Monday, August 20, 2012

Marriage as Idol

Today I have been married 29 years to my husband and best friend--11 of those years in the Lord. When we both became Christians 10 and 11 years ago, our marriage was re-born as well. During the last 11 years, God has “trained us up in the way we should go” (Proverbs 22:6) in our marriage. I can’t have regrets that we didn't consecrate ourselves and our marriage to the Lord sooner, because God redeems, in His time, every aspect of our lives we would be tempted to regret. And yet, if asked, my first piece of advice for couples about to be married would be that both the prospective bride and groom become born again Christians before the marriage ever takes place. And for those who are already married to become born again in Christ if they are not.

Today, I have the distinct pleasure of not only celebrating 29 years with my husband, but also realizing how God is using the pre-Christian marriage my husband and I had and the Christian marriage we now have to mentor other couples. When our two sons left home, my husband and I investigated ministries we could do together as a couple. Marriage mentoring is what God has led us to, and it is, as I said, redeeming to see God use every phase and experience of our 29 years of marriage to guide others.

It is no secret that marriage has always been and is perhaps becoming an even more difficult enterprise. I believe that this is because marriage, like many other things, is an idol. 

From the moment we are able to read and comprehend what we are watching on television and movies, we are fed fairy tales: not bad in themselves for their often moral quality, but certainly misleading in the way of “happily ever after” and how one falls into a marriage. The delusion only grows as people look to adult media and the un-challenged worldview around them that says dating at a very young age, going to prom, being sexy and finding a heart-throb spouse who will sweep you off your feet for the next 70 years is what “love” and a “romantic” relationship is. As one actress said after her second divorce: "I'm looking for someone to rock my world." Good luck with that. 

Secular marriage, in essence, is the attempt to live out a fantasy played over and over in our heads. In fact, it becomes an idol. We idolize marriage when we rely on it to transcend reality. We idolize marriage when we think it means a steady income. We idolize marriage when we delude ourselves that our partner is faultless in character before marriage, and by making him or her the scapegoat after, when the marriage hits a snag. 

We then continue to idolize the marriage—an agreement ordained by God and made between and carried out by two people—by being wrongly sure of ourselves that it is the other person, and not the marriage, that is the problem. In reality, if and when a marriage struggles, it is indeed the operating of two people within that marriage that is the problem, not a single person. But we continue to hold up the marriage as being faultless, as if it would be working perfectly if it just weren’t for the other person. Which explains the remarkable phenomenon of divorced people remarrying, often within months or a year of divorce. That, I believe, can only be explained by the fact that many divorced people don’t see the problems in their previous marriage, they only see the problems in their previous spouse. And then they are surprised when their second marriage also can’t seem to transcend reality and they have wound up yet again with another spouse to find fault with.

Here’s the reality: No marriage can stand up to the task of doing what only God can. Marriage as idol tries to do exactly that.

After 29 years of marriage, 11 of them in the Lord, I can establish that the best thing God ever did in our marriage was change me and my husband both. Only in that transformation, through His grace, Holy Spirit, Word and Salvation, were we, and our marriage, re-born.

And it’s no fairy tale. I don’t want a fairy tale. I want the full range of life with God that tells me “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In marriage, we will have trials. But we can be of good cheer, because Jesus is the over-comer in us and in our marriage. He is the joy in all circumstances. He is the Joy of our marriage! Jesus is the rock of marriage. When we truly understand that truth, although life will still take us through personal and marriage valleys, we at the same time experience the blessings of God through the living of life with a spouse who is on the same path.

Today, my husband and I walk together closer in heart, mind, body and soul each day, looking to the Lord, not each other, to be our peace and our victor. We worship the God of our marriagenot the marriage. As we grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, we grow in the knowledge of ourselves and what we need to work on. We also experience tremendous and immeasurable joy and satisfaction in experiencing God together. Our marriage has become a “cord of three strands” (Ecclesiastes 4:12): a husband and wife held together in love and marriage by God.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:1-4

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