If you’re a regular reader of this trending blog, you may have heard me talk about the early years of my marriage before. As I’ve written in previous articles, my husband and I got married young, and speaking for myself, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I believed my husband to be perfect, or at least as close as a human could get to it. After all, we both loved God, we never fought, and he always made me happy. What could possibly go wrong?
Of course, I know now how naive I was back then. It didn’t take long discover that my husband wasn’t perfect, and I wasn’t either. My expectations of a perfect marriage with a husband who always made me happy were quickly foiled. And we both realized that our marriage wasn’t going to last unless we made some drastic changes.
I’m sure our story isn’t uncommon. Many of you are probably nodding along with me, thinking of your own marriage expectations, and how they weren’t met back then… maybe they still aren’t being met now.
Blogger Kendra Dahl writes that she was once one of us – the group of people who believe that marriage will always make us happy. She expected her husband to love her, to cherish her, and to keep her nourished and content at all times. When he didn’t live up to these expectations, she was left disappointed and frustrated. She believed that her problems were all his fault.
But then she learned to apply the Bible’s most important lesson on marriage.
Ephesians 5:22-33 says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands and you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united too his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you must also love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Yes, there is a lot here to digest, but every word of these verses is important. Dahl says that the root of this Scripture is complementarity. Put simply, man and wife are to complete one another. Our qualities bring out the best of our spouse’s qualities. We are to submit to one another, and live as a representation of Christ and the church.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Dahl writes, “The problem comes when we (wives) hear this teaching for our husbands and want from them what only Jesus can provide. We become critical and grumbly. Words from Ephesians ring in our ears: Is my husband loving me? Nourishing and cherishing me? Sanctifying me? Washing me with the water of the word?
“Suddenly we realize we don’t feel so nourished, cherished, sanctified, washed. Rather, we stare at this sinner we married, wondering why he isn’t making us all bright-and-shiny holy.”
What Ephesians 5:22-33 doesn’t say is that your spouse is not and will never be Jesus.
“Christ is the head of his bride, the church. He’s her Savior. He loves her and gave himself for her, sanctifying and cleansing her, presenting her spotless to himself. Jesus loves his bride as his own body, nourishing and cherishing her,” Dahl says.
“There’s a beautiful way in which a husband’s love for his wife pictures this, but it will never be this. The most wonderful husband cannot accomplish in his bride what Christ accomplishes in his church. And so when I look to my husband to be these things for me, there’s only one word for my posture: idolatrous.”
So what does that mean for the spouse who is feels unfulfilled in marriage? It means you’re looking in the wrong place. True fulfillment can only be found in Christ.
Dahl writes, “As I look to Jesus to nourish and cherish me—as I embrace his love for me and my union with him—I’m freed to love my husband with no strings attached. This is the path to security and confidence: united to Christ, I can joyfully submit to this earthly union, trusting the same God who is shaping me to be more like his Son is at work in my husband too.”
We should absolutely strive to live our marriages as prescribed in Ephesians 5. But sometimes we will fail. Our spouse will fail us, and we will fail our spouse. But through our dependence on Christ, we will have the strength to forgive and carry on with the sanctifying work of marriage.
The road to a lasting Christian marriage is not an easy one, but so worth the sacrifices along the way.
As Debra Fileta writes for Crosswalk.com, “… there is so much mutual respect, mutual love, and even mutual submission that HAS TO EXIST in a relationship in order for this process to truly work. It’s not about the laundry, the dishes, the finances, the sex, or the ‘last word’ on decisions… more than anything, it’s about learning to trust, to respect, and ultimately, to love one another, as Christ has loved us.”
That, brothers and sisters, is the marriage God wants for you.
Carrie Dedrick is an editor of Crosswalk.com. When she is not writing or editing, she can usually be found teaching dance classes, running marathons, or reading with at least one adopted dog on her lap. Carrie and her husband Dustin are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first baby, a daughter, in October 2017.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/DariaZuIvory File auto-gathered this post from Cross Walk