I like my coffee strong, and my man likes his music loud. If given an entire evening to plan anything at all, he’d choose a crowded sporting arena with lots and lots of people; I’d choose a bubble bath and a book. I thrive in deep, meaningful conversation; he thinks you’re never too old to play practical jokes.
I’m a dreamer, a quiet observer, a compulsive reader; he’s a comedian, a competitive athlete, and an outspoken leader who willingly jumps into the messy stuff. I used to think that we were too different.
Early in our marriage, I secretly wished he would magically morph into a manly version of me. Then we’d have so much more in common and so much less time devoted to sports, and wouldn’t that be so much easier and comfortable and enjoyable… for me? (I’m smothered by the self-centeredness in my own words.)
Mary and Joseph’s marriage should have ended before it began. It almost did. When Joseph found out about Mary’s pregnancy, he decided in his mind that he would do the compassionate thing and divorce her quietly. This young teenage girl’s reputation (as well as her life) was on the line.
In a dream, God told Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
How different would this story read if Mary and Joseph had not trusted God?
Matthew spells out why Joseph and Mary are key players in this story. In Matthew 1:22-23, he quotes the prophet, Isaiah, who said: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).”
Mary and Joseph accepted that this marriage might be bigger than their own hopes and dreams, their own wishes and preferences, their own familiar comfort zones. Both laid down entitlement and chose to be a part of God’s plan to save many lives.
After Jesus was born, King Herod went on a furious quest to locate the child who threatened his throne. Joseph received instructions on how to move his family to Egypt, far outside Herod’s jurisdiction. Mary followed the man who married her pregnant and all.
When King Herod died, Joseph received further instructions in two separate dreams to move his family to the land of Israel, then to the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Mary trusted Joseph while clinging to Jesus.
Jesus’ parents encountered struggle and hardship from the very beginning of their relationship. Both had to exercise trust towards one another, but ultimately, their trust was in God.
Exercising trust in our marriages means believing that God joined us together for a purpose that involves using every one of the differences between us. It begins with the destruction of our own kingdoms so that His kingdom is our joint focus.
When we exercise real trust, we know in our bones that even if our spouse proves untrustworthy, Jesus is always faithful and will never, ever harm or disappoint or leave us.
What if instead of placing our trust in our spouse or in the institution of marriage, we place our trust in the One who designed marriage to reveal His glory, the One whose very name means “God is with us”?
Struggle is woven into the very fabric of marriage. Two different flawed people, incomplete and naturally self-centered, joined together as one. Struggle is inevitable. Yet over and over again, God uses marriage to create a dynamic and beautiful display of redemption.
If I’m honest, my marriage has magnified my own selfishness, my desire for comfort, convenience, and control. More than anything, my marriage has revealed my desperate need to be changed by God.
Every marriage is evidence that we all need Jesus smack-dab between us.
God is right here with us, living and breathing and moving and working in our most precious relationships. He is with us. Immanuel. This is such sweet hope… for you, for me, and for our marriages.