Written By Lim Chien Chong
Chien Chong joined Singapore Youth For Christ (SYFC) full-time in 1998 after a six-year teaching career in a local junior college. In 2005, he became SYFC’s National Director. He currently serves in the pulpit and Bible class ministry in church, and also preaches, trains, and teaches in different churches and youth groups in Singapore. He has been married for 15 years and has two young lovely boys, Joshua (eleven years old) and Elijah (eight years old).
Weddings. It’s interesting how many people (women in particular) start dreaming and talking about their wedding at a young age.
I came across a blogger who wrote about how she started dreaming about her wedding as soon as she could talk. And when she got her first piggy bank at four, she started saving—not for her education, but for her wedding dress. Numerous media outlets have reported that many women have the details of their dream wedding planned out by the time they’re 13.
But while a wedding marks one of the most important occasions in a person’s life, it can mean different things to different people. For some, it signals the start of something new and better. For others, it symbolizes graduating to the next stage in life. But there are also those who do not view it favorably in light of the rising number of broken relationships around them. For these people, they are skeptical about marriage, and conclude that marriages are outdated and no longer relevant.
Depending on our dreams and experiences, we may have either a romantic or bleak view of marriage. Let me share three misconceptions about marriage that I think most of us have, based on some of my personal reflections from Ephesians 5:31-33.
Misconception #1: Marriage is just a life stage
Some of us see marriage as another stage in life. When we are young, we attend school. After we are done with studying, we go out to work. What’s next? Get married and give birth.
Seen from this perspective, marriage is merely a rite of passage to adulthood. And this invariably affects our attitude towards it. Like everything else in life, we simply try to “make the best out of it”. So, marriage becomes a gamble; or maybe an investment.
My grandmother married my grandfather even though she knew she would be his second wife, believing that the marriage would bring her security. As it turned out, she was the least loved among the three ladies in his life. Even her own biological children were instructed to address her as “nanny” rather than “mommy”. It’s sad that while my grandmother was married into a rich family, she was not rich in many ways.
Misconception #2: Marriage makes us complete
Married couples often call their spouses their other halves. But to think of another person completing us has an obvious limitation. It means that before we are married or if we’re single, we are only “half a person”.
When I was younger, I used to think that many problems would be solved when I got married. I wouldn’t be lonely anymore, and I’d have someone I could truly trust and be honest with, someone who could make me feel secure. But reality can be very different.
My wife will tell you that she had some lonely nights and feelings of insecurity in the first few years of our marriage, especially when we got into conflicts and disagreements. At the time, I too wondered whether my wife, who was supposed to be my best friend, could truly accept and understand me. I was not alone, but I still felt lonely.
The fact is, married people still feel lonely, suspicious, and insecure.
Misconception #3: Marriage takes away our freedom
The idea that marriage is like “imprisonment” is not uncommon. Just before our marriage, we have our last bachelor’s party and take our last holiday trip as singles because we somehow think that life will no longer be the same anymore after the wedding day.
In fact, this is precisely the reason why there are so many negative jokes about marriage and funny ways to describe it. Because many people do feel resentful; they feel that the best part of their lives has been given away to their partners and children.
But is this really the case? And if it is not meant to be an “imprisonment”, then what should it be like? Are there any certain truths we can know about marriage?
God’s truth #1: Marriage is a special relationship closely knit by God
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. (Ephesians 5:31)
As Christians, we see marriage as a very special relationship that God has designed, in which two lives are closely knit into one. This doesn’t mean that we stop being individuals or that we need a spouse in order to be “complete”. What it means is that we cannot just focus on our own interests and expect our spouses to simply support us. We need to give due consideration to our time together, our common concerns, goals and interests.
I used to love to hang out for late-night movies and suppers, play my favorite sports and computer games, and even travel overseas with my friends. While I could expect my wife to support me by letting me continue doing what I like frequently and let her do the things that she likes, that would probably encourage me to look out for my own needs first, rather than her needs—or even ours, as a couple.
One of my favorite illustrations which brings out God’s idea of marriage shows two people involved in a three-legged race. Each of the two participants must do his/her own part in the race. But the duo also needs to have a common direction, a common pace, and the willingness to speed up or slow down for the other person. If each individual wants to go in his or her own direction, both of them will not only get very frustrated and go nowhere, but may even fall flat on their faces.
But what if the couple cannot agree on whose direction and priority to go with? How do we know whose direction and priority is better? Under normal circumstances, it is truly difficult to decide. But for Christians, this problem is more easily resolved. The truths and principles in the Bible shape our direction and priority.
God’s truth #2: Marriage must point us to our relationship with Christ
This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:32)
While this passage in Ephesians gives clear instructions on the roles of husbands and wives, we must remember that the marriage relationship is actually referencing Jesus and the church.
Left to our own devices, our marriages will likely present great struggles. As singles, we can choose to ignore certain issues and struggles known only to ourselves. But when we are married, we have someone very close to us who is watching, and maybe even judging us 24/7. We may be constantly reminded about our own issues. Here I am, hoping my spouse can help me solve my problems. Instead, he or she magnifies my problems and makes my struggles even more pronounced.
The thing is, many of the issues we face in our marriages stem from the sinfulness in our own lives. Our spouses are not the cause of our problems; neither are they the solution. Our problem is that we are, first and foremost, at war with God. Our hostility against God affects the way we relate with others as well as the way we live. So we need to first find forgiveness from God. Jesus died for us to pay the price of our sins so that through Him, we can be forgiven by God. But does the wiping away of our past record of wrong guarantee a good life henceforth?
Well, the other interesting part to the death of Jesus was that He rose to life from the dead. God, by His great power, raised Jesus from the dead. And the Bible tells us that this same power is now at work in the lives of Jesus’ followers so that we can live a new and good life. That means that we have the power to live anew. Christian couples are thus empowered to live out their marriage as God intended.
In addition to this new ability that we have in Jesus, we also have a new understanding. The way Jesus loves His people, the church, and teaches them how to live in obedience and submission to Him serve as the example of how husbands and wives ought to relate with one another in love and obedience.
While our lives are made incomplete by sin, our lives are made whole again when we come to Jesus. So, whether we are married and single, we do live complete lives in Christ. What is different, though, is that married and singles experience this completeness differently in their lives.
God’s truth #3: Marriage is an expression of love and respect in the relationship
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)
Commitment and obligations are not expressions of bondage; they are expressions of love. If we love someone, everything is a pleasure; if we don’t, everything is a chore. Because I love my wife, I meet her needs because I want to—not just because I have to. In marriage, I am not imprisoned. In fact, I am free to make choices; I choose to love and serve my wife willingly and cheerfully.
We all know that we need to show love and respect. But while we know these concepts and their importance, we often don’t do it. A very simple expression of love and respect is how we talk to and about one another. Often, it is not difficult to see that couples don’t really love and respect one another by the strong, unkind, and demeaning words they use to describe one another, as well as the gestures they use, like rolling their eyes or raising their voices and hands at each other. While many feel criticized by their spouses, the sad truth is they have also done the same to their spouses.
Learning to listen, understand, and remember are extremely important. Once, my wife was very upset with me because she thought that I was not listening to the things that she said. But when I assured her that I was following her conversation and could repeat some of the things she said, her demeanor and response changed immediately. That was certainly one important occasion when my attentiveness and good memory served me well.
Another way in which we show love and respect is to learn to do what is most needful and helpful. The list can go on and on. It can get very demoralizing because it seems like there are so many things we need to do to get our marriages right.
But the good news is that it is actually not just about what we do. If the Lord Jesus constantly works in our heart and changes us, we will grow to be loving and respectful people. When that happens, we will know and do what’s loving and respectful.
So for me, what has helped me a lot in my own marriage is to constantly focus on three aspects:
- 1.God’s design; that my marriage is a special relationship closely knit by God
- 2.Christ’s work; that my marriage must point me to my relationship with Christ
- 3.My role; that my marriage is an expression of love and respect in the relationship
In fact, these are the same three aspects that we should turn back to for all other issues of life. If we can always remember God’s good design, Christ’s completed work and our expected role in the different areas of life, we will be able to handle and work through our struggles the way God intends.