My husband and I, having gotten married young, used to joke that by the time we were old we would always win the contest at weddings for the last couple standing.
But especially in our earlier years, imagining getting from here to my eighties with my husband could sometimes feel impossible. I couldn’t fathom how I would keep putting one step in front of the other for all those years.
And it wasn’t just him: often seeing the change needed in myself overwhelmed my soul and made me feel the whole endeavor was too difficult to manage. I’d make a great companion to a cat, I mused, but trying to be a companion to this man was just too hard.
You see, marriage can sometimes feel like death, and it probably should.
Achieving a God-glorifying marriage may call for the death of nearly every part of ourselves. Your spouse might not like the food you like, or your decorating style. They might not be supportive of your ideas or dreams. They might be bothered by elements of your personality, like how direct or indirect you are in conversation. They might ask you to adjust how you spend your time or your money. And invariably your spouse will also notice and disapprove when you’re being prideful, selfish, stingy or any number of things you could easily be when not married and never notice.
You can stay married and avoid these crosses, hold onto yourself, and fight for your rights. But every time you do so you take a step out of sync. The result will sound more like instruments playing to different beats than the stunning duet God intended.
You see, while it’s true that it’s best to not attempt to change our spouses – that will only result in frustration and discontentment on both ends- we certainly should try to change ourselves. Love seeks to please the beloved.
Of course, for the most challenging crosses, our love for our spouses might not be enough to motivate us to change. That’s because it’s ultimately our love for and desire to please Christ that must provide us with the love we need to take up our crosses and serve our spouse. And His example will also remind us of why we should do so.
Have you ever meditated on the fact that Christ could have made his death stop? Jesus faced the lashes, and the mockery, and the nails, and the slow suffocation, and the wrath of the Father, all while having the power to call down legions of angels and bring his suffering to an end (Matt. 26:53).
Christ poured his power, not into escaping, but into staying. The author of Hebrews says that he endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him.” That joy was a healthy and beautiful relationship with us, his Bride, and the knowledge that he had been obedient to the Father.
Our little crosses promise similar joys.
CS Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.” I think that when it’s all said and done, we won’t regret the sacrifices we made in our marriages because each little cross we bore will have brought us closer to living out the Gospel in our lives. And in the end, they will be crowns of glory to lay at the feet of our Savior.
Dear Lord, let it be so.