by guest columnist Hope Seavers
“Happily Ever After,” we’ve all heard the phrase, but what does it mean and how does one get there? Does it mean that once you get married something “magically” happens or are there other factors involved? I’ve worked with several couples who, after 20 plus years, are considering divorce because they are no longer happy…they’ve grown apart. More accurately, one member of the dyad has grown and the other has remained stagnant. The stagnant member proclaims, “I haven’t changed…I don’t understand what happened!” It’s human nature to change and grow, otherwise, how could one mature through the various stages of human development? It stands to reason that in a marriage it’s necessary, for both husband and wife, to grow and change as well.
Let’s take a moment to look at marriage as it relates to Christianity. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a very powerful sermon, teaching that repentance and baptism are necessary to receive forgiveness of sins and to be added to the church (Acts 2:38 – 41). So, once the baptism takes place, does that mean that the once wayward individual has arrived…that there is no more need for growth and maturity? Not according to 1 Peter 2:1-3, which says “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” It’s clear from this passage that change must happen in order to mature in Christ.
Just as each Christian must continue to grow in knowledge and faith, so must each individual of the marital union. The lives of Paul and Peter are excellent examples of how the “not so righteous,” through faith and obedience, matured into servants for the Lord. What is the parallel for the husband and wife of today? First of all, each individual needs to be “one whole,” before the dyad can truly function on all cylinders. Now, it would be great if “wholeness” could have been achieved before the marriage, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case as evidenced by the climbing divorce rate in the United States. In our society, the alternative for most is to just suffer through it as the traditional wedding vows dictate, “…for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” Come on now…who wants that, really!?! Suffering through it produces relationships where the husband and wife are, at best, roommates and, at worst, just counting the days until the other one leaves (by any means necessary if you catch my drift). This is the antithesis of what God intended for marriage to be. God expects each individual to study His word regularly and apply it to their lives (I Timothy 3:16 – 17). Through this process, some cognitive and behavioral changes will take place, that manifest themselves in the putting away of unfruitful habits (i.e., nagging, uncontrolled anger, passive aggression, idleness, gluttony, poor stewardship etc.) and adopting new more profitable ways of being (i.e., congruent communication, long suffering, working toward a meaningful goal, healthy eating and exercise, self-control, etc.) (Romans 12:1-21). This process is not about placing blame on or trying to change the other, but rather putting the onus on self to be the best that God intended. When our lives are aligned with God’s will, the result is always “Happily Ever After”.