My wife and I recently celebrated our two-year anniversary. My grandfather, who has been married to my grandmother for over 50 years, informed me that we are still newlyweds. You may wonder what someone so new to this possibly has to share about marriage. But after Pastor Job preached on marriage a few weeks ago during our “All of Life” series, I found myself reflecting on what the Lord has taught me over the last two years. I claim none of this as my own wisdom, as I have none, but lean solely on what God has taught me through his Word and his ordained covenant.
I’ve never thought I was perfect, but there are certain areas of my life that I’ve felt much more conviction in since I’ve been married, particularly regarding selfishness and pride. Ephesians 5 commands us to love our wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This act of sacrifice, the climax of redemptive history, brimming with love and humility, is to be our model. The Holy Spirit often reminds me of this at the most inopportune times, whether I’m expecting my wife to make me dinner after she’s had just as long a day as I have or getting frustrated with the fact that I have to go out of my way to help her do something I didn’t anticipate having to do. These instances reveal that I think I deserve something. And I do. It’s called hell. And by God’s grace, he has saved me from that and given me a bride to love and serve just as he loves and serves the church.
Marriage has turned me into a man of repentance. I repented when I was single, just not as much as I do now that I’m married. It goes hand-in-hand with my previous point. I recognize now more than ever just how sinful I can be, and the result is continual, daily repentance, both to God and to my wife. Whenever we have arguments or my pride and selfishness creep in, the Spirit has been quick to convict me and move me to repentance, and Katie has been gracious to forgive me. There have been plenty of instances where I’ve done something she could have held against me, but in every instance she forgives me and we move forward. This is only possible because of the Gospel, the message of reconciliation that eclipses all of our sin and selfishness.
I can honestly say that I’ve grown more in my walk with Christ in the last two years than at any other point in my life. I’ve learned more about the Gospel, love, grace, forgiveness, repentance, sacrifice, and a host of other biblical doctrines from being married than from any theology book I’ve ever read. Marriage turns orthodoxy into orthopraxy, and God uses it to further conform us to his image. And whenever God grows us, stretches us, and molds us, it can be very difficult and even painful. Marriage is not always roses and butterflies. It’s hard and messy and challenging and beautiful and rewarding and glorious. It wouldn’t be worth it if it wasn’t.
Why is divorce rampant in our society? Because it’s easier than staying together. There are certainly exceptions, and I don’t want to be insensitive to those heartbreaking cases, but divorce is often cowardly, particularly for those who follow this line of logic: “I don’t want to be with you anymore because you don’t make me happy,” or “I’m not in love with you anymore.” There are an awful lot of personal pronouns there. We must understand something that our culture does not: that marriage is not about our own happiness; it’s about reflecting the Gospel to a lost world for the glory of God. Hosea did not quit. Joseph did not quit. And thanks be to God, Jesus did not quit. If your joy and happiness are dependent on your spouse and the state of your marriage, then you are in trouble already. Find your joy and happiness in Christ, and when hard times come, forge ahead in repentance, forgiveness, and love, recognizing that your marriage is not about you, but all for the glory of God.
Above all else, my consistent failure to live up to Christ’s example offers further proof of just how incredible the Gospel truly is. Jesus, in selfless humility, gave up his life for his bride, the church. This truth consistently moves me to worship and surrender my marriage to him, that I may love, serve, and sacrifice for my wife, and that he may be glorified.
As I told a wide-eyed group of terrified singles at our community group a few weeks ago, Katie and I don’t have a perfect marriage, but through Jesus, we have a wonderful marriage, not because of our feelings or circumstances, but because of his unending faithfulness, steadfast love, and overwhelming grace.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)