Confessions of Marriage, Valentine’s Day, & Brokenness

on February 15, 2018

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on Patheos Evangelical. Click here to read it. 

Almost everything in me yesterday—Valentine’s Day—longed for the days where basically all I had to worry about was me. Feelings were hurt last night. Tears were shed. Then I ate my weight in overpriced chocolate truffles out of a pretty pink heart-shaped box that in no way echoed my mood.

When we say that “marriage has its challenges,” that’s a far cry from what it actually looks like to daily battle our sinful, self-centered nature in order to love, support, and sacrifice for the sake of our spouse. Did I mention every single day?

I honestly do not mean to complain. Marriage is a beautiful gift from God Almighty and I am daily grateful for my husband. Actually, my marriage is relatively uncomplicated. I’m blessed to be married to the gentlest and most supportive man I know. But even though we don’t usually fuss and fight, our marriage is still hard. That’s because marriage daily points out our inward brokenness, vulnerabilities, and dependency on Christ’s sanctification.

Like yesterday, Valentine’s Day. We’ve been married two years, four months, and five days and still I struggle to put aside all those unattainable Hallmark Chanel depictions of romance and love.

Let’s set aside the fact that Valentine’s Day fell on a Wednesday, which meant we both had to work, attend evening church service, scrounge for dinner, and juggle a demanding eight month-old baby. My selfishness still expected heart-shaped boxes of candy, handwritten love letters, and words of undying commitment. Well, I got the box of candy and even the personal love letter and expressed words of affirmation. Still I felt unhappy. My mistake was expecting my husband and his Valentine’s gifts to provide me with contentment, which is what prompted my own self-reflection (again with the “self” “self” “self”) and the ramblings of this rather personal blog post.

Here’s why I’m telling you this story: to simply recall God’s purpose for marriage. (Hint: it has little to do with me or you.)

 One of the best resources I own on the subject is John Piper’s This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence. When I opened it, staring back at me was this needed reminder:

Marriage is not mainly about being or staying in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. It’s about portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way he relates to his people. It is about showing in real life the glory of the gospel.

One of the major points in Piper’s book is that marriage is the display of God. Marriage is a model of Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and unbreakable commitment to his Church.

So often women and men are tempted to approach marriage with the mentality that if I give 50 percent and if my spouse gives 50 percent, then we can make marriage work. What a terribly flawed perspective to which so many of us fall prey. Praise God that Christ doesn’t approach his relationship with the Church in the same way. Christ gave his all—paid it all—for our sake though we did nothing to deserve it. In the same way, husbands and wives must show love, grace, and commitment to one another in order to point back to what Christ has done and continues to do for us.

I must confess this doesn’t make marriage any easier and that my inward battle rages on. What it does do is help shift our perspectives away from our broken self and towards God’s glory. And that brings me a lot more contentment than heart-shaped boxes of candies and love letters. Praise God.

  1. Comment by Jim Robb on February 16, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Nice column. Good insights.

  2. Comment by Byrom on February 17, 2018 at 9:45 am

    Chelsen, be glad that you have someone special to share Valentine’s Day with. As a widower of 3 years after a very blessed marriage of 49-1/2 years, I’m looking forward to having that chance again. I deeply cherish what I call traditional Christian marriage vows, because they tell us what marriage will be like. That covenant is a series of relational promises without conditions, save one. Nancy and I reached that condition when we didn’t expect it or the way it happened.

    Treasure each other in the recognition that we do not know how long we will have each other. – Joshua Liebman (1907-1948)

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