My philosophy of marriage changed after I entered into matrimony. You’ve heard some lofty ideals. The purpose of marriage, simply put, is to kill you. The same God who engineered the death of His Son is planning yours, and marriage serves His purpose. Jesus talked about two crosses—His and ours!
I found this out early in our marriage when Karen called to let me know that she was coming home late and asked if I would cook. I was disappointed but resolved to respond honorably. As soon as I made that decision, I felt like Mother Teresa, Saint Francis and Billy Graham wrapped into one. Karen was fortunate to marry someone so godly.
As moments ticked off, so did I. The turkey was not the only thing cooking in the kitchen. I rehearsed the injustice. I had worked all day. She came home later than anticipated, and by the time she arrived, sainthood had gone out the kitchen window.
Couples are surprised to find that marriage tests them more than they had imagined. It necessitates dying. Two people mean two different ideas, preferences, schedules. When the Bible says that “the two shall become one,” it’s more than physical. You can’t buy what you want, and you can’t go to both New Mexico and New Hampshire on vacation. Like the cowboy in the saloon who’s been shot and does damage before he dies, we do the same.
Careful: your pride is showing.
I’d rather invest three hours in a couple after six months of matrimony than six hours before. They realize that marriage is not a piece of (wedding) cake. They don’t come in google-eyes; they are wondering, “Who is this person I married? Not quite the prince I thought. Sure has strong opinions.”
The cross stands at the center of the Christian life. Jesus didn’t wear it; He was hanged on it. And He told us that we must embrace ours: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). St. Paul said, “I die daily.” That must happen in a marriage for two people to become one—every day!
The goal of marriage is to make you holy, not happy. Happiness surfaces as a by-product. Jesus died to sanctify His bride (Eph. 5:26). What if we did the same in our marriages?! As we fall in love, we can’t imagine living apart. We expect to be treated as a king or queen. Surprise—we must die to ourselves for that to happen.
Happiness doesn’t come by pursuing it but by dying so you can serve your partner. The option is to choose happiness—and live apart. I hear it all the time: “I need to be happy, too.” What that means is, “I need to do as I please.”
If I meet with a couple for a 1000-mile checkup, or even one considering divorce, I ask two questions:
- In what areas do you (not your partner) need to die for this marriage to work?
- Are you willing to do that, beginning now?
Living is all about dying. Paul said it plainly, “Death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Cor. 4:12). What a wonderful gift to give to our neighbor, our sister in Christ—or our spouse! What a dead-icated marriage!