This weekend my whole family came into town for my graduation, and it was a blast. Not only do I now possess a Master of Divinity (which makes me sound a lot more powerful than I really am) but I got to spend some truly quality time with a lot of my family members all weekend. Unfortunately, my brother’s wife couldn’t make it, and being the young married couple that they are, they missed each other a lot the whole time. Friday afternoon my brother described to me how difficult it was being away from her. He was somewhat surprised by this emotion, becaonse one would think that after being with someone every day of every week, time apart would be a welcome break. But it was not. And his wife was no different. The Friday night after my brother left, his wife missed him so much that she couldn’t sleep, so she stayed up all night watching videos of their wedding.
I think they might like each other. 🙂
But what is striking to me about their relationship is that they’re not the only married couple I know who is like that. There are a number of married women in my Bible study who will occasionally miss Bible study because they need to spend time with their husband if he is about to go out of town for a couple days, or if he’s been busy the whole week and they haven’t had much time together. After observing these various couples for some time now, I can see that they all dread even a brief separation from their spouse. In fact, this seems to be standard protocol.
Now to be perfectly honest, I struggle to sympathize with, or really even understand my married friends. After all, I have slept by myself for 26 years and I have been just fine, so the idea of agonizing over 2 nights apart is somewhat baffling to me. It sounds like the kind of thing a wallflower wife who has no identity outside of her marriage would do. It also sounds like the kind of wife that I don’t want to be. Don’t we, as Christians, talk about the fact that your spouse isn’t supposed to *complete* you, but to *complement* you? The only person who should complete you is Christ, so any marriage in which you are incomplete without your spouse is based upon a faulty foundation. That being said, doesn’t their behavior, their desperate pining while their husbands are away, sound more like a marriage based on dependence upon one another, rather than dependence on Christ?
Given that marriages are composed of two sinful people, I am sure that there is a degree to which this kind of spousal idolatry is, in fact, going on. Every married person probably struggles with trusting in Christ first before their spouse at some point during their marriage. But, I nevertheless think that the marital dynamic I have seen in so many of my friends indicates that their marriages are healthy, not unhealthy. Why? Because when you get married, you become one flesh, which means that separation from one another is as unnatural as cutting off your arm. Yes, there is a degree to which each spouse should depend on God alone, but that reality must be balanced with the equally important reality than in marriage, the two become one flesh. It is therefore a false category to describe them as being two distinct entities. On a temporal level they are two, but on the more real, spiritual level, they are one. So when the two are separated, the pain they feel is a reflection of truth–the truth that God did not intend them to be apart. It is right for their hearts to be grieved when they must endure something that runs counter to the spiritual reality of their union.
Now that is not to say that God will never call a couple to be apart for a season–there are certainly circumstances, such as military service, in which couples must be separated for a time. But even so, a couple must do everything within their power to guard their unity. They may not be together physically, but it is still important to protect their oneness by any means possible. This explains why my friends are so anxious to be with their spouses prior to a separation–they want to invest in one another in preparation for the time apart so that the integrity of their oneness is not compromised by geopgraphical separation. In this way, spending time with your husband before he goes on a trip does not mean you are a wife without an identity, but that you are taking the necessary steps to preserve that which God achieved on your wedding day–making the two into one.
So why am I going into all this? I mean, I am not even close to getting married, so what does this have to do with me? Well, I think that all Christians, married or single, can learn from this aspect of marriage because marriage is the model used to described Christ’s relationship with the Church. In the same way that a wife pines after her husband, we must pine after Christ. In the same way that a wife’s heart aches when she is away from her husband, our hearts must ache when we have not spent time in the Word or in prayer. And in the same way that a married couple does whatever it takes to guard its unity, we must also do whatever it takes to guard our unity with Christ.
Sadly, I rarely see the same kind of urgency applied to our relationship with God that I see in marital, or even dating relationships. We aren’t nearly as intentional about taking time out of each day to cultivate our relationship with God. Unlike my friends who would give up all prior commitments to spend time with their husbands, I can’t remember a time when i have given up going to a movie or hanging out with friends because I hadn’t spent time in the Word lately and I wanted to do that instead. And what is even more depressing and convicting is that I am more intentional about rearranging my schedule to take care of my dog than I am in my relationship with Christ.
So if nothing else, when we either witness the intense love and faithfulness of our married friends, or if we experience it ourselves, we must remember that this love is meant to be a faint echo of the love we have for Christ. That’s right, a faint echo! As much as we love the people in our lives, it should be nothing compared to the love we have for our Savior. So while an urgent love for a spouse is healthy and beautiful, and I should never think to belittle it, we should be concerned when that love is greater than one’s love for God. That, however, is an issue I must certainly work on in myself before pointing fingers at anyone else, so rather than dissect the lives of my married friends, my time is much better spent in appreciating the echo of Christ-centered love that i witness in their love for their husbands. Whether you are married or not, marital love gives us a starting point from which to love God more fully. That is a wonderful gift that my married friends give me in loving their husbands well.