May 6 I Friday
1 Kings 21-22
“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” —1 Corinthians 7:3
God created us with a need to feel connected, to be known, to be loved and to love. We dream of beautiful relationships because we were created for relationship. In Western culture, where independence is highly valued, we may sometimes think the sole point of relationships is what we get out of them. This thinking will cause conflict in any relationship, but especially marriage.
One of the great myths of marriage is that it is a “consumer” relationship. Some marry to receive love, companionship, sexual satisfaction, children, belonging, intimacy or identity. These are legitimate needs and desires, but if a marriage is founded on “consumer” interests, it will last only as long as our needs are being met. When they are not, couples are increasingly giving up on their marriages instead of finding beauty and stability in doing the hard, sometimes painful work of maintaining the relationship.
One reason behind this trend is that we tend to over-romanticize marriage. Many fall in love with the idea of being in love. We might imagine marrying the perfect spouse, having darling children and simply enjoying each other’s company while the work of cleaning, laundry and cooking just happens. If all we want is this fairy tale, the real thing will disillusion us very quickly.
American theologian Stanley Hauerwas once said, “Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person....It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person…even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.”
Paradoxically, the best preparation for marriage is learning to be complete as a single person. This is not being coldly self-sufficient but learning to be self-sufficient in a wholesome way in order that we may give ourselves to our marriage partners. It is a wonderful thing if someone loves us and wants to spend the rest of their life with us, but this is not a necessary ingredient to having a fulfilled life. Rather, we are to find our true fulfillment and identity in Christ, for it is in relationship with Him that we learn and are enabled to truly love our spouse for their sake.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for creating me as a relational being. Whether or not marriage is part of Your plans for me, may I find my true fulfillment and identity in You alone. Amen!