Monday, February 22, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: marriage for 'MY' fulfillment

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 5
“The Myths of Marriage (7)”
First Published: February 4, 1999

This is the seventh in a challenging and encouraging series of articles on marriage by Dr. Glen Knecht (of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC). Read on!

The Myths of Marriage (7): The Goal of Marriage is the individual’s fulfillment

We are seeking to expose myths that develop in the minds of people regarding what constitutes a successful marriage. These popular ideas that we live by, if implemented in married life, are detrimental to the overall well-being of the home.

Today, let us look at the mythical goal of marriage as the “fulfillment” of the individual. That word is a common desire in the hearts of modem men and women. Everyone seeks fulfillment, and many see marriage as a path to finding it.

It is not wrong to seek that fulfillment. It is the will of God for us. But it would be wrong to think of marriage as the vehicle. Where does that leave our single friends? Do they fall short of this goal because they are unmarried? Rather, fulfillment comes from doing the will of God.

This “fulfillment” conception about marriage can lead us to a kind of selfish approach. That is, I want the “freedom to be me.” I want to exert my own way and my own agenda and be fulfilled in my own person. This sort of attitude is deleterious to the functioning of a dynamic Christian home.

Instead of seeking our own fulfillment, what we need to seek is our own abandonment. That is, giving up ourselves so fully that we almost forget who we are. We surrender our own individuality so completely in the task and in the love before us that we can barely remember the outlines of our own individuality.

This is, after all, what the Lord Jesus did. He, who was in the form of God, took on the form of a servant, and He humbled himself and became obedient even unto death. He was unrecognizable after He was incarnated. He emptied Himself and became like us in human nature, though He remained divine.

Surely in this our Lord found His fulfillment. That is, He surrendered to the will of God for Himself and in that surrender, He was satisfied. We are all created to surrender ourselves, and in that sense, marriage can help us find fulfillment. In marriage, we must surrender ourselves to our particular mate, as well as to God’s agenda for the marriage.

Since, in His surrender, our Lord Jesus became like us, it must be our goal to become like each other. That doesn’t mean that we take on each other’s sins, but that we face them head-on, the very worst of them, and forgive from the heart. In this way, we are bearing the burden of our mates’ sins with them. That’s what our Lord Jesus did with us. He became sin for us but He did not sin in the process. He faced our sins and forgave us fully through His blood and by His grace.

Our tendency in a marriage is to want our mates to become like ourselves. We think, “if only she/he were like me,” but that is mythical thinking. How much better to follow Christ in freely seeking to become like the one you love, finding all possible ways to grow into the likeness of your spouse.

There is really only one question that we need to ask ourselves about our marriages. Can I love my mate enough so that I will consent to be made like her/him? That’s the question Mike Mason addresses to us in his book, The Mystery of Marriage, and it is a profound question to ponder. For after all, Christ was made like us. He loved us that much. Let us so love one another.
To choose to deny oneself is one of the great challenges of the Christian life, and there is no area where this is more difficult to do than in our marriages. May God give us the grace to forego our quest for fulfillment and to embark upon the mission of self-abandonment (in which, by God’s grace, we ultimately find more fulfillment than we ever dreamt existed!).

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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