I was driving home from kitty-care, trying to come up with a reasonable reason to add one of the kittens to our household, when the radio caught my attention. Not the radio itself, but the person speaking. I listen to Air1, and sometimes they play bits of sermons to advertise churches, or pastors, or something. I’m not sure why they do that. But anyway, this guy, whoever he is, was talking about stories. Fairy-tales, probably, because he said they almost all end with a wedding. He said it’s a good thing they don’t go on to show what happens next. I was really wondering where he was going with that, when he proceeded to paint a picture of marriage that was absolutely horrible. It’s dull, dreary, lonely, there’s no romance, no hope, etc. I was feeling a hefty surge of righteous indignation, and ready to figure out who he was so I could send him a strongly worded email, when he said all of that was a lie.
And all of that is a lie. That is not marriage as God intended, and that is not marriage as it has the potential to be. This is a lie that the devil wants husbands and wives to believe, so that when the going gets tough, one or the other will decide to give up, and get going. Because if we believe the lie, then when the sickness and the for-worse comes, we’ll believe it’ll never get better. We’ll believe it’ll probably never get bearable. We’ll believe it couldn’t possibly get great, and wonder if it could possibly get any worse. If we believe that, we’ll believe the next lie, and the next, and ultimately hearts will harden and turn away from each other, and toward something else. All the time and attention that should’ve been devoted to nurturing each other, will be squandered elsewhere. Something precious, and worth preserving, will starve and die. Someone will walk away, unwilling to believe in the power of resurrection, and deluded by the devil into believing “God wants me to be happy, and I’m not, so it’s okay.”
It does not have to be that way, not by a long shot. It takes work, but what doesn’t? Failure, I suppose, but why settle for that? Yet so many do. And it’s heartbreaking. In the twenty-four years and six months since Brad and I were married, we’ve witnessed one divorce after another. Brad is proud that we’ve made it to this point, but he’s wondered how we did it, when so many don’t. Maybe he wasn’t looking for an answer. Probably not, since he’s asked the same question several times since. He’s marveling dramatically over the longevity of our relationship, more than likely. I feel compelled however, to answer when a question is asked of me, so I said we never got a divorce because I never left, and he hates change. He laughed in response, he thought I was joking. I wasn’t trying to be funny, and what I said was true. But it’s not the whole truth.
The truth, is that neither of us turned our hearts toward something, or someone else. Not because we’re perfectly suited for each other, and have no idea how bad it can be, either. Imagine Jack Ryland, married to Patrice Phillips (Terms of Engagement). Does that sound like a happy couple? Jack would drive Patrice insane. Like seriously, certifiably, insane. In between bouts of insanity, she’d be sure he knew what all his faults were, and then some. She’d buy self-help books, intending to help him, which Jack would not be receptive to, or appreciative of. Imagine how appreciative Patrice would be, if Jack refused to even talk about having children. Or when he said he was the head of the house, and it was time she learned her place (there was no bloodshed, proof that miracles still happen). Patrice would complain Jack was never romantic, and he’d say he was, and finally she’d ask what he thinks that word means, anyway. His definition would prove they weren’t using the same dictionary. What I’m trying to say, is that we’re mismatched characters, and that’s what we all are. No two people are perfect, or perfect for each other. Miles is awfully close to perfect. But he’s a character in a fictional series, for goodness’ sake. He doesn’t actually exist! Although I did accidentally call Brad “Miles” once. I told him to enjoy it, because it was the biggest compliment he’ll ever get.
People are not perfect. Couples do not start out perfectly matched. There’s a lot of work that goes into becoming so. It takes a lot of pounding through problems and differences, it takes compromise, a ton of forgiveness, sometimes it takes marriage counseling, it takes choosing to love when you absolutely, positively, can not even stand each other. It takes standing against the tempting of Satan to do his job for him and tear each other to bits, instead of building each other up and standing unified against him. The enemy is NOT flesh and blood, although Satan would like us to buy into that lie he’s peddling. Fitting together in harmony, takes putting God first, running after Jesus with your whole heart, and if you both are, you’ll find that you’re running together, and the Holy Spirit will be at work in each of you. I’ve found that He never tells me how Brad needs to be fixed. He tells me what’s broken in me, and what I need to do. And then I do it. Because I love God, and He gives me the wisdom I need through His word, and the strength to obey, because I love Him. I love Him, more than I’m hurt, annoyed, angry, or whatever, with Brad. And the thing is, I can trust Him to do the same thing in Brad’s life. God doesn’t need me doing His job for Him. God didn’t need me doing His job for Him when Brad wasn’t seeking after Him, either. My “job,” which is more of a joy, is to keep my eyes on Him, trust Him, follow Him, and leave all the rest to Him.
Don’t believe the lie that you made a mistake, and didn’t end up with your soulmate. That’s a great way to nurture discontent, and end up feeling justified in divorcing. The truth is, you didn’t marry your soulmate. So if you don’t have Him, get on your knees and get Him. The Holy Spirit is the only soulmate there is, and being married to a guy that isn’t measuring up to an ideal, is not standing in your way of having Him. As for that guy you’re married to, don’t submit to abuse. As the Amplified Study Bible says in First Peter, chapter three verse five, “You have become her (Sarah’s) daughters if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear, that is, being respectful toward your husband but not giving in to intimidation, nor allowing yourself to be led into sin, nor to be harmed.” Neither are we to tolerate habitual sin in fellow believers, First John three, verse four, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness, ignoring God’s law by action or neglect or by tolerating wrongdoing or being unrestrained by His commands and His will.” We are not showing love, or being Godly wives, if we silently watch our believing husbands race toward this– “because of your callous stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are deliberately storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will pay back to each person according to his deeds, justly, as his deeds deserve: to those who by persistence in doing good seek unseen but certain heavenly glory, honor, and immortality, He will give the gift of eternal life. But for those who are selfishly ambitious and self-seeking and disobedient to the truth but responsive to wickedness, there will be wrath and indignation,” Romans two, verses five through eight. Hebrews three, verse thirteen, “You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today’, so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” So don’t tolerate or enable actual sin. But don’t be the pot, calling the kettle black. That never goes well. Whether he’s a believer or not, follow Jesus. Then pray that the Holy Spirit will work in his heart, and yours. We can’t get enough of that, I don’t care where we are in our journey toward sanctification.
Marriage is not the death knell of romance, fun, happiness, or whatever else the devil would have us believe. Hardening our hearts toward each other, and turning to something or someone else, is. Out of all the things Brad and I have done wrong, that isn’t one of them. And that’s why this set of mismatched characters is still together after all these years. It’s why, no matter what, when the smoke clears, we seek to reconnect, rather than seek legal advice.
Marriage isn’t the end to romance, it’s what completes it. Although getting your definitions straight, doesn’t hurt. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning of something so much better than what was before. It can be, anyway. So don’t believe the lie.