I tentatively walked down the aisle, dressed in the most gorgeous sculptured couture gown with one tear artistically cascading down my cheek in joyful anticipation of what was about to happen. Standing at the front of the church was a grinning groom beholding his beauty, a mischievous but brutally loyal best man and a team of suited supportive groomsmen. There were bridesmaids in a sea of gold satin and organza with waves of pearly white smiles. The church was filled beyond capacity with beaming family and friends so eager to celebrate the union of two hearts. It was the picture perfect wedding, the start of a happily ever after.
We caught our plane to our honeymoon to continue our happy journey, but we returned to the start of a much darker ever after. Virtually as our plane landed, so too did our dreams. My beloved had been made redundant and we were thrown into the depths of the recession. There were many months when it seemed the credit crunch had dissolved our pockets and the love we had for each other. Our ability to show love to each other was as stunted as the growth in the economy. And this made me sad, really sad.
I’m ashamed to admit that I had never really taken time to look at myself in the mirror before I got married. Although I appear confident, deep down I’m not. I never felt I was ‘beautiful’ so when my beloved said I was – I was over the moon. I held my head a bit higher and was confident that I fulfilled his desires. The problem is that when we were going through challenging times, it was more difficult for us both to notice the beauty in each other. I found myself thinking negatively about myself, until it dawned on me – I needed to love me a bit more.
And that was the first of many light bulb moments during our marriage. These moments taught me that my disappointment in my husband’s actions or my unfulfilled expectations was more of a reflection on me than on him. One such time, was when I’d become frustrated with my beloved’s lack of romantic acts; I realized that this was an expectation that was built up by my Hollywood stereotypes. I learned that neither husband or wife were solely responsible for romance, there was no law in the bible that said a man must always initiate or keep the romance. My beloved’s sole purpose was not to make me smile and feel good; the purpose of our marriage was and is bigger than me.
There is such a conviction within my heart that marriage is to make me better, purer and dare I say holier. It challenges me. Just the other day, my beloved commented that my language had become a bit distasteful. I didn’t particularly like getting corrected but, on reflection, I realized he was right (as he often is). His observation and loving words of correction has pointed me to a habit that once dealt with, will make me a far better example of Christ.
Ephesians 5:25 says “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
By no means, are our husbands to take the place of Christ but, isn’t it interesting how Christ draws parallels with the church and the husband’s role? Christ wants to make the church holy – set apart, righteous, upstanding and pure by cleansing her with the word. I believe marriage exists to make us holy – to make us much better versions of ourselves that we may not have been without marriage. This isn’t to say that my beloved doesn’t make me happy. He does. But, my happiness doesn’t come from him alone.
I’ve had friends in the past that placed their entire existence on whether their beloved was in a good mood or had behaved correctly. Isn’t it unfair to put the responsibility of making you happy on someone else? How can you limit that person’s entire existence to being about you? This means that you have given charge over your well-being, your mood and your countenance to someone else. I am not saying this is easy! It’s extremely difficult at times, especially as there will be times when your beloved causes you heartbreak. The good thing though is that God has told us that he is the source of your joy. He is the one who can take your broken heart, your hurt, your pain, your confusion, your anger and your bitterness and give you peace that surpasses all understanding.
When I think of all that the bible has to say about marriage, the commands given to the husbands and wives don’t mention making each other happy. There’s plenty of mention about ‘love’ which in itself is sacrificial – patient, bearing all, keeping no record of wrongs – it’s not an easy feat. And for us wives we are asked to submit, a word that by definition doesn’t paint the jolliest of pictures. There’s plenty of mention of sacrifice and selflessness but no mention of who takes ownership for churning smiles. Happily ever after? It may be better to say ‘Holy’ ever after. Marriage will bring out of you all that you are running from and all that you are trying to suppress. You will realize your strengths and your weaknesses. You will see yourself in a different light. The process of making anything pure and holy is never easy.
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