Installment five in the marriage vows series.
“I, Patricia, take you, Patrick, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to live together in the holy estate of matrimony…”
The word holy means divine, set apart, sacred. Estate is a state of being, and matrimony is, of course, marriage.
Marriage was the first institution that God set apart for his good purposes. The other two were government and church, which powerfully indicates the importance he places on marriage.
Where dreams come true
However, our expectations of marriage may resemble a fantasyland.
Supercharged young children surrounded us as we rode our Disney bus from LAX to Disneyland. Months of dreams and promises were coming true. Five-year-old Sam remained unusually calm the entire forty-minute ride. Approaching the Disney hotel, his eyes widened. First in line, Sam boldly hopped down each bus step, landed on the pavement, raised his hands and triumphantly proclaimed, “We’ve arrived!”
This reminds me of weddings. After months of planning and dreams, you get through your ceremony, and then: “We’ve arrived!” The Promised Land—the land flowing with milk and honey, or, in the case of marriage, romance and sex are yours. Now, your dreams will come true and you will finally be happy. (Cue the “Happy” song.)
Does God want us to be happy?
Of course he does. He created orgasms, didn’t he? But true joy and peace are not found in an unsustainable euphoric emotional state which forever seeks the next high. While candy is tasty to the mouth, it will rot your teeth if it’s your sole food source. Immersion in self-indulgent pursuits of happiness rots the soul and produces no eternal fruit.
Consider Solomon’s pursuits of happiness in Ecclesiastes. Repeatedly he declared that these pursuits are all vanity. While seasons of great happiness are a wonderful benefit of marriage, being happy is not God’s goal for us. He ordained a holy union so that we may become his fruit bearers.
The pursuit of holiness
When my husband did marriage counseling as a pastor, he asked couples a series of questions which required them to consider their marriage vows soberly and reverently. How would you answer these questions?
Do you share the same faith with the same level of devotion?
Do you enjoy the same activities, foods, level of health?
Do you know your spiritual gifts and how you might use them together?
Will your marriage glorify God?
Are you being faithful to abstain from sex during your engagement?
Do you have similar cultural upbringing?
Do you believe you are “good” together?
Do all your friends agree that you are good together?
Does your fiancé(e) have healthy, long-lasting relationships with friends and family?
Have you witnessed your fiancé(e) going through trouble that you believe he/she handled well?
Have you successfully worked through a project or difficult situation together?
Are you a whole person with good boundaries who does not need your fiancé(e) to be fully functioning?
Are you the best person for your fiancé(e)?
Will you encourage your fiancé(e) to become all that God designed him/her to be without chastisement?
Will your fiancé(e) help you become all that God designed you to be?
“Yes” indicates pursuits of holiness (sacrificial selflessness). “No” indicates pursuits of happiness (self-centeredness). If you answered “no” to any of these questions, it’s time to pause and reconsider your decision to marry. Now is the time to ensure you are agreeing to enter God’s holy estate of matrimony—one that will produce Kingdom fruit, and true joy and peace that comes from resting squarely in his will.
“I’m just not happy anymore.”
I’d be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every time a client claimed they were divorcing because he/she was not happy. Will you divorce if you’re not happy? If happiness is your goal, don’t marry. Happiness is occasional not sustainable. It’s a benefit not a goal.
Pursuing holiness means enduring God’s training process that makes us useful—holiness boot camp. Boot camp does not make you happy, but it will make you a great soldier who’s ready for life’s obstacle course. Hebrews 12:11 puts it this way: “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (NLV).
Together with God, pursing holiness together may not always make you happy, but it will make you a team that can go the distance which, in the end, will produce God’s intended peace and joy. “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 3:12).
Will you vow to pursue holiness?
Patricia Hartman is a CPA/partner at Kofsky, Hartman & Weinger, PA. www.khwcpa.com, and author of “The Christian Prenuptial Agreement: The Power of Marriage Unleashed” available at www.ChristianPrenuptial.com.