Marriage Expectations (The Meaning of Marriage Timothy Keller, Intro-Chapter 1)

In marriage, let’s face it, the stakes are high. In fact, in his book The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller says, “There’s no relationship between human beings that is greater or more important than marriage.” If my marriage is good everything else can be average and I’ll still be happy. If my marriage is struggling, everything else can be good but I’ll still be unhappy. Marriage has the opportunity to make us or break us. It has the ability to deform, reform, and transform us inside and out. Keller is right to say, “Nothing can mature character like marriage.” But, I would add, nothing can deform character like marriage.
If marriage is indeed that central to who we are, how should we view marriage? What do we expect from it and how does our point of view influence our marriages (and ultimately who we become)?
Unfortunately, many people bring a warped idea of marriage into the relationship. Keller says that the perception of marriage has changed, “Marriage used to be a public institution for the common good, and now it is a private arrangement for the satisfaction of the individuals. Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me.”
The result of this shift in our view of marriage, Keller says, is that, “This newer view of marriage actually puts a crushing burden of expectation on marriage…and it leaves us desperately trapped between both unrealistic longings for and terrible fears about marriage.”
The expectations we have for personal fulfillment in marriage is almost laughable. Keller points out that our world wants someone who is attractive, won’t try to change me, and will fit into my existing life. Keller says, “Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for.”
In other words we are looking for someone who will accept all our character deformities and not help us reform or transform anything.
When two people with this concept of marriage actually get married, they smack into a wall of reality. Keller says, “You will have to make changes that you don’t want to make, and so will your spouse.”
Why does it have to be this way? Because marriage was designed by God change us. Keller says, “Marriage is a major vehicle for the gospel’s remaking of your heart from the inside out and your life from the ground up.”
So, a fundamental shift must take place for marriage to work.
Entering into marriage with expectation that God is using it to change you is very different from entering marriage with the belief it will give me everything I want without any inconvenience. For any marriage to work, this fundamental shift in expectation is needed.
I have to constantly fight against a self-centered view of marriage and seek the kind of marriage that transforms me into what God has wanted me to be all along. Unfortunately, we do not think about marriage as a tool of transformation.
But ask yourself a question: What if God wants to use your marriage to grow you as a Christian? Are you willing to let Him?


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