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Marriage is Great, But…

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Weekly dates. Flowers. Candlelit dinners. Holding hands while walking. Holding hands while biking. Holding hands while reading. That tingly feeling that no English word can accurately describe when your loved one is near.

Who doesn’t want that? I mean, why else would we cry and sigh over fast food commercials that tug our hearts?

Enter your married friends. Or just the statistics on marriage. They tell you how married life is challenging. And how you wake up after honeymoon period is over and realize just how idealistic you were when you were single. And how surreal that you just used to appreciate the cinematography on films showing expectations versus reality… and now you’re living in it.

You hear about couples fighting over small things like leaving the lights on at night when you go to sleep, leaving the toilet seat up, squeezing the toothpaste tube in different parts, etc. That’s not even the worst of it. How can you submit to your husband when you think he’s making the wrong decision? How can you deal with the aftermath of a wrong decision? And personally, that makes me hesitant about tying the knot.

Because the reality is that, yes… Marriage is GREAT and all, but let’s face it…

… BEING SINGLE IS MORE COMFORTABLE.

I get to decide on anything without consulting anyone. I’m free to squeeze my toothpaste tube anywhere. I can sleep in the dark in peace. I can decide on my weekly menu at a snap of the finger. I don’t have to work my schedule around anyone.

So, why in the world should I want to get married?

I want to get married because only in marriage can my selfishness come to the surface. And when it does, then I can deal with it by the grace of God. I realize that even the fact that I want to get married to someone who I have a lot of things in common with shows how selfish I can be. It shows my unwillingness to adjust.  Marriage is not comfortable because I have to face the fact that I’m not as mature as I thought I was and that I’m not even close to being like Christ. But I cannot change what I am ignorant of. When I get married, I’m afraid to know how evil I can be and yet I look forward to rooting it out of me. I want to get married not because I want someone to make me happy. I want him to be committed to make me like Christ. I want him to look forward to God telling me in heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant” and know that he has been a big part of that commendation. I love how Tim Keller stated it in The Meaning of Marriage.

The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

In marriage, you get to experience a reflection of God’s love. The kilig, the romance, the intimacy you get to enjoy, the milestones you accomplish together, the children you get to raise, the blessings you enjoy… those are just bonuses. And that’s really AWESOME.

So yes, I want to get married because marriage is great, but…

… IT IS NOT THE GREATEST.

The love of God that is shown in Jesus dying on the cross still is the greatest love one can experience.  It is God who first knows the worst of us and yet still chose to die a painful death on the cross for us. It says in the Bible:

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, ESV)

It is only in knowing the depth of God’s love do we desire to be selfless in a relationship. Another quote from The Meaning of Marriage articulates this experience so well.

When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.

So, for the single people, be excited as you wait, but for the right reasons and with less idealistic expectations. Wait on someone who is committed to become more like Christ because then, you are both sure of your desire to choose truth and love in the relationship. For the married ones, my hope is that your spouse is as committed to be selfless in your relationship as you are. But if he/she is not, there is always hope in Christ.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1Corinthians 13:7, ESV)

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Great Expectations

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Since it’s the end of February and I have never written about romantic love in the past, maybe it’s high time to start doing so. I won’t promise anything with the brevity and wisdom of Joseph Bonifacio‘s series.  Moreover, I could not achieve an entertaining parody like Jek Valle‘s, but I do hope to represent the view of most (happily) single/married women I know.

Today, I’m writing about expectations.  I remember reading once that there should not be any expectation from the other party when you get into a relationship.  I disagree. Expectations are a part of any relationship. We should just be careful what kind of expectations we place on someone.  You may be wondering, “Is she expecting stardust and rainbows? Flowers for every occasion? Exorbitant dates?”  Uh, sorry ladies.  This will not give us license to have such demands. What, then, are these expectations?  I can enumerate at least two.

1.  Expect him to make mistakes.  

No matter how much he fit your list of qualities for an ideal guy, he will never be perfect. Remember THE LIST?  I guess we’ve all had the list at one time or another.  Lists are good, until they become the only thing guiding your choice.  Mine used to contain fifty items, half of them ridiculous, shallow things like a cum-laude level GPA.  I scrapped them when I realized I wouldn’t want my future husband to think I just loved him because of these qualities. Of course, there were stories I heard from my married friends (thank God for them!) where they ended up marrying someone who didn’t have any of the qualities on their list, but exhibited them later on AFTER they were married. Some of them realized God gave them someone better than they could make up in a list! So I advise you, scrap the list and just believe God for someone who: 1) Keeps his life open to other mature Christian men, 2) Is not afraid to lead you.

Nevertheless, even if he is a person of great character and outstanding maturity, he’ll surely fail you at some point.  So he doesn’t tell you how much he loves you every day like you agreed to, or he doesn’t help you with the chores when you both get home tired from work like he promised to, or he answers your question of “Am I getting fat?” in a blunt manner instead of cajoling you.  “He’s passive.” “He doesn’t have a big vision.” “He squeezes his toothpaste from the middle.” Would that spell the limit to the “Till death do us part” vow?

2.  Expect to disappoint him.

If you have a list, who’s to say he doesn’t have one as well?  You certainly fit the list of being gorgeous, smart, and a great cook, but he didn’t know that you hated to wash the dishes or that you have the adorable tendency to challenge his intellect to the point of irritating him. Would you expect to keep performing for him based on what you think he wants you to be just so he will keep loving you? Yes, we will change (hopefully, for the better), but it is out of a desire to become more like Christ and to serve your husband and to respect him, not out of fear that you will lose his love. After all, “perfect love drives out fear.”

A few nights ago, I had dinner with a newly married friend.  I know it’s cliché, but I asked her the standard “So, how’s married life?” question.  She answered, “Marriage is great!”  I thought, “D-uh, of course! You’re still high from the honeymoon stage.”  But before I could speak my thoughts out loud, she elaborated.  “It’s not just sunshine and moonbeams.  I mean, we disagree many times and though he was already a good friend before he became my boyfriend, I still am caught unawares by some habits and mindsets I didn’t know he had.  Of course, it’s the same for him when it comes to me. That was when I realized that marriage is freeing–because after we deal with the issue, we affirm our love for each other despite our differences and then we pray together.  It freed me from the fear of exposure, to have someone who showed me a tangible version of God’s unconditional love in the midst of my childishness, my pride, and my self-absorption.  Now, I can say I’m more mature in areas I never thought I had a problem with when I was single. I guess marriage is bringing out the better version of me, stripped of my pretension and of my obliviousness to the truly evil nature of my heart. This is why marriage takes great courage and great faith.  It is truly impossible to make it work without God in the picture.”

I could sense that indeed, she seems to be lighter and even more beautiful–exuding security and freedom I have not seen in her in the past.  This true freedom, I believe, comes by first knowing the real Knight in Shining Armor, the only Prince Charming who can truly claim the title.  He is perfect like no other and yet He is fully devoted to a Princess, to a Damsel in Distress very much different from the gentle, gracious beauty portrayed in fairy tales.  Instead, this Princess resembles the Ugly Stepsister in countenance and the Wicked Witch in character.  The Princess represents us, who collectively continues to be spiteful and rebellious to the Prince, despite His long-suffering and His kindness–who still gives us life despite our sinful nature.  Moreover, the Prince chose to die for us, just so He could be with us.  We could never find that kind of love from anyone, which is why no one can complete us like He does.

Knowing this truth frees me as a single lady from the obsession of finding that person to fill my longing because I am complete in Him.  It frees me to enjoy my single life to the full, to see my dreams become reality, to experience sharing life with people from all walks of life and from all over the world without the responsibilities of a married person. But at the same time, it frees my future spouse from any expectations and from any illusion I may have about him.  It frees him from the burden of being my round-the-clock protector, provider, and lover. It frees him from the pressure of conforming to an ideal guy I have in my head.  And I know, for sure, that this truth will make marriage truly worth it–worth waiting for, worth working on for, worth sacrificing the comfort of singlehood for.

P.S. This blog article assumes that you want a guy who has committed to knowing Christ and to becoming more like Jesus all the days of his life.