“Has Mr. Broekhuis ever cheated on you?” our ten-year-old neighbor asked last summer.
I remember being so shocked by such a young kid talking about such grown-up things. And I remember that before I could answer, another ten-year-old piped up, saying, “No, Mr. Broekhuis would never cheat!”
I remember feeling so proud of my husband and the way he outwardly cherishes me as his wife. His witness was strong, simply by being a loving husband and father.
But what if they knew? I also thought. What if they could also see all the ways we’ve both failed as husband and wife?
Our marriage has been a mostly happy one; I’d dare whisper that we genuinely enjoy each other’s company most of the time. But even the happiest of marriages are not immune to heartache, to anger, or temptation.
What if they knew?
What if our neighbors knew about the time we went to bed so angry that one of us slept on the couch? Or the time in the midst of our deep grief that we got into a shouting match with each other? Or the time that we sat in our car, eating custard and admitting that we’d both been guilty of lust?
Would the potential ministry of our marriage become a sham? More like a tale of two people navigating a minefield?
In a world where we want our lives to be summed up in a few pretty pictures on Instagram, it can be hard to let other people behind the surface.
To not only see the beauty and the happiness, but to see the dirt and the grit and the sin too.
So, what actually makes a marriage a witness of Christ’s love to other people? What makes Christian marriage different than our “freedom-of-self” culture?
It’s grace, my friend. Grace.
What makes marriage work, and what makes marriage not just a potential minefield but a ministry isn’t the perfection of its participants, but its display of grace within the union of two very imperfect people. Grace isn’t a smoke screen that we hide our sins behind. Rather, it’s the safe place we land to bring our sins to light, to repent of them, and to be free from them.
And where two sinful people are fighting their sinful nature to choose each other over their own sinful desires – this will require backbreaking work.
Work that should express itself in these ways:
Dating each other. Prioritize quality time together, no matter what.
Confessing to each other. There is nothing quite like an intimate relationship with another person to show just how imperfect you are. Be willing to admit your own shortcomings, and be a safe place for your spouse to do the same.
Praying together. Confess your sins to God together, and pray that even though you make mistakes, that He will continue to make you into His new creation. We will always be at war with our sinful nature, but we also have Scripture and the Holy Spirit to guide us toward holy living.
Marriage will always have the potential to be a minefield. But thanks to grace, marriage also has the potential to be a beacon of Christ’s light in an increasingly cold world.
And that’s what I pray our marriage will continue to be. A place safe enough to admit my sins. A place in tune with Scripture enough to repent of those sins. And a place filled with enough love and grace to keep choosing each other, each and every day.
Grace and Peace,