Marriage Is Not About You
It is very important to me (and Kari) who our children marry. It’s been said, and I would agree, that other than the commitment to follow Christ, the choice of a spouse is the most important decision one can make. Kari and I have been preparing our children for marriage. We have prayed for them and their spouses, though none of our children are married yet. The world says that marriage should be put off, or that it is unnecessary. God says that marriage is good, and that the man that finds a wife is blessed (Psalms 128), and that women should be married and bear children (1 Timothy 5:14). Satan hates a godly marriage. The world undermines God’s design for marriage. This opposition is significant because the marriage relationship mirrors the relationship that we should have with the Lord more than any other relationship we have.
Life can be hard. A man and a woman coming together in marriage, with Christ as their Master, can only strengthen them and protect them. A man needs a woman, just as a woman needs a man. That’s how God intended it. Kari and I were 20 and 22 when we were married. We met and three days later I asked her to marry me. (No one could accuse me of being a procrastinator!) Her father gave his blessing, and we were married just a month and a half later. We had a lot to learn about life, marriage, and each other, but we have now been married for over twenty years and we have twelve children. Our situation is unique, but what has made it work? The same thing that will help all marriages work. Obedience to Christ. Correcting ourselves when we are wrong. Following the principles in his Word. Marriage is good, but in real life, it is not a fairy tale. Those who are looking for a fairy tale life and fairy tale marriage need a good dose of reality. As for Christians, we are told that we can expect persecution as we follow Christ. You can bet this will include satanic opposition against the marriage relationship. That is why we must guard our hearts, be aware of the temptations of the flesh, and love one another by seeking the well-being of our spouse above our own.
My sons and daughters know that marriage is a commitment for life. Marriage requires mercy, patience, kindness, selflessness, submission, and love. Love is not a sentimental emotion; it is seeking the highest well-being of another. This is why we are told to love even our enemies. We are not commanded to have sentimental emotions for our enemies, we are told to seek their well-being if it is possible. My children have been taught to find someone that will pursue Christ with them and to love that person with all their strength. That is what life is all about. Following Christ and loving your family, and your neighbor. My sons have been taught to find a wife that wants to obey God and be a keeper at home who pours her life into her husband and her children. They in turn must pour their lives into their wife and children. My oldest daughter (and our younger ones will be) has been taught what it means to be a submissive and supportive wife. God’s ways are always better than the world’s ways.
We must always remind ourselves of something that I heard once. It is not my job to make my wife happy, and it is not her job to make me happy (though there are certainly happy times in marriage). My duty is to deny myself and help my wife seek and follow the Lord, just as her duty is to deny herself and help me seek and follow the Lord. When we look to our spouse as if he or she should be striving to make us happy, both of us are going to be disappointed, because sometimes he or she won’t, and sometimes we will do the same. Again I am reminded of the words of C.S. Lewis when he said: “A woman’s heart should be so close to God that a man should have to chase him to find her.” Marriage is not about you (though it provides you with blessings) – it’s about Christ, and your spouse (and by extension your children). The goal for marriage is not me getting what I want but us helping each other to “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” What a difference that makes! When I remember this, I am not worried about the wrongs (falsely perceived or otherwise) that my wife commits against me, I am concerned with helping her to draw close to God and to be at peace with him. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church. I am to deny myself for her well-being, forgive her sins when she confesses, protect and provide for her, and help her be the kind of woman that is so close to God that I have to chase him to find her. She is to deny herself for my well-being, forgive me when I confess, support and submit to me, and help me be the kind of man that is so close to God that she must chase God to find me.
No, marriage is not a fairy tale, but what makes it worth it is you have two people that are committed to the Lord, to each other, to their family, and they fight with each other and for each other through life’s battles. In doing so they form a bond that surpasses understanding.