SCOURING THE shelves of Valentine Day cards, I have yet to find one with a picture of a bouquet of poison ivy on the front, and the interior message: “You’re My Favorite Irritant!” Yet that’s the subtle message you hear a lot in Christian circles.
Like me, perhaps you’ve read in a marriage book—or heard at a marriage seminar—something along the lines that “marriage isn’t really about making you happy, it’s about making you holy.” After all, this argument goes, what’s going to create a need for God more than having two sinners live together for the rest of their lives? Cue knowing chuckles.
Now, at a surface level, there’s something to this notion. Anyone who has been married a while knows that honeymoonlight is sweet, but only in the bright light of day do you start to see imperfections. Yours and theirs.
But I’ve come to believe that, deep down, the Poison Ivy Bouquet message just is not a true enough picture to merit greeting card status.
If—without getting into a diversionary debate about belly buttons and evolution—Genesis sets a pattern, then we need to remember that marriage was instituted before the fall. Bringing a man and a woman together wasn’t part of God’s way of fixing what had become broken. It was part of His perfect beginning.
Marriage is not essentially about restoring us, though it does. It is about reflecting God—His nature and character to the world. It’s not that you can’t do this as a single person, of course. But when two, each created differently but in God’s image, become one, they have the potential to mirror His diversity and unity in a different way.
While marriage isn’t just about making us holy, neither is it essentially about making us happy. That just happens to be a very nice byproduct.
Being married to Marcia has made me very happy, and it has made me more holy. The latter not because she’s difficult to live with, but because it is difficult to live with her and not see and experience more of God in and through her. Her kindness, gentleness, grace, strength, courage, joy, and tenderness are reflections of Him that draw me to the good. She is a balm, not an itch.
Like Adam’s introduction to Eve in the Garden of Eden, God hasn’t given me Marcia to get under my skin. He’s given me her to walk together with Him, to show me more of Him in the flesh.
Photo credit: blmurch via Foter.com/CCBY