by John Thurman, M.Div., M.A., LPCC
The Mystery of Marriage
Marriage is many things, but it is not a Hallmark movie. Whatever romantic notions we might have, real-life always involves more than an hour and a half of easily-resolved conflicts amid harvest festivals or Christmas baking contests. Marriage is both glorious and challenging. A marriage can be a place of burning passion, extreme joy, and strength, and it can also be blood, sweat, and tears. There are seasons of humbling defeats and exhilarating victories. I should know—my wife and I cross the 50th Anniversary mark this August!
Let’s face it, very few movies or television shows reveal the reality of marriage. It’s a mystery.
I think the Apostle Paul hit the nail on the head in the New Testament book of Ephesians.
Marriage is the beautiful design of the Almighty,
a great mystery of Christ and his church.
Eph 5:32 TPT (emphasis mine)
Let me ask you a personal question. Have you ever awakened in the night, looked at your spouse, and said, “What on earth have I done?” Don’t feel bad if you have. This is normal.
C.S. Lewis provides some deeper understanding in his book, The Four Loves:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
If you are married or considering marriage, you have inserted yourself into a dangerous, adventure-filled journey. It takes tremendous faith and courage to have a resilient, enduring, loving marriage.
Over the next few weeks I will be giving your some tools that will help you learn how to crack the marriage mystery code.
Marriage is two flawed individuals coming together to create a space of stability, love, comfort, and support: a haven in a heartless world.
As an individual with fifty years of experience in my first marriage and as a therapist and relationship coach, I believe when a couple accepts this reality, it enhances their hope, expectations, and faith.
The hard truth is we are all broken, and no one is genuinely compatible with marriage. Furthermore, any two people who enter marriage are spiritually broken, which among other things, means they are intrinsically self-centered.
This has been an issue since the first marriage. See Genesis 3:1-19. Take a few minutes to read this section of Scripture, and you see how the first marriage got off to a bad start with self-centeredness because there was blame-shifting right off the bat.
And look at the results in Genesis 3:14-15. The man will have to struggle to provide for his family, and there will be hostility between man and wife. The woman will have pain in childbirth, and she will have a desire to control her husband.
So you can see how all our issues go back to the garden.
The primary reason for marital problems still boils down to self-centeredness. This self-centeredness is rooted in our fallen (sin) nature, which can often be directly related to old wounds and issues. To be clear, I am not insinuating everyone has some hidden sexual or physical trauma. Instead, I am thinking about a lack of trust, respect, care, or good role models from your childhood or relational hurts from your more recent past, such as an affair, lousy dating relationships, or a divorce.
While you had no control over how these people or events impacted you, you now have a choice in how you will deal with them.
We are all searching for true love, but we need to be clear about what true love is all about.
Timothy Keller clarifies the significance of true love:
“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”
Take a moment and review that statement. Challenging, isn’t it?
I hope you do not feel condemned by those words but inspired to make your relationship more resilient and God-centered.
Be sure to follow my blog over the next several weeks as I share some practical, faith-friendly, thoughts, tips, and insights that will you learn how to crack the marriage mystery code!
Here is a link to my podcast, John Thurman’s Resilient Solutions Shortcast.