I grew up watching Disney fairytales, Hallmark movies, and romantic comedies. I just knew that one day I would meet my Prince Charming, my Jerry Maguire, or my Westley (any Princess Bride fans?). We would fall madly in love and live happily ever after. We would grow old together, and one day be reunited at the gates of heaven where we would spend eternity together. He would complete me.
I met my husband, Lance, at a young age in church. He was perfect! He was romantic, he loved Jesus, and he made me happy. All of my dreams had come true. We would have eternal bliss! And then, years of marriage went by. Not surprisingly, they were harder than I ever could have imagined. There were moments of intense loneliness, sadness, and heartache. I wasn’t happy. He wasn’t happy. And at the worst times, I wanted it to end.
But, God is so good. He opened my eyes to the lies that were at the foundation of my marriage. I had allowed cultural views of marriage and love, these fairytales, to seep into what I thought a Christian marriage should look like. I had entered marriage with the idea that my spouse should make me happy and solve all my problems. My fulfillment, my dreams, all came from my spouse. He was my rescuer. He was the one I believed could fix it all.
But, that isn’t what the Bible says at all!
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
– Psalm 62: 1-2
God alone is what my soul was longing for. He is my fulfillment, my purpose, my identity. He alone is my Savior, and it is from him alone that I can find true joy and peace. God showed me that I had elevated my spouse to the level of savior, an idol. I was looking horizontally for something that only a vertical relationship could fulfill. The truth became clear: only God could complete me, not my spouse.
So then, what is the meaning of marriage? If my spouse isn’t meant to fulfill me, what is the point?
There’s an answer for that question in the Bible as well!
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
– Ephesians 5:22-28
Marriage should model the relationship between Christ and the church. It’s designed to be this beautiful picture of two people working together to share the love of Christ. We were never meant to fulfill each other, but rather point each other back to the only one who can fulfill us: Jesus.
This drastically changed the way I approached my marriage. I stopped viewing Lance as my soulmate, but rather a teammate. We now hold each other accountable. We attempt to love each other selflessly. We say tough things to each other, but we say them in love, not with selfish motivation or contempt. We do not expect our spouse to fulfill us, but rather to run the race with us. We engage in conflict differently because we realize that our goal is ultimately the same. We are not vying for our own individual happiness, because happiness is not our goal. Eternity with a soulmate is not our goal.
Both of us at the feet of Jesus is our goal.
Everything we do in our marriage should point each other back to Jesus.
Now we love each other in a way that is so vastly superior and richer than we set out to do in the beginning. When Jesus became the focus of our marriage, this beautiful thing happened: we began to see Jesus in each other, and we got a glimpse of how Jesus sees us. It’s a sacrificial love that is full of grace. Twenty years ago my hope was to one day be reunited with my spouse in heaven so that we could continue our great love story. But now, someday when I die, I cannot wait to meet Jesus in heaven and to continue that great love story. I cannot wait to worship at his feet.
Do not get me wrong, I expect that I will enjoy seeing Lance there, too. But, that’s no longer the point. More than anything else, we desire to be in the presence of Jesus, and we want others to be in the presence of Jesus as well, because we know that is the only place where we are truly complete.