By Christina Fox
I laid there in the dark, trying to tune out the sound of their voices. It had become a nightly routine. My mind vacillated between wanting to get up and intervene or just lay there and cry myself to sleep. I remembered back to the few times I did stand up for my mother, telling my father to leave her alone and realized it had made no difference. So on that night, I fell asleep to the sounds of shouting, muttering my usual prayer, “Please God, make them stop.”
By the time I left home for college, I was determined to never get married. As a child, I learned that marriage was stressful and sometimes even frightening. In watching my mother, I mistakenly learned that being a wife meant being cursed at, belittled, intimidated, and controlled. And I wanted no part of it.
Marriage and Sin
Marriage was designed by God to be a visual representation of Christ’s relationship with his Bride, the church (Ephesians 5). In his design, God created men to lead and women as help-meets. From the moment our first parents chose to follow their own desires rather than obey God, sin entered the world and we’ve been seeking after our own way ever since. Like all things, sin has marred God’s plan for marriage. Instead of seeking the good of one another, we can demand our own way, seek after our own desires, and expect our spouse to give to us without us having to give anything in return.
Rather than realize sin’s impact on marriage, many instead look at failed examples of marriage and decide that God’s plan was a mistake. Just as people may judge God as Father based on their experiences with their human father, we judge God’s plan for marriage based on the sin of others. Many in our world have decided that God’s description of marriage doesn’t fit with reality so they instead design their own.
Yet God’s word is not dependent on our behavior. It is true whether we believe it, whether we live by it, and whether we see it in the lives of others. When it comes to failures in marriage, they fail because of sin, not because God’s plan is wrong.
Marriage and Redemption
Jesus came to redeem all things, including marriage. He came to redeem and restore all that sin has damaged and marred. Where we could not live out God’s plan for marriage, Jesus perfectly fulfilled God’s standards. Jesus loved the Church enough to die for her. He perfectly submitted to the plan of God the Father. Jesus is the complete and perfect fulfillment of God’s design and of what our marriages fail to do: love and submit.
Because of the cross, all our failures in marriage have been redeemed. When we trust in Christ and believe in his great love for us, we are forgiven of our sin and freed from our bondage to sin. We are given the Holy Spirit who enables us to grow in grace and learn to love as Christ has loved us.
Not only does the gospel free us from our sin, it also redeems our memories and experiences from other’s sin. In my own story, I believed that because my parent’s failed to obey God’s perfect design for marriage that it meant marriage was a failure in and of itself. I assumed that I would end up in the same situation as my mother. Rather than trusting God, I feared marriage and in many ways, feared men. But I was wrong.
After leaving home, I went away to college and learned how Christ came to redeem all things. I learned that not only did he redeem all things in the past; he is currently redeeming all things now, and will completely redeem and restore all things in the future. The more my heart has been saturated by the gospel, the more I’ve discovered God’s redemptive work in my life. He has redeemed my memories of the past and revealed his grace through them. He’s been at work in my parent’s marriage, bringing peace where there was once chaos, joy where there was once only fear. He’s shown me that he is not bound by family cycles and dysfunctions and that the gospel is more powerful than my fears and worst memories.
Marriages fail, not because God’s design was wrong, but because of sin. But God is redeeming all things, marriage included. The gospel is powerful and effective to redeem our own sins in marriage and those painful memories we carry with us. And we look forward to the day when sin will be no more and we will join Christ at the great wedding feast where we will shine in radiance, as a beautiful bride, ready to spend eternity with our Bridegroom.
Christina Fox is a homeschooling mom, licensed mental health counselor, and writer. She lives in sunny south Florida with her husband of sixteen years and their two boys. You can find her sharing her faith journey at www.toshowthemjesus.com.
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