I’m getting married!!!!
This is the point where you respond with, “CONGRATULATIONS!!!”
It’s at this moment when my former pastor’s voice echoes in my head from when he announced to us all in a sermon in 2016 that “Marriage is like dying a thousand small deaths every day.” I was never the gal who pined about her future husband and kids, so adding on the higher calling as a married Christian couple, that learning only seemed to further reinforce that I’m in no rush to get married. I’ll start thinking about that in about 5-10 years, I told myself.
Three years later … and I’m getting married. And the dying a thousand small deaths is near…!
“You may have learned where problems typically exist for you as a couple, and you may have learned how to solve them together. You may have identified places where you and your marriage need to mature. You may have created a lifestyle of honest communication and efficient problem solving. You may have forged a solid and enjoyable friendship between you. You may be able to look back and be thankful because you recognize what you once were compared to what you are now. But there is one thing that you need to accept: your marriage may be great, but it is not safe. No marriage this side of eternity is totally problem protected. No marriage is all that it could be. This side of heaven daily temptations are constant threats to you and your marriage. This side of heaven the spiritual war goes on. This side of heaven good marriages are good marriages because the people in those marriages are committed to doing daily the things that keep their marriages good. Things go wrong when couples think they have reached the point when they can retire from their marital work and chill out, lie back, and slide. Perhaps the greatest danger to a good marriage is a good marriage, because when things are good, we are tempted to give way to feelings of arrival and forsake the attitudes and disciplines that have, by God’s grace, made our marriage what it has become.”Paul David Tripp, What Did You Expect? (emphasis added)
Whew. I read this and am already reminded of the problems of my heart that have bubbled up as we begin to make important life decisions. No matter how much reflection Matt and I pack into our marital preparation, no matter how many meta-conversations we have about what emotions lurk below the surface in our conversations … this remains true: God has already humbled me in many ways as He reveals the ways in which I fall short and am in need of the Lord’s constant grace and forgiveness, as well as Matt’s.
As Tripp says more succinctly in that book, the best assumption we can have going into marriage is this: “My greatest marital problem is me.”
That’s a pretty scary realization to let sink in. So maybe it’s not so bad that we are fearful, as we are forced to deal with ourselves more seriously than ever before. So for me, instead of being frustrated when we’re already late somewhere and he once again has forgotten his wallet and phone in the house… I am reminded of this: our problem here isn’t that he’s forgetful, it’s my reaction to this for-real-no-big-deal facet of his personality. I mean, what exactly am I mad about in this scenario? Being late? I’m late a lot. I doubt that’s it. Him not being perfect? Or me being impatient? Maybe. Probably.
Ugh. Back to my age-old problem of lacking patience. See? It’s my problem, not his. I mean, this is the same guy who remembers the names of a guy that one of my good friends went on a date with two weeks ago. So I am reminded once again that I need to be more intentional about praying to gain this virtue, not only for the sake of our marriage, but for the sake of everyone else I work with and love. Indeed, the greatest problem in this situation is me.
The worst parts of us come out in marriage, and this is part of what it means to die a thousand deaths every day, to never retire from marital work, and continue to hack away at the little foxes in the garden that the enemy plants there to wreck our minds and marriages (Song of Solomon 2:15).
Another quote from What Did You Expect?: “Marriage magnifies our problems not solves them.”
It’s for this reason that I do not know why marriage is so romanticized. Yes, it is beautiful and it is sanctifying. There is great joy in marriage — joy that we are excited to soon know, and through marriage, know God more. But to commit to pushing each other to holiness each and every day… to confessing to one another daily … to seeing the other person as God sees them… these things take work. Harder work than we’ve ever done, I presume. They are things we tend to avoid pretty easily with all other parties in our lives — roommates, colleagues, family members, friends, etc. Our spouse though… our whole selves are exposed to our spouses. Matt has already begun to see some of my flaws that I have kept hidden (even from my roommate who is also my coworker and best friend). And I see his.
This is where the fear can either be good or not. When fear is good, it means we are fearful of our Creator. This fear leads us to seek and obey him; if married couples with a healthy relationship are praying daily and confessing to each other daily, willing and ready to face our flaws, let’s do that. And let’s start today. We don’t have to even wait until we’re married.
This brings me back to the quote about dying a thousand small deaths every day. I find it wholly ironic that God so lovingly has changed my perspective on this idea. By dying a thousand small deaths, we are becoming more like Jesus. He didn’t promise it would be easy to take up the cross and follow him, to lose our lives for His sake. Perhaps through marriage, and through a rightfully placed fear, our marriages can help us to see it as St. Paul did – to live is Christ and to die is gain.
So if you tell us (or any other engaged couple) congratulations, I hope that you and I both remember that behind that the congratulations is not just for deciding to make the most important commitment of our lives, but also for getting to sign up for the hardest, and yet most beautiful, job we could ever have. The one that causes us to so humbly and authentically look up at our Creator every day longing to know Him more.
Interested in other marriage books? Check out Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage!