When my sister got engaged years ago, she made an observation that I’ve since realized is very true.
“So many people are negative about marriage,” she said. “When I say I’m engaged, they want to tell me how terrible it is.”
Now, I know marriage is hard. I understand there’s a vast difference in the mindset of a new bride and a couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. I’m aware that some people have a reason to be down on marriage because their spouse put them through a nightmare, and when their marriage ended, it was a blessing.
But oftentimes, the negative mindset prominent in our culture is caused by looking at marriage the wrong way. Magnifying the bad instead of the good. Listening to people complain about their spouse and deciding we should complain, too. Blaming our spouse for everything that goes wrong and unloading frustration on them because the promise of “til death do us part” makes us feel safe enough to do so.
What gets lost in this negativity is the spiritual aspect, the understanding of how marriage – as the deepest, most intimate relationship possible with another human being – is meant to draw us closer to God. How marriage is a vehicle to discover not only earthly joy, but also heavenly joy, a taste of what’s to come. How the real goal is to help each other become better people and grow into God’s image.
The most helpful marriage advice I’ve ever heard, in fact, came during a church service two years ago. During a liturgy, a priest said:
“The purpose of marriage is to help each other get to heaven. The reason marriage doesn’t exist in heaven is because you don’t need it once you’re there.”
Wow. If only someone had told me that when I was young bride who thought it was my husband’s job and responsibility to keep me happy (because frankly, he’s great at that). If only I’d thought more about our salvation and less about my wants, I could have asked myself all along whether my words, actions, and choices are helping or hindering my husband’s spiritual journey.
At the heart of every marriage are two sinners. Both husband and wife are full of weaknesses and flaws. But each person also has strengths and talents. And when you pool those strengths and talents together, you can compensate for many weaknesses. You can find a solidarity that isn’t possible alone.
Yet even so, it’s easy to be skeptical of marriage. It’s easy to listen to the naysayers and the divorce rate that warn against it and make a person wonder what’s so great about marriage anyway.
I’ve been married 16 years, and while I still have a lot to learn, I understand why marriage exists. And if a bride-to-be asked for my advice, I’d tell her this:
- Marriage is awesome and so fun. But keep realistic expectations and know upfront that you will have ups and down. If you expect some hard times, they won’t completely shock you. You’ll work through them and emerge stronger on the other side.
- It’s really cool when you react to someone’s story, and they tell you, “That’s exactly what your husband said!” After this happens four or five times, you realize you’re thinking with a common mind. You two have become one.
- Pray with your spouse. Read the Bible. Go to church and bow your heads before the Lord, humbly worshipping side-by-side. There are 1,000 ways to build intimacy, but a spiritual connection makes every other connection deeper and richer. It’s the glue that keeps you together.
- Get ready to laugh A LOT. Because in your private world, minor incidents become inside jokes that remain funny 20 years later. Other people won’t get your inside jokes, and that’s the point. They’re only funny to you.
- It’s okay to argue, but don’t be hateful or mean. When you disagree, look for a compromise. Try to understand your spouse’s view and meet in the middle when possible. Pray for the right resolution to reveal itself and don’t let the sun go down on your anger.
- Let your husband’s love teach you about Christ’s love. When he says you’re beautiful without makeup…when he hears your biggest secrets and loves you the same…when he forgives you or shows grace…when he faithfully goes to work every morning and works hard to provide for the family…when he lights up at the sight of you…when he holds you tight in bed at night because you’re crying over a bad day…these are some ways that God reveals Himself through your marriage. Take your husband’s love, and share it back with him – and then pass it on to others. This is how God’s kingdom grows.
- Kids add stress to a marriage. But they also hold tremendous potential to bring you closer, because you’re constantly bonding and marveling over the beautiful little creatures you created. Like your spouse, God will use your kids to reveal Himself to you. Through these relationships, both the highs and the lows, He seeks to make you a better person and draw you closer to Him.
In short, there’s a huge upside to marriage that doesn’t get enough attention. But only with God at the center of two united lives can marriage reach its fullest potential. Only when marriage is used as God intends, as a means to heal, restore, and redeem the two lives joined as one, can the benefits fully be realized.
“The purpose of marriage is to help each other get to heaven. The reason marriage doesn’t exist in heaven is because you don’t need it once you’re there.” When I reflect on these words, I want to be a better person and a better wife. I want heaven as much for my husband as I do myself.
And in that divine framework, I hear the negativity of our culture drowned out by the call of God, a God who created the gift of marriage so we can bring our partner home with us, and spend eternity with the one who taught us how to love and be loved, and who ultimately led our soul to a better place.
Thanks for reading this article today. If you found the message helpful, please share it through social media.
Also, I’ve written two books for teen & tween girls designed to empower them through faith. The newest one, Liked, is getting a fantastic response as a unique resource for girls of the digital age, and along with the bestselling 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, it’s being used widely across the U.S. for small group studies.
Have a great day, and thanks again for stopping by!
Posted by Kari on February 2, 2015