I often feel like there is something missing in Christianity. Well, there are a lot of things missing. But one big thing is that we don't talk enough about the eternity that awaits us. You know, the one that will be infinitely longer than the mere decades we spend here on earth. We somehow forget that, as a dear friend once told me, earth is just our "training ground" for the life that is to come. And oh, what a life it will be! Peace, comfort, and unspeakable joy. I mean, we have these things now, to a degree. But it is not without intermittent periods of sorrow, anxiety, stress, and other struggles. Not there, though. One day, all the negatives will be gone from the equation...and life will be as God designed it originally. It will be His perfection and glory resounding everywhere and in all of our hearts forever.
Catch my vision yet? Hang on, it gets better.
Occasionally it hits me hard that one day my darling love and I will be separated. Temporarily, of course, but still, unless we are ushered into eternity at the same time, we will exist apart someday. Last night was one of those times. That thought usually brings me quickly to the next thought, which is to try to imagine what life in heaven will be like. I know that God's Word says there is no marriage in heaven. But won't I miss him? Won't I long for that relationship we once had? It breaks my heart at the thought of being near him but not being "allowed" to be together. It sounds cruel. It sounds devastating. I was saying all this with tears streaming down my face...until Derrick shattered my thoughts of despair with these words:
"You won't need me. You'll be complete."
It sounded amazing and impossible all at once. He went on to say, "I'm just a picture of what's to come, and I'm only here to point you towards Christ. One day, you'll have Him, and you won't need me anymore. We'll be together but not in the same way. And it won't matter, because we'll be fulfilled in HIM." Wow. Just....wow.
And this brings me to what I really want to share with you folks...whether you are single, engaged, married, widowed, divorced, or separated...whether you have a great marriage or are feeling like things are hopeless. Here is the great news.....marriage is not the "end all be all" of life! Finding a spouse is not ultimate fulfillment....getting married, having children, existing as a family unit....not a single one of those things are meant to be the crowning glory of life. They are just shadows of what's to come. Mere pictures. Oh yes, they can and do bring so much joy and comfort in this earthly life! BUT, if we look to this as our completion, our legacy, then we have missed the most important thing. Jesus. Yep, we skipped right over Him and somehow made it all about ourselves. Dear Christian, we do it all the time. We look at life as if it ends here. We forget DAILY that this is just the ridiculously short dream from which we will one day wake up to the reality.
And what exactly is that reality? Oh believer, it is just too incredible to fathom in our finite minds. We, the Church....we are a Bride. We will run together to the arms of Christ, our beloved Savior and the true Groom. We will have a wedding celebration and feast like no other. You know that joy we have when we hear a new couple announced for the first time as Mr. and Mrs.? Well, we will be once and for all joined together with Jesus. We will be presented together with Him and will forever enjoy love, intimacy, joy, peace, comfort, safety, and security that we have never known. Even the best of spouses could not provide for us a fraction of the fulfillment we will experience. It will be more than we could ever imagine, because it will be perfect.
Everything about the institution of marriage is a picture of Christ's relationship with His Church.....His Bride. It's not about making us have our best life now. It's pointing us to the fact that the best is yet to come. Just stop for a second and think about all of the obsession there is with having a relationship. All those initial feelings of excitement, the desire for physical intimacy, the feelings of self-worth that come from belonging to someone. All of this is supposed to point us to Jesus. He set this all up so that we would learn more about His love for us and His desire for a personal relationship with us. Instead, we have made it about ourselves. I know for many years, I begged God to give me a relationship. I was tired of doing things His way and was angry and frustrated that He made me wait so long to get married. I was jealous of my friends who married right out of college and looked in all the wrong places for attention because I was taking what God created for His glory and wanting it to serve me and my agenda. I could have used that time focusing on serving Him, growing closer to Him and bringing Him more glory as a single woman. Instead I pined over a life that I did not yet have. I wasted my energy dreaming about how marriage would be that "perfect life" I had always wanted. Only then would I be happy.
So, about 6 years ago, I ended up with Derrick. He was everything I needed and pointed me to Christ like no one ever had before. He still does, every day. He serves me, and he adores our children. He does a lot to help around the house and takes care of the kids. But you know what? He could do all of those things or none of those things....and it would not change the fact that marriage is not for us. It's to point us to something...or someONE greater. Sometimes, marriage is a great picture of who He is...and sometimes, because of sin, selfishness, and pride, it is a really bad picture. But either way, at the end of the day, it's all about Jesus.
I think we need to spend a little less time "Focusing on the Family" and a little more time "Focusing on Christ". Family is great. Teaching our children is incredibly important, and so is investing in our relationship with our spouses. But no amount of self-help books or counseling is going to fix a marriage that is not focused on Jesus. Not to mention the fact that marriage itself will not fix anything or make life better! We both feel very strongly that we don't want to influence our children one way or the other about marriage. Paul makes it very clear that singleness makes it easier to serve Christ with undivided attention. If that is what God wants for them, I will gladly support them in that! (I Corinthians 7:25-40). Here are a couple of passages that illustrate what I have shared here, and I will end with these. I pray that this all sinks in for you the way it has for me. It has provided me with hope and peace about the future. Because of Christ, the end of our earthly marriage will mean that an infinitely better one awaits......the only real, PERFECT marriage. :)
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV)
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:8-12 ESV)