My closet gets a little messy sometimes. It has gotten worse since my surgery because I cannot put things away quickly and so I just toss it in there. However, when I take the time to clean it up each week I see in the back, hanging in its storage bag, my wife’s wedding dress. I have seen it at least a thousand times over the last 13.5 years and each time I do it reminds me of what marriage really is.
Marriage isn’t just a fun day where you get dressed up with your best people and throw a party. It isn’t just a promise that you make. It isn’t even years of living and sharing life together. Marriage goes so much deeper than that. Its’ the choice to love your spouse when your spouse is unlovable. It’s the choice to serve when you feel like your spouse doesn’t deserve it. It’s the choice to love like God loves us: unconditionally.
Every time I see that wedding dress I remember not just our special day but also the many, many years that my wife has chosen me unconditionally. I’m not the best husband; shoot, on most days I’m not even close. I have sat back on many occasions and wondered why she chose me over the many other men that could do such a better job than I do. I’ve looked back over all the mistakes and selfish decisions and the times I have placed my wants over hers and wondered why she puts up with it all and chooses to love anyway.
Then I remember how God loves us. The Scriptures tell us that the people of God (aka the Church) are the bride of Christ and that one day soon He will be returning for her and that then He will marry her (cf. Revelation 19-21). Like most of Revelation, that passage is symbolic for the time when God will come and be with His people in bodily form again. It is meant to show that the relationship Jesus will have with His people will be so intimate that it will be like the intimacy two people who are married share with one another.
I’m grateful that, like my relationship with Christ, that my wife loves me despite my faults, failures, and shortcomings. They both see me through the light of love and both love me sacrificially, seeking to serve rather than to be served. Our marriage is not perfect but it is united by the One who is. We work through our problems realizing that, while feelings may come and go, our covenant is until death. What you invest in will grow; this applies to all things in life. Marriage takes commitment, investment, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to work the way God intended for it to.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking that you’ve never had a marriage like that. Or, that your marriage used to be like that but it isn’t anymore. Maybe you’ve given up hope of things changing and you’ve resigned yourself to something less than what God intended for marriage. Sadly, our failure to realize the goodness that God has designed for us leads us to settle for something less than God’s best for our lives (especially our marriage).
A brief look at what we see and read in movies, books, and tabloids makes us feel less than perfect. We have come to see marriage as simply a contract; one we can break when we get tired of it. Kind of like a cell phone plan we can leave behind when a different provider has a better rate plan. The culture we live in has convinced us that marriage is so cheap that it doesn’t need to even be messed with. Just move in together and it’ll be fine. We have replaced God’s design for marriage with “shacking up” and have degraded it down to just a simple contract.
No matter where you are in marriage (happily ever-after, disenfranchised, cohabitating, or never ever been married) I’m asking you to take a moment to reflect on the value of marriage. God created the family millennia before He created the Church. God’s design for marriage is so much more precious than what our society says it is. I’m begging you to look at marriage through God’s eyes and see that, while it may not be a fairy tale, it is a real tale of life-long love and commitment to one another.
Maybe you need to do like I did, pull out the wedding dress and remember why you promised to love your person until death do you part. Maybe you need to get the photo album out and remember your special day (no matter how long ago it was). Remember the joy and all the love that the years have brought. Then I’d ask you to go back to Genesis 1-3 and see God’s design for marriage. Let’s stop settling for what the world says we have to live with and seek out God’s best for us.
I promise you, it’s worth it.