Each of us on a specific day of a specific year stood before others and exchanged our marriage vows. Most likely we were full of great anticipation of this being our fairy tale come true. We were committing our life and love to a happily ever after. At least this was our hope.
But somewhere along the way life happened.
For us it was our third year of marriage. This was the year when reality broke through the fairy tale dream world I had created in my mind. Tom wasn’t a prince, and I was certainly no princess. We were both sinners saved by grace in need of continual saving from our sin-prone nature. We hurt each other more than we’d ever thought was possible. It wasn’t intentional, but it was unavoidable.
This may be hard to hear, but it was God’s plan all along.
He knew how my sin would hurt Tom and how his sin would hurt me. He planned for these hurts to draw us closer to the only One who could offer us hope and change–Himself.
He knows our frame and that we are dust. Between our first and our last breath, God has ordained for us to grow in godliness. For those who are married, our covenant will be one of the major sources He uses to bring the necessary change in our life.
Knowing this, I still resist at times. I want the fairy tale. I want to always feel my love. I don’t want to have to deal with heartache and disappointment. I don’t want to have to embrace change and the aging process. I want things to stay as they are. It is normal to be tempted in this way, but giving into this temptation is immature and damaging to the growth of a healthy marriage.
It is so easy to point the finger at our spouse with a long list of all the things they do to disappoint us. It is easier to place fault on someone other than ourselves, but this isn’t mature. James 1 says:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (ESV, emphasis mine)
Let’s take time to accurately look at our own heart in the mirror of God’s Word. As Tom has counseled many couples, we must realize that no person is completely without fault. We both bring issues to the table of marital hardship. Waiting for your spouse to go first is acting like a spoiled child. Someone has to go first. Someone has to be the mature one. Why not let it be you? As you purpose to deal with your own sin, you may be surprised to see how your spouse’s heart begins to soften as well.
Our third year was when the Prince Charming mask came off, and I saw Tom for who he was. But you know what? Seeing him as he really was, with all of his weaknesses exposed, was more attractive to me than a man who hid behind a fake costume trying to be what I wanted him to be.
In the same way Tom found his love for me deepen as he saw and began to understand my struggles with pride. To be honest, I am more like the wicked step-sister in the Cinderella story, than Cinderella, yet Tom demonstrated a mature love for me in spite of my ugly sin. So much like Christ’s love for His church.
We are compatibly different, and differently compatible.
And it’s in being honest about our faults and sins with God and each other that we’ve grown to embrace this truth, instead of trying to fix each other. Our differences actually make us more interesting as a couple. Our conversations and discussions are more lively because we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, and it’s okay.
You know what? The de-masking of Prince Charming revealed a man more handsome than who I thought Tom was when we married. Each year that passes my love for him deepens, and it no longer matters if I feel the emotions or not, because my love is based not on feeling, but on a strong desire to honor God and our covenant to each other. This, I believe, is what mature love is–and it is so much better than a fairy tale. Of course, I’m grateful for the feelings, but feelings are the fruit of mature love, not the sandy foundation like that of a fairy tale.
In what ways have you let go of the fairy tale romance for the reality of a deep and lasting love? What about this process has been difficult for you? How did God help you?