It never ceases to amaze me that when you talk to many young people about marriage, their first response is about the wedding. There is always so much excited and anticipation of an approaching wedding day. Handsome men in tuxedos, the bride in her flowing white gown, beautiful flowers adorning the surroundings, and melodious music accompanying all the guests that have come to help the couple rejoice. Just as quickly as you see the dreamy look on most teenage girls as they fantasize about their Cinderella moment, you can get just as emotionally filled responses from asking those who have already wed about marriage. The reaction I get from many is that marriage is… HARD!!!
Hard is not the word that those engaged or newly married would ever choose to characterize their relationships. So how do we get to that point. The answer is walking the ups and downs, joys and disappointments of life. More than the circumstances, it is the response of two individuals who are far from perfect trying to blend their humanness. Sometimes that brings about wonderful chemistry of marital bliss. Often times, it can bring conflict, poor communication, and hard feelings. Unfortunately the image of Cinderella and Happily Ever After disillusion most of us from believing that life can be hard after the I do’s. Which begs the question –
There used to be a phrase that was quite common years ago, “If it feels good, it must be right.” As a parent, I can assure you that this saying holds little worth in making credible life choices. I would challenge it is also a poor standard for measuring the value of a marriage. There will be days filled with joys of your first child’s birth or a promotion at work, the anticipation of a family vacation or the purchase of that first home, and the contentment of the familiar. However, there are many days filled with disputes, anger, and bitterness as we struggle to find our way in budgeting those paychecks (especially when there seems to be shortfalls), parenting children who just seem to know how to pit us against one another, or even instances where we both feel that we are following God’s lead, but it seems like we are headed down different roads.
It is on these days in particular that we must realize that as unromantic as it may sound, marriage is not about a feeling, but about a choice. Feelings are fleeting, but a commitment is meant to stay a lifetime. But what about the days when the only feelings left are those filled with hurt, rejection, ridicule, or even hatred. Then marriage is still a choice. In really doing some pondering, I do believe that marriage is not only a choice, but a choice for a lifetime.
- God’s Commitment to Me. In Scripture, Christ is the bridegroom and the body of believers are His bride. I am part of that body. My faith would mean nothing if one day Christ could just say, “I just don’t think I feel in love with you” and walks away. My God is faithful, long suffering, and perseveres through my darkest times to continue carrying me and caring for me. Loving me. Scripture further says that we are molded each day by the Master Potter to be refined in His image. What does that say about my faithfulness, long suffering, and perseverance to my spouse?
- A Covenant Promise. We serve a God that makes convenant promises to his people. In the book of Genesis, He sends forth a rainbow as a promise to never again wipe out all of creation with his wrath. In Isaiah, He promised a Passover Lamb to wash over our sins with His grace. I can trust in my faith, because I serve a God that keeps His Word. Even on the worst of days, I am reminded that my wedding vows were not just made to my husband, but to my Heavenly Father. If my Heavenly Father can keep His Word for all of eternity, should I be excused from the same to Him.
- The Two Shall Become One. When we marry, there is a physical aspect of the two becoming one. Much deeper than the physical union is the binding of two lives that will be intertwined for all of eternity. No matter how much we want to walk away and maybe even attempt to do so, the reality is that after being married for any length of time you can never claim back that part of you that has become part of your husband or vice versa. The person that I was before I married is forever gone. In leaving my marriage, I will never get my old self back. It is no more. No matter how talented a divorce attorney I could ever hire, there are some parts of my life that would forever be intertwined with my husband.
- Just a Different Name. Our modern day culture would love for us to believe that if we are unhappy, we can simply file for divorce and all the marital problems will disappear. Hello, out there! Yes, the marital problems end, but the problems with an ex-spouse are just beginning. You see the problems and struggles don’t go away. You are both still two sinners trying to find a way in the world and short of God’s grace and a lot of forgiveness toward one another, the problems will endure just under a different name.
- Marriage: A Tool in God’s Toolbox. In Romans 8:28, God promises that all things will work together for good to those that believe in Him. On some of the hardest days of my marriage when it is hard to speak a kind word, offer forgiveness, or extend grace to one that may be too prideful to see his need for it, God may be using those very trials and struggles to develop us into His perfect bride. Only God knows exactly what it will take to make our stubborn personalities yield to His Will so that we can have the most beautiful and intimate communion with Him when we are called home.
So the next time life brings hardships and struggles that have explosive power in your home, marriage is not about feeling, it is about a choice. A choice to implement the fruits of the Spirit for His glory in the highest of all relationships that mirrors Christ and His Bride, the Church. It isn’t always easy, but most things that are truly worth it aren’t. Which is a great lead-in to why, as parents, we should never give up on our children. But that is a post for another day. Keep on loving even went you don’t feel like it – one hour at a time.