The Mystery of Marriage
On the eve of my 30th anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on the mystery of marriage. On June 3, 1989, I vowed to love my husband in sickness, and in health, poverty and wealth, “until death do us part.” Before I get started on my personal journey, I thought I might define marriage as an encouragement to other women who are a little less further on the path than I am.
The Definition of Marriage
First of all, marriage is a covenant (a contract or treaty) between you, your husband, and God. You are promising to be your husband’s faithful wife, and all that entails, before him, God, and all of your family and friends. It goes without saying that these vows should not be taken lightly. Christ and His love for the church (His bride), and how He gave His life for her, are the picture Paul uses for marriage in Ephesians 5:25-27, NASB.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
Are You a Marriage Martyr?
What if your husband doesn’t seem to love you like Christ loves His church? Do you feel like you should be a martyr for staying in your marriage? If so, I’m writing this post for you. First of all, think about the martyrs. They gave their lives rather than denounce the name of Jesus Christ. At times I’ve wondered what I would do if I were called to lose my family, livelihood, freedom, or life, for Jesus. Could I do it? Years ago one of my children’s coaches and I were discussing that very thing. She was studying the Protestant Reformation with her children, and was talking about how Christian martyrs were beheaded and burned at the stake. I said, “Wow, I don’t know if I could do that.”
Then she said, “Yes, you could. Especially if you had to live with the consequences of not standing up for Jesus.”
I thought about it, and she was right. The resulting mental anguish and shame of denouncing Jesus would be unbearable. If you are a martyr wife, take heart. You have everything to gain by hanging on to your marriage, and everything to lose if you don’t.
Easing Your Marriage Struggles
Out of reverence for my husband and children, I can’t write in detail about all of my marriage struggles, but I can tell you what made them easier. First of all, if you and your husband have problems that can’t be resolved between yourselves, don’t try to hide it. Tell your parents, and his parents, for starters. What if they tell the whole family? They might not tell the whole family, but the information will trickle down through the ranks eventually. Don’t be ashamed. You’ll be surprised by the number of people who will disclose their own marriage woes once you become a little more transparent about your own. Plus, you’ll have a great testimony when your marriage survives the storm!
Sin Thrives in Darkness
You aren’t being disloyal by revealing the problem. It’s like mildew under an old, wooden porch. Once you pop those rotten boards off, the sun is free to come in and dry up the mold. Also, both you and your spouse will be more accountable for the things you say and do if the people who love you most are aware of your problems. Remember, sin occurs in darkness and flourishes in secrecy.
I disagree with people who say that marriage/couples counseling doesn’t work. Nothing works 100% of the time when dealing with wretched, hard-headed, sinful humans, but a counselor with a Christian perspective can be a great help. First of all, if you’re both willing to go (and cry all over your shoes in front of a stranger), that says a lot. Secondly, it gives everyone greater accountability. The truth, and everything you’ve shoved under a rock, will be unearthed. While having your dirty laundry aired is a little scary, it’s helpful too. You will try harder to be more mature during the next disagreement if your words are likely to be repeated during an upcoming session. There’s an old joke one of my friends told me years ago that I love. “Why does counseling work for men?” she said.
“I’m not sure,” I replied.
“Because men will do anything to avoid going back for more counseling.” It’s funny but true. Most men would rather do anything than sit in a chair and answer questions about their feelings.
The Bell Curve of Marriage
Luckily, the course of a typical marriage is like a bell curve. The beginning is flat and peaceful. Once child rearing and financial (or other struggles) problems kick in, your marriage becomes like an arc. The arc, or curve, is full of trials and tribulations as you’re both trying to figure out how to raise children, pay the bills, and divvy up the chores. There may also be some really big curve balls mixed in, like loss of a job, or sickness.
Things do get easier. The bell curve goes back to a straight line eventually. In my case, the children are older now (and easier), and my husband makes more money than he did in our younger years. Don’t ever underestimate the strife caused by colic and financial woes!
Now that we’re reentering the flat part of the bell curve, my husband and I are becoming best friends again, like we were in the beginning. We’ve been going on a Friday night date ever since we’ve had a child old enough to babysit. We start at a medium-priced restaurant (like IHOP or Zaxbys), and finish up at Walmart with my weekly grocery list. Recently, we joined Planet Fitness together. I prefer walking outdoors, but since he loves lifting weights, I tag along a couple times per week and use the treadmill or the elliptical machine for 35 minutes. Just as you slowly added to your family, one child at a time, you will slowly spend more and more time together as the children leave the nest.
Your Spouse Was Chosen
In closing, I don’t want you to forget why you chose to marry your spouse in the first place. The selection of a spouse is a mysterious thing. Why did you fall in love with him, out of the billions of people on planet earth? Isn’t it amazing that your spouse’s strengths generally coincide with your weaknesses? Did you know that you became one flesh when you married? The physical union of you and your one-flesh spouse is wonderful and mysterious as well. Proverbs 15:18-20 warns of elevating cheap imitations over God’s best for your life:
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 As a loving hind and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
Be exhilarated always with her love.
20 For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adultress
And embrace the bosom of a foreigner?
Celebrating 30 Years of Marriage
Tomorrow we’re going to Savannah, Georgia, where we spent our honeymoon night, to celebrate our 30 year anniversary. We’re staying at a different historic hotel this time. I’ll definitely be writing a travel post about our trip afterwards. I hope you were encouraged by my post, The Mystery of Marriage.
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