Fairy tales… We have all read them: The Princess and the Pea, Beauty and the Beast, The Frog Prince, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel. The beginning is charming, the middle is grim, and the end is happily ever after.

Every little girl wants to be swept off her feet by a prince upon his stead.  Likewise, most boys at some point decide that dashing in on a white horse to rescue a woman sounds adventurous and noble.

Looking at the divorce rates and failing marriages crumbling within and without the church, begs the question: What has gone so desperately wrong? Where are the princesses and the prince charmings of today?

I remember that the task which most excited me following our engagement – and by following I mean seconds later – was the opportunity to choose China patterns! Only minutes after the proposal, I turned to my groom and exclaimed, “Now we get to pick out China!” I only laugh now at how unappealing that must have sounded to a man who was months closer to his marriage bed.

The choices in preparation for matrimony set our sights on only the commencement of the happily ever after. The flowers, cake, venue, and musicians are all charming to imagine. However, are they practical in preparation for the matrimonial road ahead? These choices may serve the singularly fruitful purpose in foreshadowing the compromises and mutual submission necessary in sustaining marriage. The all-consuming planning required to carry us to the altar, are fleeting and miniscule decisions in the reality that there are difficulties in communication and relationship that lurk in the future.

I recall our first lesson in the art of compromise…and submission. My fiancé, now husband of 11 years, excitedly grabbed the scanner in Bed Bath and Beyond and began to scan every item imaginable for our wedding registry. “Let’s register for a PlayStation! Look at these knives. How about this? ” It did not take us long to realize we viewed the task of registering very differently.

“We should only register for the things we really want,” I proposed as the sensible, task-oriented female that I am. His thinking was, “We can take back what we don’t want. Let’s register for some fun things and see if we get them.” Truth be told, he really wanted the PlayStation and I did not!

In talking with couples, it appears fairy tales have it all backwards. In reality, it seems, the prince turns into a frog that sleeps in your bed, dines at your table, and asks for much more than a kiss each night.

Sleeping beauty may have it right: your wife is most beautiful and peaceful when sleeping and you dare anyone to awake the beauty before she so wishes, lest she turn into a bear.

 Also, as it turns out, a princess whose sleep is disturbed by a pea may possess such...uh um...delicate tastes that you wonder if choosing the bride who didn't feel a pea under a stack of  mattresses may have been a better idea.

Others have experienced a similar situation to ours. Consider: The knight runs through the glittering forest (sales isles) slashing (zapping) every electronic beast (gadget) in sight. Next, envision his surprise when his princess bride, instead of cheering, chides him and asks which set of towels he likes best, or whether they should register for one hand towel per set or two.

Suddenly, the bride and groom obtain an inkling that the happily ever after may not be quite as they had imagined, read about, or seen in the movies.

Could it be that matrimony took a plunge along with the fall of man in the Garden of Eden?  Thorns and weeds now grow in the garden of love similar to the ground which produces food following sweat-stained toil?

Yes! We have overlooked the response of God to the sin of Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you (Genesis 3:16b, ESV).” Women, we are to desire our husbands, but not his position of authority in our home.

Eve “was doomed as a wife and mother to suffer pain of body and distress of mind. From being the help meet of man and the partner of his affections [Genesis 2:18, 23], her condition would henceforth be that of humble subjection.[1]

Lessons on submission (Ephesians 5:22-24) were initially unnecessary because Adam and Eve’s nature was that of God and they would automatically do what was best for all concerned out of a heart of servant-leadership and love. This is the picture we see painted in fairy tales. However, post-fall we require God’s instruction to bend our wills to the point of submitting to His redeemed plan for marriage.

Our marriage is not a fairy tale to gain; rather, it is a paradise lost at the lips of God’s first created family. God redeemed fallen man (Romans 5:18-19) and now He desires our matrimony to mirror His Bride He purchased with the blood of Christ…the sacrifice that made us wholly and holy pleasing to God.

God uses our marriage relationships to mold us more into the image of His Son thereby making us holy.

Dannah Gresh, in Pursuing the Pearl, writes it so well:

Know this, my friend. Satan knows all too well that the most powerful portrait of Christ’s passion is a pure and holy marriage. As Christians continue to misuse sex and succumb to divorce, the whole world comes to understand less of who God is because we understand less of His love as it was meant for us to know it within a faithful, loving, passionate marriage. (Gresh, 2002)

We will have troubles, trials, and temptations in marriage. To think otherwise is to deny the fall of man. However, praise be to the Lord our God that He redeemed our sin and shame by the blood of Jesus and He likewise wants to redeem the union of man and wife to further the gospel to the ends of the earth.

None of us are married to the ultimate Prince Charming or Princess Bride because it is a King that our hearts really desire. When He comes, we at last can live holy and happily ever after.


[1] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Ge 3:16). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Gresh, D. (2002). Pursuing the Pearl: The Quest for a Pure Passionate Marriage. Chicago: Moody Press.

Brooke Cooney is a pastor's wife, mother of two, and foster-mom of one. To capture the eternal in the everyday, she blogs about family, faith, and lessons along the journey at ThisTemporaryHome.com.