Pursuing the Marriage You Thought Was Only a Fairy Tale
Pastor David Thompson, Audubon, MN
Once upon a time, as the story goes, a beautiful maiden was held captive by an evil sorcerer. A most daring man seeks to rescue her. Three times he falls; three times he rises again. Finally, he defeats the evil one, sets her free, and wins her heart. They ride off together to a secluded castle where they live in romantic love happily ever after.
Just a fairy tale? Most would say so. Some go even further by saying such stories have harmed boys and especially girls who think this romantic ideal could someday be theirs, only to be rudely awakened by the reality of their own marriages.
On the other hand, perhaps this fairy tale hints at some transcendent ideal, something actually in the heart and mind of God that He will for each marriage.
Unfortunately, for most of us married couples something happens between “once upon a time” and “happily ever after.” I know of only two marriages where there has been an amazing consistency of peace and love. Regrettably, many couples think about and also express the “d” word — divorce. And way too many couples follow through with the action.
Cultural practices aside, God has always had in His heart and mind a way for a man and woman to relate to one another, an ideal that is to serve as the basis for the marriage relationship, which, if followed, produces the dreamed-of marriage. Every female, from the time she is very young, longs for her “knight in shining armor.” She is looking for someone to admire, to pursue her, drink in her beauty, and sacrificially fight for her. In Scriptural terms, she wants someone to treat her as Christ treats His Bride, the Church, for the Bible states, “Husband, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25).
And remember the boy on the playground? He shows off, especially for the girls. he wants to be viewed as strong, brave, daring. When he becomes a young man he hasn’t shaken this image. He wants to be cherished in this manner by his true love. That is, he wants to be treated as the Church is to treat her loving and brave Lord. The word used in Scripture to talk about this kind of cherishing is “submit.” But please keep in mind that this is not some sort of mousy lifestyle where the woman is regarded as inferior and is supposed to be merely silent and obedient. Rather the word clearly implies deep respect and honor for the designated head, the royal and noble leader.
But why do the marriages we dreamed of often turn into nightmares?
The man stops admiring, pursuing, fighting for, and cherishing the beauty of his wife. The wife often gives up on being admired, pursued, and fought for; she can’t stomach the thought of respecting him as some sort of head. They become bitter, distant, and live lives for something other than each other. Christ Himself can easily be lost in the process. It is so simple to abandon the other emotionally; to ignore what God intended us to give them.
But the real Prince Charming never abandons his duty. He fought for you on Calvary; He rescued you from your marital sins and the well-deserved hell, and He pursues you now and continually desires to pour out His love on you and all the saints who are His beautiful Bride. We rendezvous with our Prince at worship where we receive His love in Word and Sacrament. This love we need more than what our spouses should be giving us. But in this freely-bestowed forgiveness won on the cross there is also the strength to love and cherish our spouses — to pursue the kind of marriage we only dreamed of.
For working through marital conflict, your pastor can help, as can counseling agencies such as Wisconsin Lutheran Child and Family Service.