Marriage is hard.
If you’re soon to be wed and you hear those words, you eschew them as the trite acrimony of bitter people. That will never be true for us, you say to yourself, sure of the truth of your conviction.
Without fail, you discover that the union of two lives into one is never smooth, easy, care-free, or any other blissful thought we hold before marriage.
I love my wife. I love her more than anyone ever. (Sorry, Mom…) She is so special to me, everything about her. It is truly difficult for me to imagine my life without her. I love her laugh, her smell, her eyes, her joy; her long, beautiful hair, her passion—be prepared for fiery discussion if you hit upon one of her passionate topics, of which there are many—and I love her gentle spirit maybe most of all.
But some days are so hard! So hard. When two people share life, it is not a 50/50 split. In marriage, the math doesn’t make sense. It’s one hundred percent, each way. Well, that’s hard to do! (It doesn’t “make sense”, remember?) But it’s the only way it works.
With that math, you are completely in the hands of another. That is the greatest risk of marriage. You are 100% vulnerable. All of you, with none in reserve. In that equation, you are giving up control. To work well, a marriage requires both spouses to contribute their all—100%—to the other.
Thus, success depends as much on your spouse as it does on you.
That is the great risk.
And, that is the great reward.
If marital success could be achieved by your own efforts (i.e. the things you have control of) then it would stand to reason that many more marriages would succeed. Why not “try” to have a great marriage, if all it takes it to “try harder”. That is obviously not the case, and most would agree, doesn’t make sense. Even if you are giving your all—and, likely, that’s an exaggeration of your own ego, more than a factual truth—your marriage could be a shambles if your spouse is not also fully in.
The risk, then, is entering into to this life-long commitment, knowing that you are actually giving up control. You can not produce a great marriage simply by your own efforts.
The reward of giving yourself fully to another, whom you are then trusting to do the same is, even in concept, astounding. The joy in that journey is incredible. To share all of life’s moments—euphoric, crushing, and in between—with another, as one…
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33 NLT
That quote is so often misused. It is not to require submission, or assign dominance. In the paragraphs before that one, Paul explains how a wife respecting her husband is like the church submitting to Jesus’ lead—in essence, trusting—and how the husband’s love is to be like Christ, who died for his bride (the church).
Both husband and wife are giving up themselves for the other.
I like how Paul refers to marriage as “a great mystery”. It is mysterious. How can two individual lives become one? There are still two individuals, but there is one new creation. A mystery.
We can have a great marriage. But the greatness comes—as in all of our relationships in life—by humble submission to one another. Giving up control, placing trust in the other, and enjoying the fruits of that rich soil.
[agree] wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:2-4
The great reward of marriage comes not from what you get, but what you give. And also what you give up.