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.

 

4 Comments

  • Trevor Hudson Posted February 22, 2020 11:31 am

    Love the eternal work you both are engaged in!

    • Ted Posted February 24, 2020 8:15 am

      Thanks Trevor! You’ve been a big part of it, even from afar.

  • Tiffany Clark Posted February 23, 2020 6:05 am

    This vision for marriage appeals to my soul. Thank you. I’m beginning to see the correlation between a couple’s level of “connection” and God’s vision for marriage, but could use some help bringing these two pictures more fully together. If I were to guess at it, it would have to do with the “oneness” that God desires with us and that He created husbands and wives (in particular) to share with each other. You are broadening my vision for what that union can look like in marriage: beyond commitment, service, compassion, and shared life, it is an invitation into deep knowledge (in every aspect of the term) of each other. Applying spiritual union with God to union within marriage, I guess that means an intentional level of noticing, contemplating, engaging, and simply enjoying each other.

    • Ted Posted February 24, 2020 8:27 am

      Tiffany, if I’m understanding your question correctly, I’d say that God is the ultimate circle-maker. He lives in a circle of the Father, Son, and Spirit. As people created in his image, we have the same instinct and need for being in a circle. Marriage is ONE opportunity he gives us to participate in a life-giving circle (by no means the only one and perhaps not even a privileged one). So when we’re connected and secure, we’re getting to enjoy the benefits of living consistent with our deeply wired desires – that reflect the way God is.

      I did that in a pretty dense few sentences. Let’s keep talking about it! Thanks for engaging with us!

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