For years the church I attended seemed to value the marriage relationship very highly....which initially seemed great!!! Who doesn't want to have a greater marriage in all areas.....?
Over time, we heard alot of the same "high standards" for our marriages, respect, submission, communication, parenting, date nights, intimacy, encouraging one another...and a whole other host of specifics...no subject was exhausted enough......the more we heard about how to have a godly marriage the higher the bar got and the more we fell short and failed and held each other responsible for not getting their part right.....
It seems to me the marriage relationship was elevated above our individual relationship with the Lord....we were taught about that too, but in a "need to" spend time with God way....It's almost like a formula for success in marriage was being painted over and over.....so I focused on my marriage more than God.....I felt like a failure because my marriage looked nothing like the results the formula were supposed to create......I kept crying out to God to restore my marriage and allow it to be fruitful and a blessing....but the more books I read about "how to walk out my specific role" in marriage, the more messages, meetings and accountability sessions with other women the more I felt desperate and like I would NEVER get it right!!!
I noticed that at every wedding I went to within the church the same scriptures were read, almost everyone wrote their own vows and they all sounded the same as the last wedding I had been at. Why is that? Finally this summer I went to a wedding not in my same church but the same family of churches and lo and behold, same scriptures, same type of message, same type of vows.....! I was so frustrated and honestly, angry. Why do we turn our marriages into duty into seperate roles and our part.....what good is it doing? Now I don't say this to be unkind or uncharitable to anyone who chose to have this way of a wedding ceremony, I myself had one just like it! It was just the way it was done! But I really thought, "Lord why is this bothering me so much...I honestly don't want to rebel against You, but this can't be all there is...." I want to be loved for ME, not how well I perform in my role as a wife!!
I began to contemplate how much we were taught that the marriage relationship is a meant to be a picture of Christ and the church, and that unbelievers would see a Gospel message through our marriages....and today it dawned on me....they emphasize the marriage so much because they so desperately want to BE that picture......of Christ and His church!!! The problem is they have it all backwards....trying to have an excellent marriage and fulfill the Ephesians 5 passage by walking out each aspect and striving to have their marriages "look" this way.....but you see what I have come to realize is that, that completely defeats the whole point I believe God would have us understand.......now that I have come to an understanding of Grace, I want to first and foremost know my God, I have fallen in love with Him because of grace and I want my life to portray the Ephesians picture, but it's not me doing my role well, it's me resting in God, allowing His very life to flow through me, as me...the more I marvel at His Awesome gifts, His Grace, His abounding love for me, the more I have a heart of love, compassion, acceptance for others....I no longer focus on a right way of "doing" marriage....I don't have to, it just happens!!!! Woohoo!!! We are growing rapidly in ways I only dreamed of all these years, I can't believe it!! I love God, I love my husband, truly truly. Does this mean we have it all figured out? Does this mean we look a certain way? Does this mean we don't still argue or fight? Or mess up? NO! But our hearts are tender to each other, we have a ton more respect for who each other is, because we know who we are in Christ - we know about God's wonderful thoughts about us!!! We are still a mess in alot of ways, but we don't hold things over each other or against each other.....as we long for more intimacy with our God, and experience it......it just naturally overflows into our marriage relationship!!!! This is a HUGE miracle! A bondage lifted and freedom granted!! Praise be to God - He is so faithful, He is so GOOD to us, he NEVER leaves us or forsakes us!!! He longs to give us wonderful gifts, our marriage being one he wants to bless us with!!! (no marriage is not only for our santicfication! After all he gave Adam and Eve each other before there was any sin in the world! ) I believe our marriages are meant to be grace and blessing and joy to us, and yes we can learn and grow too!!!
So is marriage hard work? I suppose that would depend on how you view God and how He thinks of you......marriage can be hard for sure, but should it feel like hard work...???
It's all about God, He wants to be known for His Grace and Glory, He wants to lavish us with His love, just because He does, He is Love, so He LOVES to love us....experiencing this in a real way, knowing this, not just in my head but in my heart has made me to revel in HIM!!! Our marriage can look like that picture of Christ and His bride, because He is the most Amazing Bridegroom -and naturally we will respond with our hearts full of passion for HIM!!!!