My conversations with my husband often center around to-do lists and family goals, creating a business-like dynamic.
“Can you please just unload and reload the dishes before you go?”
“Yea. Can you record your recent purchases into the budgeting app?”
“No problem. I’ll add it to my list. Anything else you need me to prioritize today?”
“I can’t think of anything. I’ll text you.”
We’re both type-A personalities and place a high value on efficiency and practicality. This is our safe place, our comfort zone. Although laboring together for the gospel honors God’s design as we care for our home, use wisdom with finances, and parent with grace, that’s not the entirety of marriage. Marriage was also created to display the passionate, faithful love between Christ and his bride, the Church.
But sometimes in real life marriage, maintaining that passion feels too exhausting.
When I was first married, I imagined that the “work” of marriage would be working through disagreements or differences of opinion, learning to live together and make compromises. However, eight years, two dogs, and three children later, we’ve learned how to express ourselves and settle disagreements and share a space, but the challenge is in maintaining the intimacy that was so natural and invigorating (and frankly, so desired) in the beginning.
I assumed it would always be there, but now, the fear creeps in and the self-doubt begins. Why is this so hard? Shouldn’t this just be there? Shouldn’t I want to be with my husband? Why do we only talk about the kids or the house? I’m just so tired, but that never used to matter.
In these moments of doubt, the gospel course-corrects my anxious heart. It reminds me of the truths about marriage and its original purpose as designed by the Creator of the universe.
God’s Beautiful Purpose in Our Brokenness
Firstly, I can let go of any fears that I’m alone and somehow “specially broken.”
Many Christians will be familiar with Romans 3:23 that states, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” While this can seem like an admonition, it’s a reassurance to my soul.
My problems aren’t unique. It’s not simply me that’s broken, but all of mankind is fallen. It isn’t that I haven’t read enough self-help books or gone to enough marriage seminars or spent enough time or gone to enough therapy. I’ll always fall short and my husband will always fall short, and therefore our marriage will always fall short because we’re broken and in need of a Savior.
The gospel doesn’t stop there, however. The Bible provides encouragement and hope through many examples of marriage relationships, as well as the metaphor of the Church being the bride of Christ.
God’s Beautiful Purpose in Our Brokenness
When I try to find purpose and drive behind my marriage, I look to Christ and the Church. The Church loves Christ passionately, boldly, excitedly. The Church has waited for so long for him and once he comes, the Church wants to spread the news to everyone around the globe that he is here! I remember feeling that way about my husband when we first started dating. I wanted all my friends and family to meet him, because he was amazing. It can be easy to forget or get used to that amazement in our marriages, just like it can be easy to forget, after years of being a Christian, just how truly amazing our relationship with Christ is.
For as much as the Church loves Christ, the love of Christ that covers the Church is infinitely more. Christ cares for the Church with such incomprehensible compassion and understanding; with service and sacrifice to the point of death on a cross. He’s the picture of a perfect spouse. He seeks out his bride, leaving behind his previous life to meet her where she is; he’s compassionate and understanding, lifting her up and encouraging her to grow in mercy and grace.
This is why I’m married. Because marriage is a small example of this great love and joy demonstrated by our Savior. This is what drives me to celebrate my husband and dig deep into our marriage. Time will pass, our kids will grow up and leave our house, to-do lists will be completed, but for a fleeting moment here on earth our marriage will serve as a reflection of the love Christ and the Church share.
Christ’s Example and Help for Love in Marriage
During many marriage ceremonies 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is read, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
That’s hard. But that work is not all on me. It’s not all on my husband. It’s not all on our efforts together. Christ already set the perfect example. He’s already acknowledged our weaknesses, covered them, and will come alongside us. Christ is for my marriage. He doesn’t expect me to be able to demonstrate perfect sacrificial love, but promises his Holy Spirit to guide us both. I can offer up my shortcomings to the Lord and be free to enjoy my spouse and marriage. It’s actually the everyday, faithful, unglamorous acts of love that reveal some of our passion, showing the beauty of our relationship to Christ in marriage.
I’m not alone, I’m not “uniquely broken.” God doesn’t abandon me and then expect perfection in his absence. He provides an example and calls me to a purposeful marriage that serves as a demonstration of his love for us. This doesn’t happen in a bulleted “101 Ways to Have Great Marriage” or in a simple step by step to-do list (which, if I’m honest, I would prefer). It happens in the way that Christ and the Church happen: through prayer, through sacrificial love, through community, through worship of God and the lifting of one another.
So what’s missing when it becomes more of a task than a joy? Just like when my hope and joy simply becomes my religion, I‘ve forgotten what drew me to my husband in the beginning. I need to remember who my husband is in those moments when intimacy between us feels too exhausting. I need to stop letting our marriage become a list to complete and remember the joy that first drew us together.
R|M editorial note: Though many women relate to the normal feelings of exhaustion and lack of interest that make intimacy challenging, there are many others struggling with deeper issues of brokenness from past sin, pornography, postpartum depression, physical ailments, or other relational issues. If this is you, we encourage you to talk to an older couple, a trained biblical counselor, or a doctor for additional help and insight. We hope, whatever your situation, this edifies you.
Amanda Briscoe is a teacher turned stay-at-home mom to three amazing kids: Noah age five and a half, Miles age three, and Cecelia who is one. She reads as much as she can, tries her hand at vegetable gardening, and enjoys teaching at her church. Most of all, she loves to laugh, and no one makes her laugh more than her husband.