Marriage Can’t. Jesus Can.

On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray for men and women to be progressively more shaped into God’s image and for marriages to those who desire them. 

I wanted to be happy for him. I really did. But his smiling face with a fiancée and an engagement ring in the middle of my social media feed stirred up the worst crags of my heart. Him? Are you kidding me? After he’s been unable to find anyone good enough in the last fifteen years, he magically finds someone in six months? I know what this is…he just decided it was Time to Get Married (TTGM) and picked the next girl. I wish I could say I was appalled by my heart’s vitriol, but I too busy rationalizing my behavior and hiding him from my news feed.

Why was I so upset? Was it envy? Was it anger that he was winning the mental “marriage marathon” I unconsciously run with every ex-boyfriend? Was it judging God’s actions with the lens of my own experience? Was it unforgiveness and general irritation with his being shown mercy when I wanted to see him suffer the consequences of his previous behavior?

Unfortunately yes to all of the above. Confession had to happen but later, with some more time, I realized the anger was deeper than him. There were so many lies wrapped into my visceral reaction to his good news; I didn’t want him to get married first because it felt like he was somehow getting to the finish line first. So many lies have gotten wrapped into that false understanding of marriage and of my own identity:

  1. I was waiting for marriage to prove that I was worthy of being chosen and to close the door on years of bad or nonexistent dating
  2. I was waiting for marriage to define me — to define my arrival in adulthood, my relational sphere, my geographic home, my vocational direction, my financial outlook, my travel plans, my emergency contact person.
  3. In essence, I was waiting for marriage for me – for reasons that would make me feel good about my life, cement what I wanted to be true about myself and give me excuses to use social media to overshare my life milestones (ok, maybe that’s just me).

Of course marriage can’t really do these things — marriage can’t fix my identity problems. Marriage and a spouse can’t neatly package up my life’s definition or relationships or calling and tell me who I am.  And marriage can’t and won’t always make me feel good – especially in the midst of life’s storms. At those points, we need a deeper anchor than marriage. And scripture says marriage is bigger than the people in it. It’s about two sinners on a journey of imaging the selfless, other-centered love that Christ has for us as His church. Marriage is good, but it simply can’t live up to the mental demands I’d placed on it.

In contrast, Jesus can and already has. Jesus has already called us chosen. Almighty God has already set His love on us. At the cross, we have already been offered forgiveness and shown extravagant, ridiculous mercy in the face of much worse crimes than those of any ex-boyfriend. Jesus has defined the good life, our relational sphere, and our calling to love another as we have been loved in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

I’m not trying to downplay the God-ordained good of marriage or the courage to unashamedly long for it and keep praying for it. I simply wonder if smaller expectations of marriage and greater expectations of Jesus are a good place to start this week. To pray boldly — asking Jesus to come into the crags where the lies have taken root — to expose our sin in order to heal us — a process that we need, no matter where our circumstances have us on this Monday at lunch.

Praying with you,

Amy

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10 Responses to Marriage Can’t. Jesus Can.

  1. Neelam says:

    Amy – Thanks for this spot on post. Agree it’s important to confess, allow God to change us, and be healed. Also agree it takes courage to continue to pray in believing faith for marriage with no visible prospects in sight. Thanks also for being transparent. So appreciate you and this community.

  2. Karis says:

    Love this: “Smaller expectations of marriage and greater expectations of Jesus are a good place to start.” Thanks!

  3. Jack says:

    Honestly, I think marriage will help a lot of the problems you raised though. It’ll bring more problems of its own and it’s definitely gonna be hard and not a bed of roses, but it’ll sure as hell make me feel better socially.

    • Karis says:

      Jack, you might find some encouragement from Justin Campbell’s blog; your first sentence reminded me of this entry: http://justinmcampbell.net/2014/09/18/two-lies-about-marriage-you-dont-have-to-believe/

      • Jack says:

        Thanks, Karis. I totally agree with the article.

        “The point is, marriage actually settles a lot – and that’s a good thing.”

        Ultimately, isn’t that why we’re all here praying for marriage? Because it is good in spite of its problems. And to think of it otherwise, constantly trying to make it seem like it doesn’t help with some of the problems of being single, is just being unrealistic and maybe even trying to make yourselves feel better about being single.

        • fast. pray. says:

          One more PS: yes, yes, yes! Agreed…we pray for marriage because it is a good gift of God in real, tangible ways. I appreciate Justin’s blog because he is willing to say things like this! Marriage definitely fully addresses some “singleness” problems.

          My only point is that my problems aren’t all “singleness” problems…there are issues that are actually “identity” problems that will show up again, even if my marital status changes. That’s what I was trying to say, albeit imperfectly 🙂

          So appreciate you reading and commenting — thank you!

    • fast. pray. says:

      Yes, I totally get what you’re saying…it’s hard to say what I meant without making it sound like I was trashing marriage, or that I was saying I have to get my “marriage expectations” together before I’m going to get married.

      And on the social point – I agree with you 100%, but for different reasons. I think current American evangelical Christianity has a culturally-influenced view of romantic love that tends to isolate and elevate married folks at the expense of everyone else (and the couples themselves). It definitely feels awkward to not be part of the married club — I totally get that.

      One of the reasons that I think marriage makes things better socially is because the church does not always function like a family to one another. I think singleness (and lots of other life situations, including strained marriages) could be helped by living in a community that actually viewed themselves as family members on a tangible, everyday basis. Just my two cents.

      Regardless — thanks for reading and sharing!

  4. Lynn says:

    This post is so spot-on, so convicting. I live in constant terror that THE ONE ex will get married before I do. I feel that if he does, he has “won” and I have lost– he is “right” and I am “wrong”. I think that if I get married first, it proves he was wrong for walking away (and I also hope that seeing me with my husband will make him eat his heart out). I find myself striving for career success for the same reason—I want to “beat” him. I want my vindication and validation that I’m good enough, because I felt that the relationship with him took that away from me. I know these thoughts are wrong, but they’re hard to fight…

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