Marriage: happiness through holiness

IMG_20140222_114542Discovering the preset brew on our coffee maker changed our lives.

My kind husband gets up with me every morning, fries a few eggs, and makes sure I have coffee for my morning at school. A few weeks ago, we discovered that we can set our coffee maker to turn on in the morning. It is surprisingly comforting to hear the alarm go off and then hear the coffee maker beep its readiness just a few seconds after. Funny how the mornings seem less daunting when there is already hot coffee in the pot.

A few weeks ago, we were up late one night and Travis did not get the coffee maker ready for the next morning. The alarm went off far too early, as usual, and he slowly got out of bed to make the coffee. I went into the kitchen a few minutes later, only to discover that he did not make fresh coffee. He noticed there was coffee left over in the pot from yesterday and just turned the burner on to reheat it.

We laugh about it now, but in the moment, I was angry. I’m the one waking up, going to work. Isn’t making a fresh pot of coffee the least you can do for me?

I thought about waking him up to complain, but in that moment—through no holiness of my own—I remembered what I heard so often from a college friend and what I have been attempting to make a habit of repeating throughout my days:

In dying, we live.

“In dying, we live,” I said to myself as I made a fresh pot of coffee. And somehow, in that moment, I felt happy. When I walked back into our room and saw my husband already asleep again, I did not feel angry. In dying to myself, I found life and happiness. That night when I got home, we laughed about the day-old coffee and his sleepy attempts at fulfilling what he considers to be his morning duties.

I have read many an article and heard from many a church-goer that marriage is for holiness, not happiness. It is a school for sanctification, and when we look to it for happiness, we will be disappointed.

All of this is true and good, but sometimes I wonder if in rejecting the extreme that the world paints of marriage existing primarily for the fulfillment of our own desires, the church has gone too far to the other extreme. Sometimes we make marriage seem like bootcamp: it is hard and painful and a relentless exercise in giving up your life for the sake of another. When we think that marriage exists only for the sake of sanctification through trial and sacrifice, it sounds daunting and less than desirable. I can not possibly think it will make me happy or I will only be setting myself up for many disappointments.

But it is precisely because marriage exists for holiness that it also exists for happiness. Marriage is not for the sake of one or the other: marriage exists for both. It is in holiness that we find the greatest happiness. As we imitate the life and sacrifice of Christ, we find there true happiness: that of laying our own life down for another.

It is not a question of which does marriage exist to produce: happiness or holiness? It is that holiness exists as the ultimate end, but with holiness comes happiness that only grows as sanctification continues.

Marriage makes me happy. I love living with someone who is genuinely funny, who has weird quirks and who is always ready to listen to my own jumbled thoughts and struggles. It makes me happy to walk down the street with him, watch football at the bar with him, and kneel in church together on a Sunday morning. This happiness will only increase as I learn to welcome those sanctifying moments of sacrifice as they come, knowing that they are conforming me to the image of Christ.

And the more we are united to the image of Christ through marriage or any other season of life, the holier and the happier we become.

3 thoughts on “Marriage: happiness through holiness

  1. Lovely . . . I agree, and feel the same way about the call for wives to submit to their husbands. Is it hard at times? Yes. But it’s also delightful and beautiful, nothing like the horrendous burden it was often painted to be (“oh, this will be soooo hard for you, girls, but you’ll need to do it anyway!”). I’d like to focus more on the joys and rewards of our responsibilities, not on the difficulties.

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