Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Great Expectations

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

-- Genesis 2:24

Call it buyer’s remorse.

You watched the slick commercials, visited several showrooms and did plenty of research on the Internet. After all, it's not every day that you spend thousands - or maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars - on an expensive purchase that will literally change your life. Maybe you bought a new computer, a car or even a house. And maybe it even lived up to your expectations. At least for a while. But in most cases, the glitz and glamour wear thin. You see newer models with even better features in the stores. And you can't help but wonder if you should have waited. Or even if you made a mistake.

That's a natural human response. But what happens when your life-changing transaction is a marriage? You don't trade in your spouse for a better model after the 50,000-mile warranty expires (regardless of what popular culture says).

Brides and grooms bring plenty of expectations to the altar. And some of them are even realistic. But most aren't. The fact is that the stresses of everyday living tend to quickly put reality into sharp focus. Monthly bills, vacillating careers, family issues and mortgage payments can bring out the side of spouses that never emerged during those fun dinner dates and nights at the movies.

(Enter the "for better or for worse" part of your vows!)

So what's the secret for returning to the "for better" part of marriage? The first and most important step is to make sure both you and your spouse are on the same spiritual wavelength. That means making God - through your shared faith in Jesus Christ - the third trusted partner in your marriage. After all, every marriage faces difficulties because life is so full of pitfalls and hairpin turns. It takes plenty of prayer and trust when a family member is ill, you lose your job or someone wrecks into your new car.

The second critical step is to manage your expectations and understand that no matter how hard you try, you can't - and shouldn't - change your spouse. And then understand that your spouse will evolve over time through the experiences and challenges God introduces along his or her life-journey. This might sound a bit unsettling. But would you really want your spouse to act and think like a 25-year-old when he or she is 50?

A solid, growing faith in Jesus is one thing that should remain constant in a strong marriage between Christ-followers. But even in the best of circumstances, husbands and wives often fail to meet their spouses' expectations. When that happens - and it always will - remain faithful, forgive your spouse and trust God. Christ-followers are only human. And that means marriage will never fully complete us. But God can if we only ask Him.

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