Happily Ever After?
It's said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This cartoon is no exception. From left to right we see Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel (The Little Mermaid), and Sleeping Beauty, all complaining about their husbands. What is so funny is that these are all Disney characters, and Disney World is known for being "The Happiest Place on Earth." Yet, these "desperate housewives" don't seem very happy. Each one of these ladies married a Prince Charming. Who would have ever guessed that these women would ever become disenchanted with the "perfect man"?
It's funny -- I have never been married -- but I have seen through the eyes of others what complaining can do to one's perception of what life is like in the "Happily Ever After." Don't get me wrong -- marriage is definitely hard work at times. But at other times, we can make our marriages harder than they have to be when we focus on the negative and start complaining. It may seem like just some innocent venting with the girls. But if left unchecked, this "venting session" could become a destructive habit that could prove deadly to our marriages.
Everyone has their quirks. And everyone certainly has their sin. But when we start to focus on the things that we don't like about our husbands, we become discontent. We can even become disinterested. When we lose interest, we seek to find fulfillment elsewhere. In a marital situation, this can be very dangerous. When we seek excitement in other people and things, the gap between the husband and wife widens. And as we grow further and further apart from our husbands, they begin to seek solace in other people and things as well. Before we know it, the marriage is in real jeopardy.
In the soon to be released film Fireproof, Kirk Cameron plays a firefighter whose marital relationship is terribly strained. In the movie trailer, he says, "Marriages aren't fireproof --sometimes you get burned!" His friend Michael responds, "Fireproof doesn't mean the fire never comes, but that when it does, you'll be able to withstand it." Bitterness resulting from discontentment can leave us thinking we wish we didn't get married in the first place. It can leave us thinking we've made a mistake. But we must fight to restore the joy in our marriages. They are our most important human relationships, and we must sacrifice everything to protect and preserve them.
Now, some of you may be wondering, "How do you know? You've never been married!" Well, I have never been married in the human sense, that is true. But I have been married to my Lord and Savior for fifteen years, and I am sorry to admit there have been times I have lost interest in Him.
When we lose interest in the Ultimate Bridegroom, the problem is not with Him, but with us. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). If we lose interest, we cannot point the finger at Him and say, "You changed!" What changed was our fickle passion for Him. His beauty remains forever.
Interestingly, this was the very message given at my church last Sunday. Danny Jones, our senior pastor, presented a very compelling sermon on the human tendency to become bored with our biggest blessings in life. Sometimes, the most important things in life that we experience every day in the mundane can become very boring after a while because they seem familiar. As with newlyweds, when the things of God are new to us, we find our new relationship exhilarating. But after a few years or so, we not only become bored, we expect to be entertained! In times like these we need to examine our hearts and ask ourselves, "What is my motive here? Am I looking to serve or be served? Am I wanting to please or be pleased?"
Perhaps the biggest pitfall in our marital relationships is the idea that getting married is supposed to make us happy. Hence, the closing line of every Disney fairy tale, "And they lived happily ever after." My church is famous for quoting this little nugget of wisdom: "Marriage is not for our happiness, but for our holiness." Isn't that also true of the Christian life? Did any of us really come to Christ because we thought He'd make us happy? Jesus promises us persecutions and trials. He tells us it will not be an easy road. But it is in these trials that we are sanctified. Our holiness is at the forefront of our relationship with God. Our happiness is a by-product of this holiness, yet not the primary focus.
The Gospel should be at the center of everything we do. And if it is going to be the center of everything we do, it is going to be mundane sometimes. We cannot use this as an excuse to become lazy in our love and service to our Savior. We cannot allow this to become a justification for us to search elsewhere for fulfillment. The only way to keep ourselves Gospel-centered is to focus on the majesty, beauty, and glory of our wonderful Savior, instead of focusing on the things that are less than perfect in our lives and turning those thoughts into murmuring and complaining.
There is no perfect relationship. Even our relationship with God is constantly in need of repair as we sin against Him and ask for His forgiveness. We need to drive out the tendency to complain by focusing on all there is to be thankful for, lest we become like the women in the cartoon above. The Bible calls us to be transformed through the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). Every time that tendency to become bored or that temptation to complain rears its ugly head, we can renew our minds through thanksgiving and praise: praise for our Savior, and praise for our husbands. "Happily Ever After" really is possible, but it can not come to us by any means other than through pursuing holiness.