Did you know that marriage comes with a warning label? Ok. We all know it doesn’t, but it should.
Marriage is the closest you’ll ever be to someone in this life. Your spouse knows everything about you, your good side, your bad side and what you look like naked. There is no place to hide in marriage which is why marriage can be a hazard if you aren’t paying attention.
It’s true. Consider the following taken from Gary Thomas’ book, The Sacred Marriage:
Kathleen and Thomas Hart write, “Sometimes what is hard to take in the first years of marriage is not what we find out about our partner, but what we find out about ourselves. As one young woman who had been married about a year said, ‘I always thought of myself as a patient and forgiving person. Then I began to wonder if that was just because I had never before gotten close to anyone. In marriage, when John and I began…dealing with differences, I saw how small and unforgiving I could be. I discovered a hardness in me I had never experienced before.'”
When I grew up, my family lived by a simple rule: If you take out an ice cube, you refill the tray before you put it back in. Now I’ll pull out a tray and find nothing more than half an ice cube–which I call an ice chip.
It was amazing how much such a small detail irritated me. I asked Lisa, “How much do you love me?”
“More than all the world,” she professed.
“I don’t need you to love me that much,” I said. “I just want you to love me for seven seconds.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” she asked.
“Well, I timed how long it takes to fill an ice cube tray and discovered it’s just seven sec–“
“Oh, Gary, are we back to that again?”
It finally dawned on me one day that if it takes Lisa just seven seconds to fill an ice cube tray, that’s all it takes me as well. Was I really so selfish that I was willing to let seven seconds’ worth of inconvenience become a serious issue in my marriage? Was my capacity to show charity really that limited? (pgs. 93-94)
The closer we become to another person, the more we’re going to bump into each other, disappoint and irritate each other. If we aren’t mindful of this fact, we can allow our inconveniences and selfishness to dictate the way we treat our spouse.
Marriage is the best relationship to help us grow in patience, honesty, understanding, and a daily denial of self.
It is equally true that marriage is the best relationship to expose our lack of patience, dishonesty in regards to our own sins, a lack of desire to understand our spouse and most of all how selfish we are.
How in the world are we to grow closer as husband and wife when we both battle such sinful tendencies?
Gary goes on to say:
Being so close to someone–which marriage necessitates–may be the greatest spiritual challenge in the world. There is no “resting,” because I am under virtual 24-hour surveillance. Not that Lisa makes it seem like that–it’s just that I’m aware of it. Every movie I rent is rented with the understanding that I will watch it with Lisa next to me. Every hour I take off for recreation is an hour that Lisa will know about. Where I eat at lunch (and what), how I’m doing on a particular diet–my appetites and lusts and desires are all in full view of Lisa.
This presupposes, of course, that I’m willing to be confronted with my sin–that I’m willing to ask Lisa, “Where do you see unholiness in my life? I want to know about it. I want to change it.”
I don’t naturally gravitate toward the honesty and openness that leads to change. My natal sin-bent is to hide and erect a glittering image.
Do you hide from your spouse? Or do you utilize the spotlight of marriage to grow in grace? Some of us need this spotlight to understand how truly sinful we are.
Our spouse is like a mirror allowing us to see ourselves more clearly.
This can be a great tool for growing in godliness, or a great deterrent causing us to want to hide. It takes what Fenelon describes below to embrace the former and resist the latter:
“All the saints are convinced that sincere humility is the foundation of all virtues, a certain honesty and childlike willingness to acknowledge our faults, to recover from them, and to submit to the advice of experienced people; these will be solid useful virtues, adapted to your sanctification.” (emphasis added)
Anyone who has ever driven on California’s Pacific Coast Highway is aware of the hazards, but the beauty to be seen is well worth the risk. The experienced driver will know how to avoid the dangerous path, and seek to stay on the road clearly marked ahead. The vistas may be dangerous, but they are breathtakingly beautiful as well. So it is with marriage.
Only those of us who commit our full attention to embracing the hazards of marriage, having faith that God will help us change for the better, will enjoy a life-long relationship together of growing in godliness for His glory. And it is beautiful to behold!