We know the divorce rate stats. Marriage is a 50/50 proposition. As a caterer and a preacher I probably attend more weddings in a year than anyone attends in a lifetime. I can tell you this: no one looks worried about the divorce rate at a wedding. No one. Worried about the cake falling over, yes. Worried about a wrinkle on a tablecloth, yes. Worried about whether or not the mash potatoes on the buffet are good enough, yes. But no one is worried about divorce. I’ve never seen a bride huddled with her girls stressing over whether or not the groom is the right one. I’ve never seen the groom with his boys wistfully looking over the women in the room and wishing one of them was in the white dress instead of his bride. But I sure have heard a lot of people saying they married the wrong person a year or two or ten down the road. This is supposed to make everything better. It is a magic formula pronounced over a struggling marriage. It absolves the speaker of guilt. It is the equivalent of saying “I’m not really broken. I’m marriageable. I can do marriage. I just needed the right partner and this one isn’t it.” This seems to overlook at least one crucial fact: even if you did get the wrong partner for marriage, it was you who chose them – it was your judgment call. What makes you think your judgment is good enough to go out and find the right partner? And, more immediately, if you have such poor judgment about one of the most critical decisions of life, what makes you think you are qualified to judge the true state of your marriage? No matter how bad the marriage looks at the moment (and no marriage looks good all the time), it is wise to remember that your discernment got you here, and the worse the marriage looks, the less you should trust your own ability to see it clearly. You got fooled. Maybe you should take time to figure out how that happened.
Ask yourself if it is possible that the problem is not who you married, but that you don’t understand what marriage is. What if marriage doesn’t create your problems but reveals them. What if the purpose of marriage is to create a situation where the real fatal flaws in us are exposed so the opportunity exists to get them repaired?
If these things are deep enough there may be no way to get them to the surface other than a committed relationship with another human being who never goes away. We all wear a success suit for the world and we hop around in it all the time like rabbits. It covers up the things inside we don’t want to show others, the pain, the scars, the shortcomings, the fear. Hop, hop, hop. But marriage is there all the time, and sooner or later we can’t keep hopping. We unzip the suit and let it all out. It was always there underneath. We didn’t show it to anyone especially not someone we were hoping would marry us. Most of us don’t do this on purpose. We don’t set out to deceive anyone. We may not even realize where those flaws are, their roots and their fruits.
If the Christian story of the world is true, and if the Christian concept of marriage is real, this is precisely how the gospel works its way into us and helps us. Marriage is a means through which grace is pushed deeper into our lives than we would on our own. Marriage is a means to get at the deep deceptions that dwell in us because of our God-loss. And a key component of this view of marriage is that this grace comes to us in any kind of marriage. Bad or good. Fulfilling or unfulfilling. This grace is the realization that Jesus Christ is a spouse that marries the wrong person on purpose. He marries people who are not lovely, but he loves them into loveliness. Finding out you married the wrong person may be the only way you can figure out how much you need to accept Christ’s marriage proposal to you.