Almost five years ago I stood on the stage of a dim lit chapel waiting for my very best friend, dressed in white, to come stand beside me as we began the rest of our lives together. I had, maybe insensitively, insisted that we write our own vows, and mine started like this:
“There is a story in the bible about a man who discovered a treasure hidden in a field. When he found this treasure it stole his heart. …He sold everything he had and went and bought the field where the treasure was. When I think about what a priceless gift I have found in you, I feel very much like that man…”
There is no one who brings as much meaning and joy (and laughter) to my life as my wife does. She makes me feel more blessed, happy, silly, challenged, frustrated, angry, excited, solemn, guilty, repentant, heroic, confident, and a slew of other things, than anyone else in my life. I absolutely love being married. In particular, I love being married to my wife. She is the perfect fit for me, and I constantly find myself grateful to God that He knew exactly the kind of person I needed in many ways.
That said, marriage is hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. And at some point the difficulty of marriage, no matter how prepared we may have been for it, begins to set in for all of us. This is the context for the slight rant that follows.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard it. It’s well beyond cliché by now, but our culture still consumes it like girl scout cookies (Samoas, to be precise). We’ve been lied to. We haven’t just theoretically believed in an idea. We have ardently trusted in an ideal. That is, an ideal person. “The One.” If you bought into this idea, these two words might have put you marriage on a trajectory for failure before it started. Everyone I know, including myself, has said those words at least six times before meeting their spouse. “The One” is a concept that says there is one person, and only one person, who is absolutely perfect for me in every way. But what happens five years and two kids later when your spouse no longer seems to fit the bill?
“Disappointment is designed by God to be a gracious resuscitator to our cold hearts.”
Words are powerful. We can phrase things in a way that makes the most righteous of actions seem fatal, or the worst of sins justifiable. I think it is the same with “The One” rhetoric. Many of us used this term to cover up our real motives. I don’t mean that we lied to others. I mean that we didn’t realize that we were tricking ourselves. It sounds far more romantic to describe someone as my perfect match—the one—than to honestly admit that what I really mean is, “The person I think I have so much in common with, that she will never inconvenience me, test my patience or require me to change.” I think some of us even deceived ourselves into thinking we would never fight. Or if we ever did, it would be a “cute fight.”
When I was about twelve, a lady tried to describe “the one” to me. “When you meet a girl, and you love everything about her so much that you wouldn’t change a thing, you’ve found the person you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with.” My wife, my best friend, who loves me more than anything, could list fifteen things that she would love to change about me in under thirty seconds. The first two would be my abominable sense of direction and my apparent short-term memory loss. But that’s another story for another time.
There is not an individual on this planet who could ever meet all of our expectations because we have sinful expectations, and we are married to sinners who let us down. Your spouse will disappoint you (and probably already has), usually in small ways. Sometimes in big ways.
The Gospel of Disappointment
The Christian life is one marked by daily deaths and resurrections. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). We bought into the ideal of “The One” because we wanted to avoid the disappointment of unmet expectations. But disappointment is designed by God to be a gracious resuscitator to our cold hearts. Like a much needed surgery, there are few things more painful or more healing to our souls than disappointment.
Be “The One.”
No, you didn’t get “the wrong one.” While I completely reject the culture’s lie of “The One,” I fully trust in the sovereignty of God and how he orchestrates the events of our lives. If you have begun to feel the weight of unmet expectations that comes with marriage, I want to challenge you to do two things.
- Remind yourself of the man or women you said “I do” to, three or five or ten years ago, and the way you felt that day. Thank God for all of the ways that he or she is a clear sign of God’s favor in your life.
- Be “the one” that your spouse dreamed of. Instead of burdening your spouse with your unreasonable expectations, strive to become a humble servant who cares more about your spouse’s expectations and desires than your own.
As someone who knows it is much easier to write about these things than to live them out myself, I have prayed for you. Please pray for me as well.
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