Just a little over a week ago our youth and worship guy at church got married to his bride. And our pastor did a stellar job of reminding those there about the why of their marriage.
That it was a picture…a picture of Jesus pursuing His church.
That it was a gospel reality in physical display.
That it was a showcase of God’s love for His people.
It was a fitting reminder for me in my own marriage, and one that I have forgotten in the past but do not want to forget into the future. Because there is a grim correlation between a low view of God’s picture of marriage and a low bar actually set in a marriage. And since I am a husband, I will speak for us guys in something very sad that I see all too frequently.
We set the bar too low.
So what does this look like?
You’ve probably heard the phrase “setting the bar.” To set the bar high means for me to have high expectations or ideals. To set a standard that is going to stretch me or cause me to have to exert much effort or preparation.
Conversely, setting the bar low means holding to an easy standard. One I drift into. It does not take much thought or exertion and it does not demand a high level of excellence. Just status quo.
Guys, I think way too many of us set the bar for our marriage way too low. And then we get angry or discouraged when our marriage is not smokin’ hot. I hear guys talk about their marriage and staying content with far too little. They complain about their wife for what she is or is not. They talk about their lack of intimacy in marriage. Their marriage just “settles” into being stale where the husband is content to just coexist with his wife.
Simply living together and sharing a bed.
Unfortunately, too many guys have never been shown either 1) what a high view of marriage looks like, or 2) if they have, they simply do not know what to do to move their marriage forward.
Feel free to push back, but I believe that most of the reasons for “setting the bar too low” marriages come from the guy. I hear wives wanting so much more from their marriage, and too often we guys are sitting around on our spiritual butts giving time and energy to everything else.
We have settled into setting the bar so low it is almost on the ground and we simply do not care. We are happy that we do not fight as a couple and we say a cursory “I love you” as we pass each other leaving for work. We treat sex as if it is a duty and then complain that our wife is “just not interested any more.” We are satisfied with surface-level dialogue with our wife and think that we have had “conversation.” We are scared to talk about our struggles because, after all, we have to be the strong one. And if the truth be known, we have no clue how to even help ourself. We find our identity in our work or hobbies because this “marriage thing” is too complicated to figure out, and “every time I try nothing happens anyway.”
We have set the bar too low.
And in the course of setting the bar too low, we have, over time, gotten complacent about it and just figure this is how it was meant to be. And in not being in biblical community with godly dudes, we think we are in a canoe by ourselves with no one to understand.
Hope for marriage comes through Jesus
Guys, can I give you some hope? And wives, if you are reading this and these things resonate, can I give some prompters for your prayer life?
Married dudes out there, let me tell you about a transformation God put me through, and if He can do it for me, He can do it for you. I remember some of the above “settle” statements above being true of me. And I hated it. And I repented. And I remember asking God specifically to give me a right pursuit of my wife and to give me desires and affections different than what I was currently experiencing. Sure, my wife and I were not fighting and in conflict with each other, but I was realizing that I was setting the bar far too low.
If I have learned one thing about me changing in my marriage, it is this: that my big efforts and trying harder will do N-O-T-H-I-N-G to improve my marriage. I needed God to put within me affections and desires that would then produce fruit. I simply asked God to help me love my wife like Jesus loves His church. That my chasing after my wife would come because I want my marriage to look like the picture that it is supposed to be – looking like Jesus pursuing His church.
So fast forward. God answered my prayer. He did not change my wife, though she would certainly admit areas of needed growth. God changed me because I saw my absolute dependency on Him. And in changing me, He changed my wife.
God raised my bar. And it is impossible to hurdle it in my own strength and efforts. BUT, it is totally possible in and through Him. And as my wife was more in my “crosshairs,” she took note. And she responded. And over time, I noticed every area of my marriage changing and growing.
Every area guys. Physical and spiritual. And though I have not “arrived,” I ask myself why I was content in the past with setting the bar of my marriage so low. I did not plan for it. It just happened as I got distracted with other things.
I tell you these things, guys, because we can get so overwhelmed with the messiness of marriage that we start devoting time to other areas where we feel we “have it together.” Know this: if my marriage is solid, I can handle other areas of my life having tensions. But if my marriage is stale and bottoming out, it really does not matter what else I think is going well. Because actually they are not.
Hope. Without it the proverb is true: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”
We are an interesting group, we guys. We can talk about our hobbies, the latest hunting gear, or new fat-tire bike accessory with ease. We can launch into a monologue of epic proportions about our fave sports team and why this (meaningless) stat is so important in the overarching view of (whatever).
But in our marriages? We at times feel awkward in pursuing our wives. Like we do not know what to do and have no one to share our struggles with to do differently. Why is this?
Because we have bought the lie.
Let me offer you hope, married dudes out there. Your marriage, outside your walk with Jesus, is the most important part of your life. And as God got my attention, He can also get yours. Beg Him to do a work in you and then watch Him change your marriage through you. He can do more than just change behavior – He can change a heart.