Do you remember when you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Were you excited? Was Jesus all you could think of?
I was in Vacation Bible School when I accepted Jesus. I bawled convulsively because I was a sinner. The Bible became my friend.
In high school, I continued to read my Bible, but at times, studies, friends, and boys held my thoughts captive. My hunger for more of God decreased, and my thoughts became more worldly. Yet, I began to pray for the man that God was preparing for me. Those prayers led me to form unspoken and unacknowledged expectations.
Did you daydream about the man you would marry? Did you imagine what he looked like? How he would treat you? What his profession would be? I did.
The day finally came, and I met my man.
I asked myself as I brushed my hair, “Why did I let her talk me into going on this blind date?” Stepping out of the elevator, I smiled. “He has a Roman nose. His eyes are penetrating. Maybe this will be a good night.”
Three months later, I told my parents, “I’ve met the man that God has prepared for me. I don’t love him, yet, but I will.” Deep breaths and silence prevailed. Three years later, we were married.
Do you remember how you looked into the eyes of your fiancé—did you think that this man would complete you and make you happy?
I remember looking into Keith’s eyes, holding his hand, and swooning over his affirmations of love. Smiling as I sat beside him in the library study hall, I looked forward to the late-night phone call after he dropped me off at the dormitory.
We had a simple, private wedding, but it was wrapped with beauty, joy, and hope. The road-trip honeymoon took my breath away.
After the honeymoon, reality set in.
No more study hall. He’s sprawled out studying on the couch in our three-room apartment, next door to his parents, but that’s another story. I tiptoe from the bedroom to the kitchen. He frowns, “I need quiet!”
Beauty faded, hope retreated, and happiness grimaced.
“This man has changed,” eyebrows scrunched. “God, did I misunderstand You? Is Keith really the man You prepared for me? I feel like I’m alone in this marriage.”
I had wrapped our marriage in crisp, perfectly arranged glossy-white wrapping paper. Now, the wrapping was crumpled, torn, and smudged. Although I had seen the ups and downs of my parents’ marriage and the marriages of others, I expected only the high points, the delights, the neatly wrapped romance that we had when we dated.
Change – a way of life.
“Marriage brings you into more intense proximity to another human being than any other relationship can. Therefore, the moment you marry someone, you and your spouse begin to change in profound ways, and you can’t know ahead of time what those changes will be.”[i]
Changes became a way of life. Constricted living. Tight finances. Fewer conversations.
Laughable experiences. Yes, some of the changes brought moments of laughter. I’ll bet you’ve had them, too.
After a hard night of study, Keith had a melt-down in his sleep. “Get that ironing board out of my bed!” Standing on top of our double bed, he points to me. “Get that thing out of my bed.” Laughing, I wake him up and tell him that I’m the ironing board, just not as stiff. Yes, in those days, I ironed our clothes.
Change marks the Christian walk and the Christian marriage.
When we become Christians, we become new creations, leaving the past and learning how to become ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). It doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a process of change. We’re still walking in this world, and sometimes, we stumble and need to be cleansed. Sometimes, a fellow believer will stop to help us up and get us back on the right path. It’s the same with marriage. The husband and wife are united, a new identity marked with change for both. Along the way, one stumbles, and the other is there to encourage and carry if necessary.
Marriage stumbles on the wrapped package, and expectations fall onto the muddy path. We pick up the expectations one by one and ask, “what happened?” We grab the expectation for our relationship with each other and compare it to our present-day, helter-skelter routine. We turn it around and find the word “cherished,” and we sigh. Under that, a cracked plaque reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV). We flip it upside down and ask, “What is Your plan, God? Did I make a mess of it?” Smashed children’s trinkets, tattered career books, torn bank records, and shattered model homes — all marred expectations lying in the mud. But there’s something else stuck in the package. We reach into the package and tug on the basket inside; the happiness basket held all the other expectations.
Are you completely satisfied with your marriage? Really? Are there some things that could be improved? Have you asked God to change your husband? How did that go? Did you expect that your marriage would make you happy? I did.
I found that my definition of “happy” formed with a focus on emotions and possessions: feeling romantic, enjoying pleasure, and reaping abundance. Was your definition similar? Was it realistic?
What would make a young bride happy, or for that matter, an old wife? To be lavished with roses, chocolate, and gifts? To be treated like a princess? I think that I wanted the rush of infatuation to last forever. I wanted Adam’s passionate response to God when Eve was presented to him, and I wanted it from Keith each day and moment.
“Then the man [Adam] said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man’” (Genesis 2:23, ESV). For a moment, Adam saw Eve through God’s eyes. The animals weren’t created to be his helper or “corresponding one,” but God fashioned Eve to join Adam in accomplishing the mission of filling the earth, subduing it, and having dominion over every living creature (Genesis 1:28).
Adam recognized that Eve was lovingly formed by God exclusively for him. What if we saw ourselves as exclusively designed for our husbands? God knew you before you and your husband were formed (Psalm 139). God called both of you His workmanship, or masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). Remember the first man, Adam? God spoke the world into existence, but God formed Adam from the dust as God’s image-bearer, molding him and breathing into him the breath of life.
See your husband as God’s image-bearer molded into God’s masterpiece.Tweet
If Adam defined happiness with the burst of passion he experienced when he saw Eve, his happiness was temporary. In Genesis 2, we see Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden. Trouble entered their marriage; they disobeyed God’s one commandment: don’t eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). But God had a plan, a Savior would repair their relationship with God (Genesis 3:15). God’s plan was a beautiful story steeped in divine love, the masterpiece of eternity.
Our eyes see the beauty in the colors of the rainbow. Our tongues delight in the sweetness of an orange. We slowly breathe in the fragrance of a gardenia. We hug our husbands.
We linger in the music hall remembering the last note and smile. Although Keith doesn’t like opera, he took me to Aida at La Scala in Milan, Italy. Even Keith enjoyed the beauty and the performance. We were ecstatic, and the performers enjoyed their bows. But those bows were the product of much work, memorization of music and words, hours of rehearsal, making numerous mistakes, trying new approaches, and working in unity. Sounds like marriage doesn’t it?
To grow in our marriage relationship, we must wrestle with our expectations and hand them over to God.Tweet
To get physically strong, we must stretch ourselves and endure the strain of exercise. The next day, we might have sore muscles, but we would understand that it was worth the temporary discomfort. In the same manner, to grow spiritually, we must work through the struggles of life. James even writes that we are to take joy in our challenges because they produce Christian maturity (James 1:2-4).
Is your happiness basket stuck in the muddy wedding gift package? What if that basket was supposed to stay in the unwrapped package along with the broken expectations? What if you and your husband created your own basket … a joy basket? What if you looked at your husband and saw him through God’s eyes?
You can start today. Begin filling your joy basket with what delights you about your husband.
Creator of heaven and earth, You spoke the world into existence, but You lovingly formed men and women and breathed life into them. You gave Eve to Adam to complete him. And You have given our husbands to us to complete them. We are image-bearers of You … Your sons and daughters. Help us wives to see our husbands as You see them. Increase our love for them, and show us how to create a Marriage Joy Basket. Amen.
What will you put in your Marriage Joy Basket?
[i] Keller, T. and Keller, K. (2011). The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment With the Wisdom of God. New York: Penguin Books. (p. 33).