Did you start off your marriage really knowing which way to go?
If you did, that’s great! Many people didn’t have such a wise and wonderful head-start to their marriages.
And I was one of those many people!
I was not a Christian before I got married, so I didn’t know anything about the Biblical model for marriage. My model for marriage was what I had seen in my family and friends’ marriages, in marriage therapy textbooks, and in the media.
As a result, my confusion actually started at the proposal.
Here’s what happened:
After just under a year of dating, my then-boyfriend-now-husband proposed to me out of the blue.
His proposal caught me completely off guard. He started off by saying my name so seriously that I was sure it meant I was about to be bitten by a large, stinging insect. I was not expecting a marriage proposal at all.
Because I was so surprised, there was not much time to process or filter this new information. Two knee jerk responses popped immediately into my head.
The first was what I call the Passionate Marriage Message. It sounded something like this: “Go for it! You know all you need to know, and all you need is love! Which way to get to the chapel?”
The second was what I call the Practical Marriage Message. To me, it sounded like this: “Stop right there! How long have you known this person? You need to carefully weigh the pros and cons – go to the bathroom and stall for time!”
That’s why from the outside, all he could see was a blank, confused look on my face. I didn’t say anything right away because I was stuck in the middle of these two Marriage Messages.
My husband says it was one of the few times since he’s met me that I was actually at a loss for words.
I was torn between the Practical Marriage Message and the Passionate Marriage Message.
Looking back now, as a Christian and after 17 years of marriage, I realize that the Practical Marriage Message puts too little hope in love. We are ultimately created, by God, for love and relationship! As a result, he practical marriage runs dry. It falls far short of what our hearts are made for.
Yet the Passionate Marriage Message puts too much hope in love. The chills and thrills of new love inevitably calm down. And so the passionate marriage struggles under the weight of unrealistic expectations for excitement, fireworks, and non-stop romance.
What’s a bride to do?
In my case, it’s all about what He has done. By God’s gracious mercy, I came to know Christ in the early years of our marriage. And my perspective changed 180 degrees.
Instead of looking to Practical or Passionate Marriage Message, I now look to the Biblical Marriage Message.
The Biblical Marriage Message says that marriage does not exist so that we can get either our practical or passionate needs met.
Instead, God wants us to first come to Him to get all of our deepest needs met. Our needs for security, for meaning, and yes, for love.
Once we are filled by Him, we can turn to our spouses looking to fill their lives. God asks us to give of ourselves fully to our spouses: emotionally, physically, fiscally, legally, culturally. A whole lot of -ally’s.
He wants us to live out, with our spouses, the same kind of love He has for us!
It’s a tall order.
It involves daily work, effort, and purposefulness.
A friend of mine and fellow psychiatrist puts it this way: “I work to create my marriage every day.”
There are many different ways this plays out, and your marriage will be unique. That’s the beauty of it.
I’ve found that within my own marriage, the way that I give and fill my spouse’s life changes as the seasons of our lives change.
I am not saying that I have this all nailed down – I definitely do not!
But knowing what God’s mission is for my marriage makes a big difference in how I approach it.
Not on my own strength, but instead fueled by Christ’s love for me.
It’s a lifelong process and journey, but through God’s grace, every day I am able to take a step forward.
And so can you!
Question: What Marriage Messages have you heard? Which do you find yourself following?
The best way we learn is from each other. You have a unique wisdom and insight that can truly bless others. So jump in and add your voice!
Dr. Ann is a Christian M.D., wife to a wonderful husband, and mom to a terrific gang of three. At The Marriage Checklist Ann blogs about life, work, and faith! She is syndicated on Crosswalk.com, and has been featured on BlogHer.com, MichaelHyatt.com, Fox news, and Good Morning America.
Get a complimentary copy of her e-Booklet, “How To Make A Map For Your Marriage,” and also get her free monthly newsletter by clicking here!
Publication date: July 9, 2012