Why Marriage Is About More Than Happily-Ever-After
By: Ted Harro
Why It Shouldn’t Surprise Us That Every Day Isn’t Awesome
It may seem obvious that Gretchen and I love marriage. After all, she’s a marriage therapist which means she’s an expert on marriage. And I’m married to a marriage therapist which means I’m a very well-trained husband. We should live day after day of absolute bliss, right?
I have one word to say about that: hahahahahahaha. I know that’s not technically a word. But still.
Like every other couple, we have our good days, our bad days, and lots and lots of normal days. On balance, we’re happier as a couple than we could have hoped for as newlyweds, but it’s not like we live on some other marriage planet. Researchers have found that even thriving couples are connected just 30% of the time. Sixty percent of the time, they could be connected, but for some reason they aren’t. They may be doing separate things in the house or one of them may be traveling. There’s no big issue, but they aren’t connected. And that last 10%? They’re downright grumpy with each other.
That sounds about right for our marriage. So if we have times when we’re disconnected and just ordinary along with those moments when we’re right in sync, why do we love marriage so much? That comes down to what we believe marriage is designed to be in the first place.
Why Marriage Rocks Anyway
Let’s start with this: we believe that God designed the world – including you and me – to be breath-takingly beautiful. We see this in the creation account at the beginning of God’s story, the Bible. It was a time when the most self-giving, loving, joyful, creative Being was at the center. It was designed to be a place where people, children of God, bearing the image of God, would live out the family trait of self-giving in how they interacted with each other and how they partnered with each other to benefit the world around them. That’s the picture of Adam and Eve in Eden: two image-bearers, joined together in self-giving love, partnering with God to extend that self-giving love to everything and everyone they touched in the world.
The Bible should be the shortest book in the world. It should have ended at that point with “and they lived happily ever after.” But we know it didn’t work out that way. Creation rebelled against the Joyful Giver. In the process, those beautiful image-bearers got hopelessly damaged. As Chris Hall likes to say, we – the image-bearers – became bent, curved in on ourselves.
The rest of history is the story of God’s extended rescue project. God is in the business of scavenging and refurbishing bent image-bearers so that they can fully reflect the family likeness of the Joyful Giver.
God uses all sorts of situations in the lives of his people to do his restorative work. He uses work and church and neighbors. He’s generous enough and creative enough that He’ll use just about any circumstance and creature if we give him the chance. He’s been known to even use asses, animals and otherwise.
You don’t have to be married for God to do this work. But for the married person, marriage is one of the most productive tools God uses to complete the extreme makeover of our lives. Through marriage:
- God works in us to help us become more like the people we were created to be. He uses marriage to help us counteract stupid lies we’re tempted to believe about Him, the world, and ourselves. Lies like, “God is a kill-joy,” “I’m alone in the world.” and “I have to be perfect to be accepted.” He uses marriage to reinforce that He is very good. He uses marriage to surface our own bentness, to provide an everyday laboratory for soul work, for change. All of this helps us become more of who we were created to be and that’s wonderful.
- God works between us to help us create a relationship of joyful giving, similar to what God the Father, Son, and Spirit experience every single moment. We were created by love and for love. Marriage gives us a perfect environment to get a tiny taste of the goodness that God created us for, the goodness of self-giving love.
- God works through our marriage to bring His influence into our corner of the world. He is never finished extending his love to his creatures and his creation. While our marriages can and should bring us great joy, they are not solely for our benefit. Our marriages can be transformed for the sake of the world around us.
When we see this picture of marriage, it can change everything. There are no bad days in a marriage. There will be challenging days, even unhappy days. But every day and every circumstance in a marriage can be used to help us – as individuals and as couples – to become more of who God dreamed we would be and to radiate His life and love to the world around us.
And that can bring our lives and marriages something more than superficial or temporary happiness. It can lead us into great joy. May that be so for us and for you.