Marriage is Work!

I sat there chuckling to myself. Here I was, sitting at a table with six 20-somethings and they were asking me questions about boys, dating, marriage, careers and friendships. One of the girls asked a question that tickled me. She said, ”Is it really that different living with a boy?” At that point, I had to stop the conversation and ask these girls how long their longest dating relationship was. The longest…six months. Six months! Good grief.

“Girls,” I said, “marriage is a lot more than just living with a boy. It is about compromise and choices. Most importantly, it’s a commitment. A serious commitment. And, it’s work. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes, not so much.”

Ummm yeah…clearly, I was a buzz kill, but I wanted to keep it real for these girls.

And, if you are married (going to be or hope to be) and reading this, we all need to keep it real.
Marriage in the US is on the decline. The total population is rising, but the number of marriages each year is not keeping up with the increased population. Even more alarming are the divorce numbers. In 2010, 2,096,000 people were married (down from 2,315,000 in 2000). In 2010, 874,000 marriages were divorced/annulled. The year 2000 saw 944,000 divorces/annulments.1  This equates to 42% and 40%, respectively - a very sad and real number. What these numbers don’t reflect are the reasons why people walked away from those marriages. It could be any number of reasons – some more serious than others. However, sometimes, people give up because their expectations were a lot different than the actual results and they decided they didn’t want to put the work in. I know this is a generality and I don’t mean to offend those of you who are divorced, going through a divorce or contemplating a divorce. But what I am suggesting is that unless you wrote your own wedding vows and excluded some parts, some of us should focus on the “for better or worse” part of a wedding vow a lot more. “For better or worse” can be so many things. It can be weight gain/loss, job loss, lack of motivation, depression, bankruptcy, lottery winning, childbirth, loss of a child, career advancement or a number of many other things that happen throughout a person’s lifetime. This is called “life” and “life happens.”
I always like how Paul interwove a marriage between a husband and wife to that of Jesus and the Church in Ephesians 5:21-33. Paul describes how a wife should submit to her husband just as a believer should submit to Jesus. And how a husband should love his wife just as Jesus loves the Church.

Is it a wonder that a change of heart is required in both of these circumstances?

People are leaving the church in alarming numbers as well – not as high as the divorce rate, but alarming nonetheless. A survey conducted in 2007 stated:

“More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion - or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.”2

Why are people leaving the church? There are a number of reasons just as there are a number of reasons for divorce. People get offended with their pastors or other church members, they don’t like the music, they don’t like the programming or lack thereof, they aren’t getting fed or any other number of reasons. However, sometimes at the heart of the departure is Jesus. Yes, Jesus. Jesus promises to accept us, sinful and all, but once we truly surrender to Him, He expects some sort of change. Our old self cannot be transferred to our new self….otherwise, why would we need to be a new creation? (2 Corinthians 5:17) People like change, but we often don’t want to change and we especially don’t want to be told we need to change or convicted that change needs to take place.

Marriage is like that too. Our old selves cannot transfer to our married selves. We have another one to whom we are “united into one” (Ephesians 5:31) that we must consider. Sure, there are pieces of us that we can take into the marriage, but we have to be willing to be shaped into our new united front. In case you are wondering, willing is not the same as begrudgingly.

It’s not a surprise then that if we don’t want to change, the marriage may not work out and if we don’t want to change, the Jesus thing may not work out so well either. And, the change thing doesn’t always happen on day one, especially when we are talking about marriage. The change thing can come in year five, year nine and even in year twenty-five.

A relationship requires nurturing, attention, respect and a commitment to put in the work. This is true for a marriage and this is true for a relationship with Jesus. Jesus may not care whether you pick up your socks or put the toilet seat down, but He does care about you. Jesus is the only one who can change a person from the inside out. So in case you think you can change that future spouse or current spouse, note to self, it probably isn’t going to happen. But, it’s not a deal breaker. Instead, accept their shortcomings, be thankful for the positives and pray. Don’t pray just for your spouse either. Lots of times when we think the other person needs to change so much, it usually is your own self that may need to do some changing.

Fight for your marriage, current or future (even those of you who are separated or divorced, fight for reconciliation), and fight the world for your relationship with Jesus. They are both commitments worth your time, energy and devotion.
1. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/marriage_divorce_tables.htm
2. http://religions.pewforum.org/reports/

Erin Olson

Founder and CEO of Sandalfeet Ministries

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