A few days ago I had the privilege of marrying Stephen and Mandi here in Mississippi. I thought I’d share the wedding sermon I shared with them. I hope it reminds you of the beauty and purpose of marriage.
Stephen and Mandi, I’m going to give you now a charge about the challenges and joys of marriage. You’re not going to remember it. You’re not going to remember anything about this day. Someone will have to remind you. This charge may be more for the rest of us who are already married. You just keep looking lovingly into each others eyes and say “I do” in about five minutes.
Marriage is one of the most powerful covenants in the world today. It has the power to bring untold joy, happiness, peace, contentment, companionship, intimacy and love to us. No other human relationship can go as deeply as the marriage relationship. At the same time, marriage can also bring more pain, more heartache, more isolation, more frustration, more grief and more sorrow than any other human relationship.
As some in this crowd would tell you, sometimes marriage doesn’t end up the way that we want. But that’s not a reason to avoid marriage. That’s just a reason to make sure we have the proper expectations of marriage.
Too often we fall victim to a cultural expectation of marriage that far exceeds anything God ever created it to be. We look to marriage to be the end all of happiness and purpose in life. We expect our spouse to be ‘the One,’ to be completely perfect, put together, to completely submit their needs and wants to ours, to assist us in the achievement of our goals, all the while filling us with the love, purpose, and fulfillment we have yet to be able to find. We expect our spouses to give us what only Christ can give us.
Mandi, Stephen’s good looking, but he’s not Jesus. He’s going to let you down. He’s going to make mistakes. If you’re looking for him to complete you, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Only Jesus can give you the happiness and purpose that you’re looking for. Stephen, Mandi is an incredible person, but she’s not Jesus. She’s going to make mistakes. She’s going to show her imperfections. Only Christ can give you the hope and purpose that you ultimately crave. Folks, when we set our spouses or potential spouses up with expectations that only Jesus can fulfill, then we set them up for failure.
If marriage isn’t about finding the one person who will make you complete and take all your problems and loneliness away, then what’s the purpose of marriage? Marriage is about happiness, about companionship, about oneness and procreation, but ultimately, it’s about God. God created marriage to give us a living picture of Christ’s love for the church. That’s why the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church,” and “wives submit to your husbands as the church submits to Christ.” Marriage, ultimately, is a spiritual endeavor. Without Christ’s help every step of the way, we will fail.
When you pursue marriage solely as a means to be happy, you’ll ultimately be disappointed. But if you approach marriage with the idea that it’s more about making you holy than making you happy, you’ll discover the true meaning of marriage. One thing marriage is great for is showing your faults, your selfish tendencies, the little parts of you that you can hide from everyone else except your spouse. As you struggle as two sinful human beings trying to make a marriage work, you’ll continually realize your dependence on God for success.
As you continually invite God into your marriage to change you (not your spouse), to change you into the husband or wife you need to be, you’ll experience his presence in ways you never thought possible. You’ll begin to be a better husband or wife, you’ll begin to look more like Jesus, and in the process, you’ll discover that deeper joy and purpose that you’ve been looking for all along.
Done God’s way, marriage is the most beautiful experience in the world. Stephen and Mandi, I rejoice with you as you begin this journey together.