Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Unintended Consequences of Marriage

Recently I had an interesting conversation. I was talking with a friend about his relationship with his gielfriend, and he made a comment to the extent of, "I have learned so much about myself in this relationship." We went on to discuss the ways in which dating and marriage are huge tools used by God as He molds us more and more into His likeness.

As we were talking about this, it made me realize something. There are a variety of reasons that people get into a relationship or start dating someone. Sometimes it is just because it is fun or it works. It is the thing to do. Often people want companionship, someone to share life with.  I find it fascinating that God takes this desire within us, this piece of ourselves, and He uses it in such a different way than what we intend it.

In marriage, we are constantly confronted with our own sin. There are points where the other person accepts our sinfulness and failings. But so often we get caught on the carpet. We get caught in our self-lies and self-deception. We are caught as the patterns of sin in our hearts bubble up. We can often fool people from a distance, but a spouse is in close. They see the ways that we fail time and again at the same thing, not just once or twice, but consistently. As a recently married college friend once stated, there are times when his wife looks at him and would just ask, "what are you doing?" He said he often couldn't even answer the question. Our ability to deceive ourselves is strong, and marriage pulls back the cover and lets light flow into those hidden areas.

In marriage, we are also confronted with another sinner. We see not only our own sin, but we have to deal with the sin of another. We get the chance to view their sin up close. Because they are also not as familiar to us, it can be equally as eye opening. We also see the consequence in a new light. And when those choices affect us, it brings another new perspective in. It leads to the interplay between grace and justice. If we only ever sought justice with our spouse, it would very quickly degrade into keeping score. When fairness becomes the ultimate goal no one wins, because it is impossible. There is no way to keep things equal.

Finally, in marriage, forgiveness takes on a different flavor as we are the one being forgiven and needing forgiveness. In marriage, we can learn the power of confession and forgiveness as we seek to live in peace with one another. This proximity, this being in each other's business, has the effect of forcing us to confront our own sin and the other person's sin. We then have the chance to confess and be forgiven, or to receive the other person's confession and to forgive them. We are given daily practice in this necessary process for the Christian life.

Talking to this younger guy was a great reminder of how God has used my marriage to shape and mold me. After a few years, I think it is easier to get into a routine, but I needed the reminder as well to press into those learning opportunities from God. I need to remember to grab those chances to forgive and be forgiven. Through that process of confession and forgiveness, we taste something truly divine, something that only comes from God. The chance to let go of ourselves and be free from the weight of keeping score and comparison. We often get into marriage for different reasons, but it is great to see how God uses it to make us more like him.