If you’re reading this, no matter your relationship status you probably have a relationship goal or two (or fifty). There are millions of posts on social media with hashtags like #relationshipsgoals, where guys and girls post about the relationship they have, or just as often – if not more often – about the relationship they wish they had.
What’s your ultimate relationship goal? A lot of you probably want to get married someday. Almost all of my single friends don’t want to be single forever, and many of them are actively searching for a future spouse, or at least actively praying for one. For many of the thousands of young adults who come to The Porch every Tuesday, we know that one of the reasons you come is because you hope to meet that special someone.
Side note – more and more of you probably don’t care about getting married, or at least not anytime soon. This is a trend in our culture, and you should read this. Others of you might have – or are afraid you might have – the gift of singleness. You should check this out. Ok – now back to those who have marriage as a relationship goal.
Last Tuesday at the Porch we kicked off our new series, Relationship Goals, talking about what the Bible has to say about the ultimate relationship goal: marriage. It’s important to start there, since what you believe about marriage will inform what you’re expecting, who you’re looking for and how you find them (i.e. dating), and how committed you’ll be to it.
It’d be impossible to fully cover how to have a healthy marriage in a single blog post, but I’d like to introduce three things that you should do if you want to achieve the relationship goal of marriage.
Let’s start here – how would you answer the question, “what is marriage, and what is it for?” Why do people get married? Why should people get married? It’s easy to put together a pretty long list of what would be awesome about being married, like love, companionship, acceptance, and of course sex. But are those the things that God, the Creator of marriage, says that marriage is for? What is the “project” of marriage all about?
Here are three reasons to get married according to the Bible:
To have companionship and help (Genesis 2:18).
To have and raise children (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 127:3-5).
To display the permanence of God’s commitment to His people (Matthew 19:6, Ephesians 5:31-32).
That’s not an exhaustive list of the only reasons you should get married, but if the “project” of marriage doesn’t in some way include these things when you think about it, you might not be thinking about marriage God’s way. And God’s way is definitely the way you should be thinking about it, considering that He invented marriage.
If you want to get married – what are your reasons for wanting to get married? If you don’t want to get married – what are your reasons for not wanting to get married?
If you know what project you’re working on, that will help you choose the right partner. They should be someone who shares a Biblical understanding and worldview of what marriage is. If you partner up with someone who wants something totally different out of marriage, that’s going to lead to a lot of pain and confusion.
We’ve talked a lot at the Porch about who you should be looking for in a “sole mate” (and not a “soulmate”), and here is some of the best advice that we could give you:
Girls: look for these things in a man, and don’t date this guy.
Guys: look for these things in a woman, and don’t date this girl.
Oh, and what about “the one”?
I know that we’ll talk more in this series about who to date, how to date, and all that. More to come there. But big picture, you should absolutely know what you are looking for in a potential spouse, and be able to give biblical reasons for those things. Before I met my wife, I spent a lot of time processing with my community group about what I was looking for in a woman. They encouraged me to focus on what the Bible says to look for. When I met her and as we got to know each other, it was pretty easy to see that she was the kind of girl that was worth pursuing, because I knew exactly what God said about who to pursue. And before we got married, I was 100% sure that we were working on the same “project” together.
Let’s say you do find the right person to marry. Now, what are you actually going to promise to do when you marry them? My opinion is that most marriage vows are unrealistic, and they promise to do something that is impossible.
Here’s what I mean: If you take them at face value, the condensed version of most marriage vows is something like this…“I’m so into you right now! And I promise to feel these loving things about you, and treat you in an amazing perfect way, no matter the circumstances, for the rest of our lives.”
But can you actually do that? Will you actually feel in love with your spouse every day of your lives? And will you actually treat them in a perfectly loving way…having them, holding them, or whatever…no matter whether they are grumpy, you’re running late, or you’ve had a terrible day at the office? I think the only realistic answer is “no”. Every married person I’ve talked to says that there are times when they feel or act in an unloving way towards their spouse. I’ve been married less than two months, but I can tell you the same thing – there have been multiple times when I have not related to my wife in a completely loving way. This isn’t pessimism, it’s just reality when two sinners (and that’s everyone) get married.
So what does that mean? Are our marriage vows blown? Do we need to just throw out all that sappy wedding-day stuff and move on with our real lives? I don’t think so.
At the beginning of our vows, my wife and I promised a lot of things to each other, like putting the other person’s needs before our own, treating one another with kindness, and being gentle with each other. Those are all great, but we put also put these exact lines in our vows after saying all that:
“I affirm that it’s only through Christ’s power at work in me that I can hope to love you in this way. I also humbly acknowledge that in my weak moments and my darkest days, I will fail in many ways to do all of these things. And when that happens, I promise to confess to the Lord and to you, to seek your forgiveness, and to do everything in my power to restore oneness.”
These things may be assumed in some wedding vows, but why not actually say them? I’m convinced that a wedding promise should include these four things:
A promise to love someone, both now and in the future, regardless of circumstances. This shows commitment.
An affirmation that Jesus’ power is the only way to actually be able to love someone in that way. This shows reliance on God.
An acknowledgment that you will not perfectly live out those vows every moment of your married life. This shows humility.
A commitment to pursue oneness even when promises to love are broken by sin. This shows a willingness to forgive and reconcile.
Work on the right project. Choose the right partner. Make the right promise. It’s possible to achieve the relationship goal of marriage, and a Christ-centered marriage is an amazing thing. We’re excited to walk through these next few weeks of Relationship Goals together!