Marriage for His Glory…Not Ours

In a post written back in December, my husband made mention of an all-too-common mindset when it comes to marriage…that it’s all about us and what makes us happy. (You can find that earlier post here.) It seems in today’s cultural climate, it’s common to go into marriage with a view that is uncomfortably similar to a shopping excursion.

Hang in there with me, guys, for the next two paragraphs. I know I’ve chosen an analogy that may not resonate deeply with the male population, but I think you’ll still see where I’m going with it.

When shopping for a winter coat, we try on one after another, searching for just the right “look,” peering into the mirror and turning a bit to see how each one makes us feel…about what? About ourselves. How that particular garment meets our requirements in a coat, how comfortable we feel in it, and how other people might even perceive us while wearing it. The decision to buy (or not buy) is based on whether or not we think that coat – how it feels, how it makes us look and what other people think – will make us happy. When we find the one that meets all our needs, we buy it.

Inevitably, though, that once-treasured coat becomes older, perhaps less distinguished-looking, out of style. We get to a point where it’s been a long time since someone complimented us on its cut or told us that it makes us look thinner. Right about that time the coat finally ceases to make us happy, and we get rid of it and go searching for a new one. Somewhere in the mix, we forget that the original intent of that garment was not to bring us happiness, but warmth.

By now you undoubtedly grasp the point I’m trying to make; in today’s culture, marriage has become devalued to the point where we put it on and take it off like we would an old coat that we once enjoyed but do so no longer. I can’t tell you how many times (in just the last year!) someone has opened up to my husband and/or me in the course of getting to know each other through The Crossing’s divorce ministry, only to tell us that their spouse has thrown them aside, tired of the life they’ve just spent a decade or two building together, and gone in search of a completely different life. A more fulfilling life, one that better meets his or her felt needs. All they need is a different coat…I mean, spouse.

John Piper, in his book This Momentary Marriage, has articulated this trend in our culture in a much stronger way:

“There never has been a generation whose general view of marriage is high enough. The chasm between the biblical vision of marriage and the common human vision is now, and has always been, gargantuan. Some cultures in history respect the importance and the permanence of marriage more than others. Some, like our own, has such a low, casual, take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward marriage as to make the biblical vision seem ludicrous to most people.”

A bit later Piper goes on to say:

“…in a modern Western culture, where the main idol is self; and its main doctrine is autonomy; and its central act of worship is being entertained; and its three main shrines are the television, the Internet, and the cinema…Such a culture will find the glory of marriage in the mind of Jesus virtually incomprehensible.”

In other words, we’ve forgotten that God’s intent within marriage was not all about us and our pursuit of happiness…but about Him. Again, I think Piper says it well:

“The ultimate thing we can say about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory. That is, it exists to display God. Now we see how: Marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to His redeemed people, the church. And therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and His church on display. That is why marriage exists. If you are married, that is why you are married. If you hope to be, that should be your dream.”

There was one day (a couple years ago) when I was not a good wife. These days are rare, mind you, so the bad ones stand out. (Please read sarcasm here!) I don’t remember the exact details, but I do remember that because of external pressures going on in my husband’s and my lives, I was incredibly unkind to him. I was selfish, irritable and unloving. He responded by coming home that night with flowers, and a card that simply affirmed his love for me. In that moment, I felt two inches tall. But here’s the point: In that moment, Warren’s determination to love me, “good days and bad,” glorified God. I could not have deserved his love less in that moment, and therefore his love for me could not have reflected the love of God any better. I still have that little bouquet of flowers, dried and sitting in a vase, to remind me of that day.

When we love our spouses, even (especially!) when they don’t deserve it, when we love them when they are being selfish, when we love them even when everything they say and do tells us that, in that moment, they aren’t believing the gospel…we are glorifying God. We are reflecting God’s love for all of us in those moments, because we are living like we believe the gospel.

While I obviously still don’t live out the biblical view of marriage perfectly – and never will – pleasing God (not myself) with my marriage is the goal. It wasn’t always; I’ve been married and divorced, and now remarried. I revisit the demise of my first marriage and I see in my own past exactly what John Piper is talking about, a disposable view of marriage, and it shames me. I have misrepresented Christ and His covenant in my own life, and I am thankful God has seen fit to not only remove my blindness in this area, but has given me another chance to glorify Him once again.

Maybe you got married years ago and your view of marriage wasn’t anywhere close to God’s plan for the sacrament. Maybe you weren’t even a Christian when you got married, and you aren’t sure how to even begin making changes. One of my suggestions would be simply to immerse yourself in the words and writings of those who have a lot of wisdom in this area. I’ve listed a few books below that Warren and I think very highly of.

The measure of a successful, God-glorifying marriage is not its durability, whether it ends in either death or divorce. I have to think there are many multi-decade marriages that lasted to the very end but never once glorified God – I can think of a few such examples even as I write this. In my humble opinion, a God-glorifying marriage is better measured by how you selflessly love your spouse, putting him or her first regardless of their deservedness or their response to you. That’s how you live out believing the gospel.

Some of these books/resources have been recommended in previous blogs; still, I think it bears repeating them occasionally.

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