I don't often write about my husband, Chris, or our marriage on my blog, not because it isn't important in my life, quite the opposite. Because he is so important, however, I want to honor him and I know he doesn't care for the spotlight. I've been thinking about marriage lately though and I have some observations I want to share.
I looked up the occurrence of the words marriage, husband, wife and healing in the bible to see if I was going in the right direction. I think I am. Perhaps I'm late arriving at the party and I'm just figuring out what everyone else has already known, if so I do apologize. Let me ask the question "What do you think the purpose of marriage is?" Probably not many of us would answer outright, marriage makes me happy. We'd probably try be more spiritual or mature and say something like, marriage is for partnership, it makes me a better person, to share a burden, to teach us about love, it makes life better etc. But even though we may say otherwise, I think we behave as if marriage is about making us happy, at least I'm going to confess that I do.
I think though, for Christians, marriage is about healing. The bible repeatedly draws the parallel between divine love and human love. Jesus came to heal; to heal our broken relationship with the Father, heal our spirits from the stain of sin, heal our minds from flawed thinking, heal our bodies from the curse of death. Ultimately that's the whole point, healing. What if marriage was a safe place for healing? What if marriage wasn't about how the other person made us feel, but how we allowed them the space and support to heal? Perhaps then we would be imitating Jesus' relationship with his bride.
It's taken me a long time to get this concept, sometimes I remember it and sometimes I don't, just ask Chris. Now that we've been married twelve years, I look back and I wish I had realized at the beginning, a healthy marriage is one that is consciously designed to be a place of healing. There's enough judgement from the rest of the world without our spouses pushing us to conform us to their ideal or shaming us into their preferred behavior. I admit I still have a ginormous amount to learn about offering Chris the freedom he needs to hear from and be parented by God, without my uninvited input and impatience but my support.
I look back at the early days of our marriage and I know a lot of growth has happened. I also know, since we live up close and personal, that there are still areas God wants to work on in Chris' life, I'm positive he's equally aware of similar areas in mine. Our spouses are all different, but one thing I've learned about my husband is that if I want to see who he really is, if I want to be invited into the intimacy of his heart, I must walk softly. Several years ago a mental image popped into my head. My husband is an introvert, he doesn't enjoy chaos or conflict, who does really. I had the picture of a timid rabbit in the woods, shy and quiet, if you sit down very still maybe the bunny will come out and nose around you and get comfortable but if you go singing and tromping through the forest all the woodland creatures scurry. Sometimes I call Chris my woodland creature to remind myself to act accordingly. I think to an extent that's true of all of us. Our hearts need a place of safety to unfurl and blossom.
I wrote in my previous post about Jennifer, my friend with Down syndrome, and how God had allowed me to see her beauty, but only because I was looking. I think that applies in marriage. We are all undergoing a transformation, but some spouses, due to trauma, need heart surgery and marriage is like a triage. No matter where we are in the process in each spouse is beauty to be seen, but only if we walk softly and look. Is your husband stressed and snappish, walk softly and look for the beauty. Does your wife struggle with an addiction in an attempt to find her self worth, use quiet words and look for beauty. Is your spouse stuck in a broken means of coping with past wounds, which only causes more pain, use the gentle hands of Jesus and look for beauty. I'm not saying it's easy, living in close quarters with another person's pain, weaknesses, sin is messy but that's why we need to have new eyes to see what the purpose of marriage really is. Marriage is not ultimately for our comfort although we certainly can have comfort in companionship, it's not just for pleasure although there is often greater joy shared with our spouse than anyone else, it's not only for safety although protection from the harshness of life can be found in marriage. Ultimately marriage is a microcosm of the love of Jesus for his people, the people he bled for, the people he prays for, people who will ultimately be healed and made completely whole by his care. And that, I believe, is the right expectation of marriage, to foster an environment in which our spouse meets Jesus, in us, on their journey to being made whole, sanctified, pure and holy. Big words I know, now I need to learn how to live them.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails... And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8,13
These verses were most certainly written for the church to understand how to love one another, no doubt they may be applied to marriage as well. For what purpose is this kind of love, other than a partnership with Jesus in another person's journey, to bring about good, healing, life. What a profound privilege and daunting responsibility. God is brutally serious about marriage, because it's a mirror image of his heart, it tells how he faithfully loves us from death to life.
I'd love to hear from you. Do you agree or think I'm off base? How has God taught you about his nature through your marriage?