By Rondi Lauterbach
Messy Marriages and Jesus
As Christians we know our marriage is supposed to point to Jesus. We’ve read Ephesians 5:25-31. We get the metaphor.
There’s just one problem. Once you’re married, it can feel like the fun is over. Of course, romance and being pursued are great, but marriage often settles down to work and messes.
Lights. Camera. Action!
Hollywood reinforces this idea. Whenever I watch the movie You’ve Got Mail, my heart leaps each time Meg Ryan’s email dings. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how it goes. Someone mysterious is pursuing her. Her heart begins to pound. She responds tentatively at first, but gradually begins to open herself to this stranger/friend. Her hopes rise, then fall. Confusion enters, tension builds. Then comes the pivotal moment in Central Park. Tom Hanks appears over the hill, his dog running ahead like some kind of canine cupid.
It’s him! At last! She falls into his arms as the credits roll.
Why do romantic comedies always end here? Because the fun part is being pursued by a mysterious, persistent lover. After that it’s laundry and dishes, budgets and babies. But for Christians, we know there is more to the story.
Our marriages are meant to be greater than the latest Hollywood movie. Elyse Fitzpatrick writes in her book Found in Him, “Marriage with him [Christ] is more than a metaphor; it is the reality that all the other metaphors describe” (155). That makes me excited. It reminds me that marriage is a mystery, a reality, and an identity. It all points to Christ.
The Great Mystery and Metaphor
Let’s face it. As Paul says, this is a profound mystery. We’re swimming in the deep end of the pool when it comes to marriage. Look at Genesis 2:23:
Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
It’s the first poem in the Bible. That’s because only poetry can do justice to mystery. Even in the beginning, God was weaving the metaphor that marriage was designed to point to. The first romance, the first marriage, the first couple were created to point to Jesus, the true Adam, wooing his bride, us.
Adam was made from the earth. Jesus was created from ovum and the Holy Spirit. This second Adam was different from the first. In Jesus, God and man were united forever in this first act of the new creation.
As Jesus walked the earth in his incarnation, he shared so much of our life experience. He slept and ate and worked and played, but he ever married. Why? Because his ultimate purpose was to reclaim his Bride, the church.
The Father caused the Son to sleep the sleep of death. Yes, the same death that atoned for our sins, that the Son bore willingly, that death was the sleep from which his Bride was born. From his wounded side we emerged.
“At last!” The shout of recognition rings through history and into my ears. He claims us as his own, bone of his bones, flesh of his flesh.
The Perfect Marriage
As the credits roll, we may wipe our eyes and think, “That was a great movie. I wish it would never end…”
But that’s the best part, it doesn’t! It’s true. And it will be true forever. We, the Bride, will be beautiful, coming down like a gorgeous cosmopolitan city with no slums or trash-filled gutters. We will see our Groom in all of his beauty, our faith made sight at last. This is the true marriage made in heaven. It won’t be boring or messy or filled with endless, repetitive chores. It will be the perfect marriage that our marriages were always intended to point to.
Let’s face it. All this seems a little unreal. How do I get my mind and heart around my union with Christ when I’m in the middle of my messy marriage or hopes for marriage?
After my wedding day, it took a long time for me to get used to the idea that I was a married woman. The ring on my finger would catch my eye, distracting me with its newness. When the hotel clerk asked, “Mrs. Lauterbach?” I looked behind me to see who he was talking to. The word “wife” sounded strange to me, like the label didn’t yet fit.
But over time I have settled into my new identity. I love being Mark’s wife. I own the new name and all that goes with it.
Be patient sisters. The Holy Spirit, who was given as a seal of the promise that we are his, will continue to give you a glimpse of this marriage you were called in to. Call yourself by your new name, His Beloved. Remember how he has pursued you and made you his own.
You’ll come to embrace this new identity more and more. Your union with Christ is better and more glorious than anything Hollywood or the world has to offer. Even in the midst of a messy, imperfect earthly marriage, the Holy Spirit is your assurance that your heavenly marriage will be sustained to the end.
Rondi entered the Ivy League full of personal ambition and left under a new Master. Her passion is to help women see Jesus in the Word and be nourished by him. She has been a pastor’s wife for over thirty years, a mother of three, and now a very happy grandmother. She and her husband Mark live in San Diego.
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