Yesterday, I started talking about three lies we tell ourselves about marriage—lies that, if left uncountered by biblical truth, will ruin our marriages. Yesterday, I considered the lie that tells us marriage is about my happiness. While we should all strive to be happy in our marriages, it’s helpful remember that happiness is a byproduct of a good relationship, not the point of the relationship.
Once believed, this lie has us constantly looking for the exits—if my wife isn’t making me happy, maybe someone else will. As bad as this one is, though, it’s not the only lie that devastates our marriages. Here’s the next:
Lie #2: Marriage is supposed to be easy
My oldest daughter loves, loves, loves Disney princesses. Aurora from Sleeping Beauty is one of her all-time favorites. Cinderella, too. And Rapunzel and…
You get the idea.
Most of the movies are pretty cute and fairly entertaining, but there’s one thing that bugs me about them: whole “fairy tale ending” thing. They all live happily ever after. Sure, there’s conflict in getting to the “ever after,” but once there—once the prince finds his bride—it’s smooth sailing.
While I understand that it’s entertainment, I have to wonder if this isn’t the starting point for this lie. That once the girl and the guy fall head over heels, there are no more problems. We don’t get to see Aurora and Phillip fight about him leaving his socks balled up on the floor. We don’t see Cinderella and Prince Charming get cheesed off with one another over the fridge being left open, or the cap being left off the toothpaste. And don’t get me started on Eugene and Rapunzel…
This pattern doesn’t end when girls outgrow Disney princesses. It continues up through romantic comedies, romance novels, sitcoms… There’s this idea that once you the battle has been won, “love”—however you define it—should be easy. You can kick back and relax.
There have been times when we’ve bought into this lie in our marriage, and it typically played out when we had conflict with family. It took us a long time to figure out how to navigate the relationships with our parents in a healthy way, one where we weren’t trying to take sides or play favorites.
Probably Emily’s biggest frustration with me at one point (perhaps it still is) is that I’m not a big family-visit guy. I don’t like sleeping over at other people’s homes if I can help it. It usually doesn’t occur to me that we haven’t seen her parents (or mine) for several weeks. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just I have a tendency to focus more on what’s in front of me in terms of relationships.
This has caused a great deal of stress, frustration, and more than a few heated conversations—all over something that I (foolishly) didn’t think was a big deal. It’s taken a lot of time, a lot of effort, a great deal of prayer and conversation, but we’re getting better at dealing with this (in fact, as I was typing this, Emily reminded me that we need to talk about when to visit her parents next).
When we look at the Scriptures, we see the most astounding examples of love at its most challenging. Perhaps one of the most shocking examples in all of Scripture is God’s demonstration of his relationship with wayward Israel in the relationship between Hosea and Gomer.
Hosea is a prophet, a faithful man of God in a time when Israel lacked men of faith. And he is commanded by God, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” (Hosea 1:2)
And so, he takes Gomer for a wife. He loves her faithfully, but she plays the whore. Again and again, she turns from her husband to the affection of other men. Finally, God tells Hosea:
“Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” (Hosea 3:1-3)
Imagine how hard it must have been for Hosea to see his wife committing adultery, making a fool of him—not because he was a bad husband, but because she had a bad heart. Yet, he continually pursued her and called her back to faithfulness.
Yet this is what God does with his wayward children. This is what Christ does with his bride, the Church. He calls us out of darkness, from death to life, promising to make us spotless and new. And yet the patterns created by a lifetime of sinful action and thinking leave us looking around for the next opportunity, the next new thing that promises us fulfillment and satisfaction—even though we’ve been promised to the only One who truly satisfies.
If marriage is a picture of the gospel, if in the gospel the mystery of marriage is revealed as Paul tells us in Ephesians 5, these tendencies should drive us to our knees in prayer and repentance. For what one of us has not been wayward? What one of us has not been, to some degree, a spiritual adulterer or adulteress?
When we begin to look at marriage from God’s perspective—how it reveals his unmerited favor and affection, despite our constantly finding ourselves doing that which we know we ought not do—the lie that marriage should be easy quickly evaporates.
Marriage is not easy. Love is not easy. But in the difficulty, in the muck and mire of our sin, God gives us the opportunity to glorify him.
Is that not worth it?