Saturday, September 17, 2011

Is marriage designed to make you happy, or holy?

I haven't been married very long in the grand scheme of life, but (almost) eight years is long enough to have learned a few things. One of the things that I know with more clarity than anything is that Zack is exactly what I needed. Not because he's such a wonderful guy (though he definitely is), but because his strengths are my weaknesses. The things in life that he needs are the very things I am the most flawed in. And vice versa, actually. Not only does this make us a good team as parents, but it means that in order for me to serve my husband, I have had to make some life-altering, personality-changing adjustments. Make that a lifestyle overhaul. Several times actually.

For example, Zack is a very neat, tidy person. He married a organizationally-challenged person (i.e. "slob"). For the first few years of our marriage, this was a source of contention. Zack does not have a temper, and he isn't inclined to complain, but every now and then, the dam would burst and he would reveal how frustrated he really was to be in a place of chaos most of the time. I desperately wanted to be different, but I honestly felt brain-damaged in that area or something. I just couldn't do it. I was committed to transformation though, and eventually, God brought me some tools and support that totally changed me and our home. (Disclaimer: We have 3 small kids, and that's still a lot of mess on any given day, but the progress is satisfying to both of us.) There are other examples of similar weaknesses in my life that Zack is so patient with, and God is constantly working on.

The point is ... God gave me my husband -- to change me. Nothing else in life could have been such an effective catalyst.

I first noticed this dynamic about two years ago. It has rolled around in my mind since then, and I've even told unmarried friends things like, "I guarantee you -- whatever you are weak in, he will need." Maybe that's why people say opposites attract? And the surest way to guarantee that you will have a miserable marriage (and therefore life) is to say things like, "He should love me the way I am." True, maybe, but irrelevant -- because you can't make him do anything. But you can take those challenges as a lesson from God, and an invitation to become more and more like Christ. If I were a single woman, I would live in a dump most likely, because I would have never been truly motivated to change.

Like I said, this has been an interesting thought to me for a long time, so when I saw the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, I was more than a little intrigued. He had me at the subtitle: "What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?" Yes! Exactly. I totally believe that. Of course, a marriage where you are both continuing toward the likeness of Christ will result in a happy one too. But that's not the purpose for marriage. Our mamas taught us when we were 2 years old that life doesn't revolve around us, and marriage is no different. Marriage is a team of two people, with given roles, working together to accomplish God's plan on earth -- the reconciliation of man with God. Adam needed a helper to perform the task God had given him, so God gave him a teammate.

As Gary Thomas talks about in chapter 1, the idea of marrying exclusively for romantic love is totally modern. And not only that, it's so harmful to the health of a committed, Godly marriage. If romance is the only food in a relationship, it will starve quickly. Selfishness and personal fulfillment has to be sacrificed for the good of the other. This is the true definition of love, not a Hollywood-style, heart-palpitating feeling (though that's great too, and definitely can be a part of marriage). As Gary says:
The idea that a marriage can survive on romance alone, or that romantic feelings are more important than any other consideration when choosing a spouse, has wrecked many a marital ship.
I am going to be reading this book and posting my thoughts about it as I go. I know God has a lot more to teach me about this idea, and I am excited to learn!

Some of my blogger friends are doing the same thing. You can read their thoughts here. (linkup at bottom of post)


  1. I loved reading your post. I think you could not be more right. In less than a year or marriage to someone who has spent the majority of that time deployed on the other side of the world, I can already see that God put me with Daniel for a reason, to change and grow as a person.

  2. Thanks, Jane! It is definitely a thought-provoking idea. It also gives me great perspective on the challenges of marriage, so that's a good thing. :-) I'm looking forward to finding your post!