We all enter marriage with an optimistic view. We enter with some sort of a sandcastle-type image of what our marriage will look like. In our vows, we exchange words such as “my best friend,” “my life’s companion,” “my true love,” and “together forever.” When we’re standing at the altar, not many of us think of the hard times we may face in our marriage. No, we’re dreaming of all the good times. We’re picturing eternal bliss. That’s why, at the altar, it’s easy to vow the words “until death do us part.”
After the wedding comes the honeymoon. But shortly after the honeymoon…life happens. You both thought you were so great at meeting each other’s needs and desires. Then, one day, you have a really bad day…and you’re waiting for your spouse to help you feel better. Little did you know, he also had a really bad day (maybe worse than yours), and he’s anxiously waiting for you to help him feel better. When you see each other, you both quickly discover that your expectations are not being met. You’re disappointed. Disappointment turns into self-pity; self-pity turns into resentment. Before long, you’re thinking to yourself: This is not how I thought it was going to look like.
Jesus knew exactly what it was going to look like, when He decided to enter into a love relationship with humanity. He knew we’d have many bad days. He knew we’d betray Him. He knew we’d reject Him. He knew we’d disappoint Him. But He came anyway. He served anyway. He loved anyway. He gave His all for us anyway. The Bible compares earthly marriage covenant to the divine covenant between Christ and the church. There’s nothing He didn’t give. He completely set Himself aside for the sake of those He loved. His love was characterized by humility.
The longer I’m married, the more I’m convinced of this truth. Most of us have a wrong idea about the goal of marriage. The primary goal of marriage is not happiness. The primary goal of marriage is that we learn to love like Jesus. Marriage provides a great opportunity for us to grow in this area. I experience this opportunity daily. It’s hard, extremely hard, to put my needs and desires aside. Trust me, I know how hard it is; I grew up as an only child! Let’s think about this again. After I have a bad day with the kids, I anxiously wait for Allan to come home, hoping (actually pretty much expecting) he will take over. He’s late. I’m irritated. He finally comes home. Not only is he late, he’s irritated over something that happened at work. Wait a minute! What gives him the right? It’s my turn! Who, in their natural state of mind, can at that moment set aside their own frustrations and instead focus on meeting the needs of their spouse? Yet what better opportunity can there be to practice what Jesus did for us? I know I can’t, not with my own strength. I not only need Christ’s example to follow, I need His power and grace daily to love like He did.
I have not conquered this skill…not even in the least. But I am committed to growing. I’m committed because Christ made the same commitment to me. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Thankfully, I’m married to a man who is also committed to this goal. He’s actually way better at expressing unselfish love than I am. We both still have so much more room to grow. Yet what we’re discovering is this: when we focus on the primary goal God has for marriage (learning to love like Christ), then the other goal we had for ourselves (happiness) comes as a natural by-product. No, everyday is not perfect…but for the most part, we are sincerely happy and we enjoy our marriage immensely.
Of course, I’m not referring at all to being a doormat or tolerating abuse/infidelity from your spouse. I’m simply referring to everyday opportunities that come in marriage, when we can either act out of selfishness or choose to place the other person before us. This can easily apply to other relationships as well. Marriage, in my opinion, gives us the most amount of opportunity. And it’s a lifelong opportunity. When we keep this goal in mind, with God as our help, we can vow the words “until death do us part” and never break the promise.
May we grow to love with a love like His…
Don’t act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves. Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others. Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Although he was in the form of God and equal with God,
he did not take advantage of this equality.
Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant,
by becoming like other humans,
by having a human appearance.
He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
death on a cross.