*guest blog by Megan King
We see it everywhere. This idea that all you need is love. Love will get you through! As long as you have love, you have everything. Our movies, television shows, and music are all saturated with this overwhelming idea. It's pervasive and addicting!
Love is powerful. It is selfless and generous. True love sacrifices and honors and cherishes. Love fulfills us and gives us motivation to be a better person. But it also fades and wanes. It can come and go.
Love is not a statue that you affix in the center of your marriage and then live happily ever after. Love is the most demanding garden you've ever tended. Love is a fragile thing and it can easily wilt.
We want love to be enough because it feels so good and it makes us happy. And we all just want to live happily ever after, right?
My favorite Disney movie growing up was Cinderella. I loved it, but now that I'm grown, I have some concerns about how Cinderella got her happily ever after... The whole movie is based off of the romantic notion of love at first sight. They didn't even know each other's first names before they decided that they were madly in love. How does that work?
Love at first sight makes for great movies, but not marriages.
To be clear, I am not saying that you don't need love in order to be happily married. This blog post simply isn't about that.
This blog is about what else you need to live happily ever after.
Let's get real - God invented marriage. If we're going to do it right, we should probably consult the Creator. He wrote the laws of love way before Disney and I am pretty sure that God would have a thing or two to say about what you need to make it work. In fact, the whole purpose of marriage was never centered on love in the first place!
Scripture gives us three purposes for holy matrimony:
1) To fill the Earth and Subdue it
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth" Genesis 1:27-28 ESV
This one is rather simple; have babies and fill the Earth. In God's wisdom, He created the family unit consisting of a mother, father, and children. Marriage provides the structure and safety that children need in order to thrive.
2) To be in partnership
"And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18 ESV
This word, helper, means so much more than just an extra set of hands. The Hebrew word, "ezer," expresses an idea more along the lines of an indispensable companion. Sounds like a partner to me.
3) To serve as a reflection of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church
"For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called." Isaiah 54:5 ESV
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church" Ephesians 5:25-33 ESV
This is so beautiful, isn't it? The love and loyalty expressed in marriage is merely a reflection, an example of the relationship Christ wants to have with his church.
Attempting to successfully navigate a marriage relationship without understanding WHY you are married is like navigating the ocean without any charts - reckless and hopeless. You will get lost and you will sink. Might as well call yourselves the Titanic. You're going down, my friend.
There is an incredible amount of patience, selflessness, humility, gentleness, kindness, and generosity that is required to truly love someone... and the fact is that all of that can only come from God. If I didn't have the strength of God helping me to love my husband daily, I wouldn't be able to do it. Without my faith in God and the gifts of his holy spirit, my marriage would quickly dry up.
When you decide to be friends with someone, you consciously choose to hang around that person more and more because you agree with their actions, you share the same beliefs, and you enjoy their company. The way they handle life resonates with you and you see things eye-to-eye. Jumping into a romantic relationship before you have a chance to objectively make this evaluation is like waiting to put on a parachute until after you've already jumped. Reckless.
Love, handled in the wrong way, can cause us to overlook character flaws in a person and justify their actions or beliefs regardless of if we agree with them or not.
Seriously, though. Imagine having fundamentally differing personality types. Strip your marriage of sex, attraction, even love. What is left? If you can't see yourself hanging out with this person in a completely casual manner, you might not be friends with them and your marriage could be in danger.
A little piece of advice here, if you find that you don't have many interests in common with your spouse...
Find something that they love and decide to love it too. No, seriously. You can choose this.
Is your husband a basketball fan? Good, so are you. Make it happen. Watch the games together. Wear the shirts and sport the gear. And maybe, you just might find that you... well... you couldn't care less about basketball, but being with him makes it worth it and now you are that much closer. What about video games? Pick up that controller, girl. It's okay if you suck. Does he like to go hiking or running? It's good for you anyway, so grab your tennis shoes and get to it.
Find something that he loves and choose to love it too.
Unlike every Disney relationship ever, Marriage is not "happily ever after." It is difficult, ever difficult. When you feel the love fade, friendship is what keeps you from looking at your spouse as someone you used to be attracted to.
True love is friendship on fire. A marriage rooted in friendship is what makes your relationship a companionship. (Say that five times fast.)
On average, the human brain stops developing around age 25. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you must be at least 25 to get married - I was 22!! I am saying that it's important to consider that you may not even be fully you, yet.
What are you supposed to be doing with your life? What do you want to be when you grow up?
No, seriously, it's important to have this figured out before you get married. Because what if you marry a man that is called by God to be a pastor in Africa, but you are completely unwilling to move to Africa? What if you desire to travel the world, but you marry a man who refuses to board a plane?
One of you will lose. You will either spend the rest of your life resenting your spouse for holding you back or you will be dragging your spouse around as you follow your dreams and crush theirs.
Your spouse is not meant to be your other half. You both must be your own person. When you fall in love and get married before you are your own person, how can you know what you want in your future, let alone if it matches with someone else?
Why does this even matter?
God takes marriage very seriously. There aren't a lot of escape routes and the ones that do exist are rough to say the least. Any Christian couple looking to get married is making a lifelong commitment and a very serious decision.
You can't clearly make this decision when you are clouded by love. Love makes us foolish. It is a dangerous chemical; a powerful potion. It will overwhelm your senses and make you lose your focus. Love is not to be trifled with!
Yes, love is powerful, but it's also fickle. Love fades. Sorry, but it's true. It is a daily choice that must be made. Some days, you won't feel like making that choice! But it's all worth it when you know that you have something to fight for. Something that won't degrade over time or fade away.
My husband and I have a foundation underneath our marriage that is stronger than love! Something that cannot be melted by our sinful nature, selfish attitudes, or the passing of time. Nothing will change our faith in the God we both serve. Our personalities match and we were good friends before the romance began. And we have the exact same vision for our future. We also deeply love each other, but that came last. This security is what I wish for you, too.
I would encourage you to be clear headed when it comes to choosing your lifelong partner. And that means making the decision to get married based off of whether or not the marriage makes sense, not on feelings alone. And if you're already married, it's not too late to work on these things and build a foundation underneath what you already have.
Just remember, love is NOT all you need.
Megan King lives in Gilbert, AZ with her loving husband and the dorkiest dog you'll ever meet. You can typically find her watching Friends on Netflix (again) or hanging out with the youth group girls from her church, where she's served in leadership for the past seven years. She works as a communications director for a non-profit that spreads the gospel in SouthEast Asia and she loves every minute of it. (Okay, not every minute but she can't complain.)