I read somewhere on someone’s blog a discussion about finding “the one,” the perfect soul mate, the right choice so that we can live life happily ever after.
Forgive me for my cynicism, but I really don’t think the point of marriage is to live happily ever after. In fact, if more Christians got the point of marriage, there may be less divorce among us.
When my husband and I were first dating, I asked him if he wanted to be married. He said he wasn’t sure he wanted to marry: he had been very happy as a single.
He then asked me if I wanted to be married. I said yes. Then he asked me why and I replied that I thought marriage was the best arena in which to be sanctified.
He was so impressed and convicted (so he says) that he decided then and there he wanted to be married… and 10 months later, we were.
I think there are multiple reasons for marriage. But sanctification — being made holy — is near the top of my list.
A former pastor of mine* shared one of the best metaphors of marriage that I’ve ever heard. He said Christian marriage is like a rock polisher. The rocks are the husband and wife. The polishing agent is the Holy Spirit. And the covenant of marriage keeps the rocks in the polisher.
You spend marriage knocking against each other and the Holy Spirit. It isn’t always fun. It’s often painful. It’s rarely happier ever after. But those rocks get polished. It’s like “iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 17:17). That’s what marriage does: build character, transform the rocks. And if a rock leaves the polisher, it won’t get shiny.
Marriage does lead to happily ever after: the rocks get polished. When things get tough in my marriage, this encourages me for two reasons.
First, a polished rock is easier to live with than a sharp one. So, if both of us yield to the character-building role of the covenant, then we will both become easier people to live with. We’ve all heard of those who have weathered the storms of marriage together for many years. They say that their love is far deeper and more profound than in the early years.
The second thing that helps is when I remember that my husband is not the ultimate source of my happiness: that’s God’s job (See God’s Goal for Believers ). The minute any of us think of our spouses or our jobs or our kids (as cool as ours are!) or our fame or our money or our blogs as the primary source of happiness, we have turned to idols, we have committed adultery against our first love.
How does this work? The rock polisher doesn’t just build character; it leads to repentance. As we repent, we draw closer to Jesus. We fall more in love with Him. We find that our ultimate satisfaction is in Him, and in nothing else. We find our Holiday at Sea. We find Happily Ever After. While the human marriage is never perfect, we grow increasingly content in marriage and in life because we have found our contentment in our unearthly relationship with Jesus, the source of true happiness. And when two people in a marriage have both fallen in love with the same God, that’s happiness, too.
See what we miss when we divorce? If we realize that marriage is less about what we get than about how we are transformed, we might divorce less often.
Oh, Lord. How I need to preach this truth to myself again and again. Neither my husband nor my kids nor my job nor my ministry nor human approval nor anything can satisfy as knowing You does (Philippians 3: 8).
Help me to remember that the vicissitudes of marriage, the vicissitudes of life, are all the means by which you will break me and mold me and draw me into Your loving arms.
Help me to remember that while my marriage will inevitably improve (as it already has), the rock polisher of marriage will more importantly help me to find happiness ever after in You.
Praise You for Your goodness! Amen
See my addendum to this post: Sinning as I Post (and a Note for Those Among Us Who Are Divorced)
* Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC.