Just over five years ago I stood on the stage of a dimly lit chapel waiting for my very best friend, dressed in white, to come stand beside me as we began the rest of our lives together.
There is no one who brings as much meaning, joy and laughter to my life as my wife does. She makes me feel more blessed, happy, challenged, frustrated, excited, guilty, repentant, heroic, confident and a slew of other things, than anyone else in my life. I absolutely love being married.
In particular, I love being married to my wife.
She is the perfect fit for me, and I constantly find myself grateful to God that He knew exactly the kind of person I needed to marry.
That said, marriage is hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. And at some point the difficulty of marriage, no matter how prepared we may have been for it, begins to set in for all of us.
We become disillusioned.
And I think there are two words to blame for much of our disillusionment.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard it. It’s well beyond cliché by now, but our culture still consumes it like Girl Scout cookies. We’ve been lied to.
We haven’t just theoretically believed in an idea. We have ardently trusted in an ideal. That is, an ideal person: The One.
If you bought into this ideal, these two words might have put your marriage on a trajectory for failure before it started.
Everyone I know, including myself, has said those words at least six times before meeting their spouse. “I think he/she is The One.”
The One is a concept that says there is one person, and only one person, who is absolutely perfect for me in every way. But what happens five years and two kids later when your spouse no longer seems to fit the bill?
Words are powerful. We can phrase things in a way that makes the most righteous of actions seem fatal or the worst of sins justifiable. I think it is the same with “The One” rhetoric.
Many of us used this phrase to cover up our real motives.
I don’t mean that we lied to others. I mean that we’ve unwittingly tricked ourselves. It sounds far more romantic to describe someone as my perfect match—“The One”—than to honestly admit that what I really mean is, “This is the person I think I have so much in common with, that she will never inconvenience me, test my patience or require me to change.”
Maybe we even deceived ourselves into thinking we would never fight. Or if we ever did, it would be a cute fight.
When I was about 12, a lady tried to explain “The One” to me: “When you meet the person you love so much that you wouldn’t change a thing about her, you’ve found The One you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with.”
My wife, my best friend, who loves me more than anything, could list 15 things she would love to change about me in under 30 seconds. The first two would be my abominable sense of direction and my apparent short-term memory loss. But that’s another story for another time.
There is not an individual on this planet who could ever meet all of our expectations because we are sinners who have wrong expectations, and because we are married to sinners who let us down.
Your spouse will disappoint you and probably already has.
The Gospel of Disappointment
The Christian life is one marked by daily deaths and resurrections. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
We bought into the ideal of “The One” because we wanted to avoid the disappointment of unmet expectations.
But disappointment is designed by God to be a gracious resuscitator to our cold hearts. Like a much-needed surgery, there are few things more painful or more healing to our souls than disappointment.
God has given you your spouse, both in the joyous and in the painful moments, to make you more like Him.
Be “The One”
No, you didn’t get the wrong one. While I reject the culture’s lie of “The One,” I fully trust that God is in control of our lives and has matched us with the person He meant for us to be with.
If you have begun to feel the weight of unmet expectations that comes with marriage, I want to challenge you to do three things.
- Remind yourself of the man or woman you said “I do” to, three or five or 10 years ago, and the way you felt that day. Thank God for all of the ways that he or she is a clear sign of God’s favor in your life.
- Be The One who your spouse dreamed of. Instead of burdening your spouse with your unreasonable expectations, strive to become a humble servant who cares more about your spouse’s expectations and desires than your own.
- Rest, knowing that Jesus is the only person who will never disappoint you. “Even if my father and mother abandoned me, the Lord would take me in” (Psalm 27:10).