By now, I think an extremely significant portion of the internet-using population has read the article, “Marriage Isn’t For You.”
Seth Adam Smith, a more or less professional blogger, has some great points about what pop culture thinks marriage is, and what it actually should be.
But I’m here to say that I think there’s something missing in his theory. Not much, but a critical juncture in the plan. He’s not wrong. He’s just kind of wrong. Going into marriage thinking What will this do for me? will always land you in the lukewarm water of dissatisfaction. But there’s more to a holy relationship than just doing things for your spouse.
With thanks to Joe, the author of this GoTandem devotional I’ve just finished reading several times, here’s some thoughts on Smith’s viral views on vows.
For marriage not to be for you would imply that God is working in you only to be a servant of somebody else. While that is admirable, serving others is not a means to an end, but a “slow deconstruction and reassembling of two human beings who were made to fit together but don’t even come close anymore.” Marriage is for you, but it’s for your holiness, and not your happiness. Holiness is hazardous to your ego.
God wants to transform your heart, expose your weaknesses, and reinforce your fortifications; the spillover of becoming a servant is a side effect of his renewal process. And marriage is sure to expose your blind spots, and make darn sure that you know just how selfish you really are.
“Serving” people with a selfish heart will create resentment and bitterness. It places an invisible burden on your loved one’s shoulders to “earn” that service, and that’s not how God wants it to be. So let’s take Smith’s advice on one condition: that it is not you who serves your spouse, but God who loves them through you.
To break this cycle, we need to know two things:
1. Marriage is insane (thank you, Joe). Why? Because it is a relational mine field of deep hurts, and
2. People are shaped by their painful experiences.
By the abuse or neglect of a parent.
By the ignorance of peers.
By the cruelty of society.
By misguided teaching.
By imperfect people. As Romans 8 puts it, the whole of Creation is groaning in childbirth-level pain, as it waits for its redemption. Creation is hurting. The broken world, and its fantastically broken people, break each other.
In my personal opinion (and take this for what it’s worth), going into marriage not realizing your spouse has these holes that have been punched into them by life can result in painful disillusionment.
Let’s stop for a moment. Think about your wife. Think about your boyfriend, your fiancé. Imagine for a moment the holes in their heart. They are lacking something, despite your best efforts to label them as perfect. They have something missing.
Can you serve them knowing that maybe they won’t be able to repay the kindness in the way you need? Can you serve the broken person you’ve promised your life to in a way that God serves you and gives you life every day?
Certainly not without God’s presence in your own life.
In short, no. Marriage is not for you. But it kind of is.
Love, the RYM Team