Have you ever got wrapped up in a fairytale romance movie? Have you ever wished the movie depicted your life, as the beautiful princess and successful prince ride away into the sunset quietly and calmly living happily ever after with no war and no marital struggle or conflict at all?
If we are honest, we all have imagined the above scenario and wished it were true, at one point. I have. I’m a hopeless romantic. Still, this notion actually does us a great disservice. Why? Because it misses God’s beautiful design for marriage, conflict, struggle, sanctification and the opportunity to display and catch mere raindrops of God’s love displayed through two undeserving and broken sinners.
If I never sinned, if I never messed up and never missed the mark in my marriage, and if I was always Mr. perfect in my relationship, then I wouldn’t ever need and never would catch a glimpse of the enduring grace, love and forgiveness that my wife so willing offers –the love God offers.
If we never messed up and were always perfect, we would miss the radical power of the cross and what was accomplished on it. If we were all doing great, every day, we would bleed the cross and Christ of His saving and redeeming power, and the cross of Jesus Christ — a symbol of hope and redemption — would be tragically reduced to a mere easter story of some passing legend or man ‘supposedly’ rising from the dead on a Roman cross.
If all was well and if the only goal of life was to live happily ever after, with no problems, no struggle and no need for grace, the power of the cross would be minimized, instead of magnified,when God sent His son to come die a brutal death on a cross to pay for our sins and give us access to His love and His grace one more time, forever –that love would be lost.
To give us love once is admirable. Any human could love once. But to send your only son to give sinners life after we messed up and offended a Holy and righteous God, and knowing we would mess up over and over, then to administer grace, love and forgiveness to on-going sinners daily for years to come –that’s radical enduring love.
If we were great, we’d miss all of that. But we aren’t great, without Christ, we are nothing, and the picture painted above is the type of love picture and love story we are called to live out –the love story we are called to live in, with the transcendent power of the cross at the center of our marriage, with God’s grace over showering every move we make and every weekly and weak human mistake we make.
If the goal of marriage was simply to be two perfect people living two perfect lives in a perfect world, and riding off into the sunset with no problems, do you think we would discover and press into God’s boundless and enduring love? Probably not, because we wouldn’t need it.
When I mess up daily and weekly and I say: “I am going to get this right in my marriage”, and I know realistically it takes me months to accomplish it and keep my word, by God’s strength and His grace only to mess up again a few months later, I am clearly a sinner in need God’s grace.
When two couples take a few bad blows in marriage and are awoken from their fairytale romance dream and they give up and divorce to try it again with the disillusionment of someone better or a pornstar on a computer screen, that’s not exercising or discovering God’s grace –that’s giving up. That’s human weakness displayed on a sin-covered platter for the world to see another failed romance story. We see it every day. It’s nothing special. It’s not unheard of grace and commitment. It’s common.
But when two sinners work at their marriage day-by-day, day-in and day-out. When two sinners kick, box, sweat and work hard to administer God’s grace and be better, that’s a profound and beautifully enduring uncommon picture of God’s amazing and incredible grace –a picture the world is desperately crying out to see and experience, a love unheard of. Everyone wants it! That’s uncommon love.
Next time you catch yourself dreaming about the danger of fairytale romance and happily ever after, picture putting your hands through the holes of Jesus Christ’s palms and interlocking your fingers with God’s as He looks into your eyes after messing up for the 100th time and says: “My blood offering paid for your sins, for now, and forever. I won’t give up on you.” That’s not fairytale. That’s true love.
Next time those thoughts creep into your mind, put up a sign in your mind that says: “danger, keep out!” Because the devil is trying to set up shop in your mind selling you the lie that the goal of life and marriage is to reach human perfection and hollywood-endorsed happily ever after, when the goal of marriage is to be a lighthouse on a dark hill displaying God’s goodness, grace and His enduring love radiating through two broken sinners who just can’t get it right without God.
In the same way, next time you struggle with conflict, and your husband or wife messes up for the 20th time, turn to the cross and picture Jesus dying on that ragged cross for His or her gross, sickening and repeated sins that you wish He would just give up and quit. Jesus wants our heart and He wants us to become more like Him, but He’s in the business of forgiving, redeeming and lifting up constant sinners who don’t deserve His grace.
Next time it happens, be patient, administer God’s grace, love your spouse, and ask yourself: Is the goal of your marriage: happily-ever-after-romance? Or is it to glorify Christ no matter what, no matter what the trials, no matter what the storms of life bring –to show Christ’ enduring love displayed through two broken sinners.
If your answer is the former, instead of the latter, you may need a marital or spiritual check up, you may need to recognize the signs and symptoms of a misaligned marriage, because you just may have a small case of the: “happily-ever-after fever” —a fever that creeps up on thousands of Christians daily falling into the temptation of living a complacent life and dreaming of perfect marital perfection this side of a fallen broken world.
If this is you and you caught the “happily-ever-after fever”, rest and relax, the cure is to administer God’s grace, to look in the mirror and to ask what God wants to work on next in your life. When you take that approach, God will surely magnify sin and chisel away sin in your life. He will transform you.
He will chip away at “I’m-the-best-kind-of-living” and perfectionism-living, artfully using your spouse as a tool to work out sin, to magnify sin and make you more like Him –to use you as an instrument for displaying His goodness and His enduring love and grace, and as perfectionism-living falls away, you will encounter a type of of Christ-encetered love that far surpasses perfectionism-living or happily-ever-after living.