There is an article currently going around entitled “Marriage Isn’t For You” that rightly explains that marriage should not be a self-centered commitment in which oneself is concerned only with their own happiness. C.S. Lewis actually addressed this in his work Mere Christianity when he stated, “The natural life in each of us is something self-centred, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. . . . [The natural life] knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that.”
As I was reading the article though, I kept getting this nagging feeling that something big was missing… while the article makes some very good points, it is overall a bit short-sighted. It claims that marriage is not about yourself, but rather about your spouse, that it’s about family. That it is about making them happy and helping them to realize and actualize “their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams.” I would agree that falling in love in a Christian way is to say to your potential spouse, ‘I am excited about your future and I want to be a part of getting you there. I’m signing up for the journey with you. Would you sign up for the journey to my true self with me? It’s going to be hard, but I want to get there, and get there with you.’ However, there is more beyond that.
While I think this article truly has good intentions and contains some great truths, I don’t believe that it takes its thesis anywhere near far enough. What if marriage is not about who you marry, but why? What if being ‘in love’ isn’t a good enough reason to get married? What if dating isn’t about finding ‘the one,’ but about serving the One who loves you most? What if marriage isn’t about your happiness, but rather your holiness? Yes, marriage is not for you, but ultimately it is not just about or for your spouse either… it’s for God (Ephesians 5:22-33). It’s a shadow of something much greater than us.
The wedding ceremony and marriage between two people is not ultimately about celebrating the two of them, but rather it is celebrating the love that Christ has displayed for His Bride. Ephesians 5 tells us that marriage is not ultimately about sex or social stability or personal fulfillment; rather marriage was created to be a human reflection of the ultimate love relationship with the Lord. It points to the true marriage that our souls need and the true family our hearts want. For my wife and me, it is our hope to preach the Gospel through our marriage as God has chosen the story of our lives to be a shadow of His much greater narrative.
So, like the author claims, marriage is definitely not about making yourself “happy,” but it’s not always about making your spouse happy either. The marriage relationship between two people will never be unblemished and someday it will end in the death of one, and eventually both people. The only love that won’t disappoint you is one that can’t change, that can’t be lost, that is not based on the ups and downs of life or of how well you live. It is something that not even death can take away from you. God’s love is the only thing like that; God’s triune love is actually the most selfless love there is. True love is focused on God, and that sometimes means making people unhappy in order to draw them closer to God. Marriage is not simply about making your spouse smile or laugh every day. Marriage is not always about being nice, it’s about loving your spouse as God loves them. As C.S. Lewis eloquently explains in his work The Problem of Pain, “Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.” Marriage isn’t merely about happiness, it’s about holiness.
Truthfully, this means that sometimes you will make your spouse sad, sometimes you will make your spouse angry, and sometimes you will even unfortunately make your spouse cry. However, the beauty of marriage is still displayed in these moments, where you challenge your spouse to better love God even when it makes them unhappy. Jesus even said, “I want you to follow me so fully, so intensely, so enduringly that all other attachments in your life look weak by comparison.” (Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 14:25-35; John 12:25-26)
So, the author did have it right: marriage isn’t for you, but it’s not for your spouse either; it’s also not just about the both of you… Marriage is meant to symbolize the beauty of the human soul espoused to Christ. As Martin Luther stated in The Freedom of a Christian, “Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace? Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all His goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by Him. And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, ‘Though I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all His is mine and all mine is His.'” And our earthly marriage gets to be a reflection of that beautiful union. Marriage is ultimately for God.
Related article: Pain in Marriage: For Your Joy