Like a lot of men, I jumped into marriage a little naïve. I thought being happy was the ultimate goal. Isn’t that one of the first questions friends ask when someone announces he’s getting married: "Does she make you happy?"

As I look back, many of the struggles my wife, Rhonda, and I encountered in the early years stemmed from my misconceptions about her and about marriage in general. My expectations, tone of voice, requests and responses to her all reflected my selfish heart, which considered my wife as a producer of my happiness. It was exactly as Jesus described: "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34).

Though Rhonda graciously insists I wasn’t that bad, I remember differently.

Over a period of several years, however, God showed me the truth about the purpose of my marriage. Sometimes He spoke to me through a sermon, a marriage book or the example of godly people, such as the elderly couple in the second row at the church I preached for. They always sat together holding hands and reading from the same Bible. When they spoke of each other in public, it was honouring, respectful and loving. They praised God for success in their 50-plus years together.

My ah-ha moment

One day, as I listened to a sermon that a friend preached on the high calling of marriage, I became extremely emotional. I saw my wife and marriage in a totally different way. I remember going home and hugging Rhonda and saying, "I finally got it about this thing called marriage."

The sermon forcefully convicted my heart with the truth that my marriage is about much more than managing intimacy, conflict, kids and finances. It’s about more than simply meeting needs and making one another happy.

Those aspects are merely natural outcomes of a much greater purpose – glorifying God and reflecting His sacred truth to one another and to the world. When we become one in our marriage, we reflect the unity of God to the world. When we are not one, when we do not follow His pattern, it affects our relationship with Him and with each other (1 Peter 3:1-7).

Marriage also presents a vivid image of Christ’s love for us. The Scriptures describe Jesus as a bridegroom, and we are called His bride. When we selflessly love our spouse and lay down our life for him or her, we are giving the world a moving example of God’s love for His people.

A higher view

When I began to look at Rhonda through God’s eyes, it changed the way I saw her: She was His creation, fearfully and wonderfully made, a precious gift. I no longer looked at her with my own selfish agenda. She was no longer somebody who couldn’t meet my expectations; she was an expression of God’s love and grace. God had freely forgiven her shortcomings and imperfections, so why couldn’t I? When I looked at my wife and saw the person God saw, my heart, emotions and behaviour completely turned around.

Yes, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain this heavenly perspective. I am human, after all, and humans tend to see one another from their own narrow point of view. So whenever I lose my perspective, I take it before the Father. I ask, "Lord, help me to see her again through Your eyes. Help me to treat her the way You treat her."

Then God faithfully reminds me that Rhonda isn’t in my life to make me happy, but to teach me how to love.

Mitch Temple was the director of Focus on the Family Colorado’s marriage department and a licensed marriage and family therapist at the time of publication.

© 2009 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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