Eternally Ever After
When I (Bonnie) was a young girl, many, many moons ago, I had this picture in my head of my “happily ever after.” I dreamed of future sunset walks through open fields with my fingers laced through “Prince Charming’s.” We smile at each other as we watch our 2.5 children (whatever that means) dance ahead of us with our faithful labrador retriever. The soundtrack is laughter when we all find our way back through our white picket fence that encloses our perfectly manicured 3-acre lot in the county. With the little ones tucked in, the dog curls up in front of the fire while my husband and I snuggle on the couch and talk for hours about our wonderful, fairy-tale life together. And why not? Don’t all love stories end with, “and they lived happily ever after?”
Now that YOUR laughter has snapped me back to reality, don’t we all love a good Disney princess or Nicholas Sparks movie ending? Unfortunately, these feel-good cliches paint unrealistic portraits and set expectations in our hearts that leave us disillusioned with our real-life relationships. Recent studies show that the average length of a marriage is 8 years. Then 70% of men and 55% of women remarry. Why? They are still looking for someone to make them happy. What if our problem is not with the person we married, but rather with our assumption that they should make us happy?
We had a startling realization many years ago that God’s purpose for marriage is not to make us happy. It’s not sexy to say, but it’s more accurate to understand that God uses marriage as a means of refining us to make us look more like His Son. When Jesus put skin on and came to earth, He gave us the perfect example of how to treat people. His disciples were excited to be the chosen ones of their long-awaited Messiah. They expected Jesus to be a King who would rescue the Jewish people from their oppressors, set them over kingdoms, and secure their happiness. James and John even had the nerve to ask if they could sit on Jesus’ right and left in His kingdom. How shocked they must have been to hear Jesus’ response in Mark 10:43-45. “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be a slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus’ entire life was a testimony to sacrificially serving others, expecting nothing in return.
At His last supper with His disciples before His crucifixion, Jesus gave them one last picture of the life they were to lead. He humbled Himself before them and washed their feet. Then He said, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 12:15-16). So, what does this mean for my marriage? God has given me my spouse to be the tangible means that He shows them His love. Are you as stunned as James and John right now? Think about it for a minute. If I’m God’s intended vessel to funnel His love to my spouse, then I have to shift my thought process about what I want to GET FROM my spouse to asking God to show me what I need to GIVE TO my spouse.
This only works if you are allowing Jesus to be the one who fills up those empty places in your heart left by unmet expectations. You aren’t capable of loving your spouse unselfishly without Jesus living inside you, empowering you. Here’s the good news. Jesus never disappoints. He never runs out of resources to refuel you. And, when we give of ourselves, it just feels good. When two people have the love of Jesus poured into them daily and allow Him to spill out on their spouse, do you know what results? Happiness.
There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy desire for love, romance, and a happy marriage. There are a few things we should expect from our spouse, like respect and faithfulness. We just have to be careful not to allow our desires to become a burden we unfairly place on a flesh and blood person who was never designed to be the fulfillment of our happiness. One day we will be face-to-face with our unblemished, perfect Groom who knows our heart’s desire better than we do and meets it beyond our wildest dream. Until then, we have the opportunity to meet with Him daily and let His love change us and our marriage into something that will fit us for Eternally ever after.
Enjoying for the Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie