I have watched many, many marriages sag, deteriorate, and implode. Some call a truce with tense parallel lives; others call it quits with divorce. One of the main reasons cited in divorce papers is “irreconcilable differences.” But I have come to see that every marriage has irreconcilable differences. What amazes me now is not the number of divorces today. What amazes me is that any marriage thrives. It’s a miracle. Why don’t our marriages work?
They don’t work because we put too much hope in them. What we have seen in movies and read in romantic novels mixes with our longing for more in this life. It creates pressure on the spouse to come through in a way that just can’t happen on the long haul. We keep looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right rather than struggling to become that person.
But more than that, the great hope for all who believe in Jesus is not a great marriage, or even being married at all. The great hope is what is coming. The great hope is who is coming. Jesus said that he would return and make all things new, set everything right.
But honestly, do we ever go here? I pin my hopes on so many things: that the stock market will do well, that my daughters will find wonderful husbands, that my next backpacking trip won’t be canceled, that my arthritic hip will stay healthy, etc. And my heart follows these hopes. There’s nothing wrong with hoping for good things. It’s just that I’ve forgotten the true home for my heart, in what is coming. When I set my deepest hope there, I can enjoy good things, like being married to Heidi, without putting so much weight on them.
But there is another reason why our marriages don’t work. Marriage is a dance, and someone has to lead it. Scripture points out that the man needs to initiate. But men by and large don’t initiate because they are by and large uninitiated men. What so many women long for in their marriage is a man. What so many marry is a boy.
The hope here isn’t the return of Jesus, but his present work now. For he can take the frightened boy and raise him into a real man. He loves to make men more like himself. That’s the whole point of following him anyway. How do I know? That’s what he’s doing with me!