On June 4th, my wife Lindsay and I celebrated the best two years of our lives to date. But after two years of marriage, there’s no more hiding behind chivalry. I can’t buy enough flowers. She’s seen my paycheck. I’m running out of new pet names. She’s figured out I don’t dig chick-flicks, the Gap Outlet, or hummus. And I think (this hasn’t been confirmed for certain) she knows I snore… sometimes.

In fact, she knows (and so do I) that she married the “wrong” person. All jokes aside, sin’s presence in the world guarantees it. There are only two kinds of people: (1) wrong people who think they’re right and (2) wrong people who are becoming right, through Jesus. And you’ll marry one of the two.

So I blogged about this. And because of the tremendous interest the original post drew, I’ve decided to post a series of follow-ups. Each one will address the four “solutions” I listed in the original, and hopefully you’ll care enough to read, or share, or sneer, or, at the very least, sympathize.

*** How I Know My Wife Married the Wrong Person (Part 3) ***

Tim Keller writes, “Marriage is glorious, but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories.” In other words, a strong marriage takes hard work because people can be a piece of work. Even occasionally your spouse.

In response to discovering this painful reality, whether it be in marital or dating relationships, people react differently. I listed four of the more popular responses in the original post. Let’s talk through #2 today:

“So what then is the solution? What do you do when you find yourself in a relationship with the “wrong person?” Well here are a few things you could try:

(2) Try it before you buy it. Test drive it. See if the chemistry is there and the sparks fly. Cohabitate. Allow someone into your life at the highest degree of vulnerability, and give them this priceless delicate gift without asking them to commit to you past tomorrow morning. Maybe in the process you’ll find your soul mate. Let’s just hope they agree.”

Being a young adult who is also a minister, I often find myself ministering to young adults. And when the conversation turns to marriage, anymore I notice a certain degree of hesitation. It’s like they see marriage as a life-sentence, the proverbial ball and chain. It’s not that they don’t like the idea of married life, it just seems that most marriages are failing.

So they wonder: “Is he the one or isn’t he?” “Tyler, how did you know?” “Will she still be hot in 20 years?” Seriously, I’ve heard that. And honestly, I sort of sympathize with these fears. The divorce rate has doubled in the past 50 years, proving that commitment is as out as mom-jeans.

What’s happening to marriage? Could it be that we’ve lost sight of what it should look like? Has our raging sense of me blotted out the essential priority of us every marriage needs to thrive?

Maybe. Whatever the cause, half of couples today are opting to shack up with a sexual partner first. They cohabitate, the “try it before you buy it” approach. That way they can test their chemistry and free-up time to establish their careers and finances. Because, you know, other people, like babies and spouses, get in the way.

Cohabitation offers a plan before the plunge. But fact is, cohabiting couples rarely work like this. And even if they did, I still think there’s a better way.

(1) First, most people don’t end up under the same roof on purpose. They “slide into” not “decide into” cohabitation. It starts with a few dates, then a sleep-over on the couch, then a weekend rendezvous, and before they know it, they’ve got one lease, two dogs, and a new bedroom-set from Target.

No plan. Few conversations. Just a slide. (This isn’t the rule, but it seems to be the norm. Smart people agree.)

(2) Second, since neither are mind-readers, both usually have a distorted understanding of why the other is sharing their bed. All they know is what they want and what they hope their partner wants.

So while one may see it as a step toward marriage, the other sees it as a clever way to postpone it. One may see it as commitment, while the other sees it as convenience. And both are always shocked, usually downright ticked, when they find out that the other hasn’t shared their expectations all along. In short, the two have built a relationship founded on ambiguity rather than honesty. And that’s no recipe for success.

(3) Third, the breakup usually hurts. Sliding into cohabitation is a big deal because sliding out of it is a big deal. Cohabiting advertises the option of an easy way out when things get dicey, but usually taken for granted are the deep financial and sexual ties both parties have formed by this point. Property and pets are divvied out through anger and tears, and sexual experiences become permanent baggage.

So again, might I suggest to you that the biblical image of marriage paints a picture of something much more beautiful? It paints a picture of predictable love in an unpredictable world, of unchanging dedication between changing people. Christian or not, the approach is profound!

Plain and simple, God’s view of marriage puts commitment first. And not just any commitment, but the self-sacrificial kind. Marriage is two sinners, committing to the task of one another, for the sake of one another, until death do them part. Marriage is two imperfect people, committing to the sanctifying work of expressing Jesus’ self-sacrificial love, to their lover, so that they might see him or her become the person God has always intended them to be, knowing full well that neither of them have reached this goal.

That is realistic cross-shaped commitment. And when this commitment comes first, what is there to fear? Two people can become one emotionally, socially, financially, legally, even sexually, knowing their vulnerability won’t be abused or abandoned.

Cross-shaped commitment makes marriage work. Not chemistry. In fact, cross-shaped commitment is chemistry. There is no greater proof of love than to commit your life to and for someone else.

THAT’S HOW YOU KNOW, people! When you find someone ready to share that with you! That’s how you know he’s the one! That’s how you know you need to put a ring on it! Or at least that’s how I knew. And that’s exactly how I know my Lindsay will be as beautiful as ever to me in twenty years. And vice-versa. No sexual experience, no amount of time under the same roof speaks a better word than this. That’s why, from the biblical perspective, sex is not a test for marriage, it’s a part of marriage. Intimacy isn’t something you just have, it’s something you build. A lot of you will consider that as dangerous or foolish. Some of you will even suggest I’m asking you to settle. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It isn’t settling, it’s sacrificing, just like Jesus did.

Let the cross be the point of reference for your marriage. Let it be the place from which all your victories flow and the place before which all your struggles fall.

See the previous posts in this series here:

Part 1

Part 2

Tyler McKenzie is the Teaching Pastor at Northeast Christian Church and Blogger at CrossShapedStuff.com

Online Link w/pictures include: http://crossshapedstuff.com/2013/06/12/how-i-know-my-wife-married-the-wrong-person-part-3/

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