, as such, there will always be struggle. Yes, Jesus’ sacrifice makes both my husband and I new creations, but our flesh still battles for what it wants.
At my core, I fight a virus comprised of selfishness, unrealistic expectations, and the desire to have everything go my way. Some weeks I think I’m well. “The virus is gone!” I say to myself. Then other weeks, like this one, I realize that the virus is still there. In its dormancy I couldn’t detect it, but it never went away.
Part of my struggle? I expected marriage to fix my body image problems. I had long waited for a husband to rescue me from my insecurity. I needed a man to confirm my worth and my value. I needed someone to stamp on my forehead, “This one’s okay! She’s mine and I love her like mad! She’s to die for!”
I needed a savior, but all I got out of marriage was a husband.
I don’t say this to disparage the husband God gave me. Not at all. Eric is amazing! I marvel at the ways God has grown him and used him to grow me in one short decade of marriage. He offers me strength, support, companionship and unconditional love at times when I know I act unlovely.
But, he didn’t save me. He can’t. That’s not his job. When I make him an idol and expect him to provide my rescue, I feel the let down.
The more clearly I see the ways I try to make my husband my savior, the more confused I become over how marriage should be. How does this marriage-as-sanctification thing work? Is it okay to desire that it be enjoyable too?
I planned to take a blogging break this week, but as I reflect on my marriage and how God presses on my heart, I decided to instead share with you some of my other posts about marriage. I don’t have all the answers. Yet, now, as I look back at these posts I see how God has been faithful to teach me through our struggle.
I’m not sure where you are at, personally. Maybe you are hoping for a husband. Maybe your marriage is on year forty and you have more answers than I do. Or, maybe you are somewhere in between. But, here are a few posts for you to check out if marriage is heavy on your heart this week too.
It just wasn’t. Read more:
Body image problems are issues no mere man can fix. Read why:
I had a bit of a control problem when we first got married. I subtly tried to take over. If I was in control, then everything would go my way, right? (That didn’t happen! Read why!)
Good practices for every marriage are hidden in here: