Marriage: So Much More Than a Partnership

My husband recently matched into a residency program on the other side of the country, far from the area I have considered home the entirety of my short life. The Pacific Northwest, with its mountains kissing ocean, its gloomy rain and gloomier culture, has shaped my childhood and most of my adulthood. The enormity of this move isn’t something we took lightly when my husband applied for residency programs, but when you look at the whole of life: our purpose and what’s truly important, suddenly the comfort of home, familiarity, and even preference, fade in light of the hope of following  God wherever he leads. It’s a bit terrifying as we gaze at this great chasm of eternity that opens up with limitless, unknown possibilities for our future; but simultaneously peaceful as we rest in the knowledge that our eternal future is already secured, and all these moments in between are held in the hand of a good God.

Through the process of applying to residencies I had countless people ask me how I felt about the move; if I wanted to go wherever it was my husband’s career took him; or if I was okay with his specialty choice. It was a weird line of questioning to me. Of course I want to go wherever my husband’s career takes him. I will do everything a reasonable person can to insure that we are in life together: all of its changes, unexpected chaos, pain, delights, adventures and joys. I want to support him and help him succeed in the career he loves and labors for, as he pursues what he believes God has directed him toward. Everything about our lives is one: his success is my success, his failure is my failure, his hurt is my hurt, his joy is my joy. We are indeed one flesh.

It’s saddening to think that beneath all those questions is a view of marriage that is broken. It isn’t surprising; divorce is common, pre-nuptials are expected, and many marriages look more like business deals than unity. It’s a common idea to consider marriage a partnership: Two separate lives, two plans for the future, two different bank accounts, two leaders taking turns, agreeing enough to meet in the bedroom. I suppose that can be constituted as a relationship, but that isn’t marriage. Portraying marriage as a partnership is a popular idea, but it isn’t a biblical one.

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

We often shy away from what the bible says about marriage. We do exegetical gymnastics to make it more palatable, and we point fingers at our spouses for not living up to their end of the bargain. We excuse our own failures and justify our own preferences. As our former pastor once preached, “biblical passages on marriage are not difficult to understand, but they are difficult to accept”.

We want so badly to throw out this design, but this design speaks to something so much bigger than just us and our marriage.

When we see those rare glimpses of marriage done well, of a husband leading his wife with love: laboring over decisions because he wants to do what is right, and prayerfully seeking how to best serve his wife, it is there we see Christ who served us best in his death, who seeks our good and leads us there perfectly. And when we see a wife who respects her husband: gladly submitting to his leading, and joyfully going wherever he goes, it is there that we see the Church submitting to Jesus, gladly going wherever he leads us and rejoicing in His glory. When a husband loves his wife in her darkest hour, we get a glimpse of how Jesus loved us when we were his enemies. When a wife follows her husband in the most difficult and uncertain decisions, it is there we see the Church submitting to Christ even in the moments that feel impossible and terrifying.

All of the decisions that my husband had to make leading up to this point in our lives he made with my input, taking deeply to heart how it would affect me, and asking me how I felt in each decision along the way. Had he not considered me in the process he certainly would have failed to obey God’s command for him to love me as Christ loves the Church. In the event of his failure would I still be required to submit to his decisions? By the grace of God, yes; because his failure surely doesn’t warrant my own. In marriage we are each commanded to do impossible things: he has to lead even when the way seems totally uncertain, looking to provide and care for his family and seeking to help his wife flourish in her faith; she has to submit even when he forgets her, even when he makes mistakes, encouraging him even in his failure (which is really when he needs it most). These things are impossible, and it is in that impossibility that we find ourselves on our knees before our God by whose strength alone we can accomplish his commands.

We look at broken marriages, at abuses, at hurting people, and instead of recognizing it as a result of humanity being humans, we try and throw out the design we’ve been handed. We’ve seen the misuse of words like “leader” and “submission” and we’ve opted instead to look at marriage as a compromise of separate lives. Exchanging one bad idea for another bad idea.

At the root of many questions thrown my way in the last few years is the idea of partnership: a view that my husband and I are two individuals with two different dreams that we’ve somehow compromised enough to make it work.

But marriage isn’t about two lives coming together and compromising where the road splits, it’s about two lives  joining and becoming one life, on one road for better or worse. We can make that promise because Christ makes that promise to us first,“if we are faithless, he remains faithful” (1 Timothy 2:13).

I remember the moment my life transformed from being my life to being part of a singular unit in marriage. When I stood before an audience of people and pledged with steady hands that until death I would love, honor and serve my husband in every season of life, submitting to God’s word to us about marriage. I remember his confident gaze as he pledged the same. It was there that it was sealed, that our love was not ours to hold between us, but committed to God and his design. Our lives were no longer our own but we belonged to one another, wound together as one mysterious unit.

Before that windy day in August, when I stood in white, sand between my toes and a gold ring on my finger, I had already made the choice to give my life to that man. It was a moment, quick but imprinted still on my ever-fading memory: standing beneath a lamppost in the rain and watching each droplet catch the light as it fell, waiting anxiously for whatever words he was holding that had him rambling as we walked–like verbal pacing. When he finally stopped moving he asked me, “will you follow me wherever I have to go?” It was a serious question from a very serious man. There was an entire ethos held within those few words: was I going to change the trajectory of my life for him? Was I willing to gladly go to whatever country, culture, or difficult lifestyle he believed he was called into? Was I willing to trust and follow him even when he made mistakes? Was I going to love him and offer him respect even when he failed me? Was I willing to let him lead me?  I felt the weight of that reality and yet it was with confidence that I said, yes. And my answer has been yes ever since.

This life united has taken us through valleys of difficulty with conflicting worldviews, and the complexities and demands of medical school; it has changed each of us as we’ve wrestled with our own selfishness and the call to love the other more than ourselves; it has taken us to another country and many different cities; it has brought us two wild and beautiful children and many sleepless nights; it has brought passionate fights and tender moments that only we share; and it has brought me a greater understanding of my God who brought us through each moment.

When we are obedient to the design he’s handed us we see glimpses of this great mystery of two individuals becoming one. It is there we somehow grasp that we are one with Christ in the same way.

So, how do I feel about my husband working 80+hour weeks for the next four years, in the most controversial field of medicine in our country, in a state that is totally foreign to me? I feel a whole host of human emotions; but above all I am confident in the God who has led us there, guiding my husband gently and surely in each decision (even in the most desperate, challenging and unknown circumstances) while preparing my heart to exchange the familiar for the strange.

 

 

 

*I’ve been on the internet long enough to know not everyone agrees with Complementarian view of marriage, for more resources on the topic I recommend the following books:

God’s Design for Man and Woman by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Margaret E. Kostenberger

Jesus and the Feminists by Margaret Elizabeth Kostenberger

Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

*I welcome disagreement (though in the midst of a move I may not have time to respond), and in the spirit of welcoming a diversity of opinion any disrespectful or unhelpful comments will be deleted.

24 comments

  1. Jade & Rikki · · Reply

    Awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much!

      Like

  2. beautiful! and challenging and true.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Thanks for taking the time to read 🙂

      Like

  3. I am thrilled by your writings! What a beautiful picture of God’s blessings for marriage! I guess that we are “cousins” by marriage, and I am proud to forward this post! Thank you for taking the time during your busy days to write such beneficial and beautiful words! Blessings to you and your family in your big move! He will show you wonderful new things!!!❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, thank you for such an enthusiastic and encouraging comment! We’re certainly excited for whatever God has in store ahead of us, and incredibly thankful he’s in charge of our future 🙂 Thanks for reading

      Like

  4. Shelley · · Reply

    Beautifully written and so refreshing to read an article regarding marriage from not only a practical perspective, but one with the foundation of biblical truth at its center! Too many opinions based on today’s society and culture cloud and dilute. It is the only way for a marriage to endure, flourish, and grow in beauty. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such beauty and truth in your words! God’s design for marriage is the perfect plan because He created us and the institution of marriage. The world, whose wisdom is folly, will never understand Biblical marriage. Be strong in the Lord. Embrace the adventure of a move! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful. “Letting him lead” is not easy, but God designed us to compliment each other. If we both had to be the leaders…how would that work? Thanks for this post, it helps me develop a better appreciation for my husband.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      Like

  7. Moraima C. · · Reply

    Very good writing!! Greetings from Venezuela

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  8. Kay Nesset · · Reply

    You are simply an awesome young wife and mother, a real example to others of how to do this life and stay in God’s limitations. I think the key here is love! I wish you the very best, and a ton of blessings as you start this new chapter!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kay!

      Like

  9. Thanks for your edifying post! I wish your husband, you and kids all the best. I too am a (Reformed) Christian in medicine and may have to move far away from home as well. For better or for worse, that’s the nature of medical training. Residency in most specialties is super tough. However, we need more Christians in all fields of medicine (e.g. OB/GYN for abortion issues, critical care for end of life issues). May the Lord always be with us and help us make it through residency and beyond, for his glory and the good of his people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading!
      And amen to that!

      Like

  10. Martha B · · Reply

    Gosh – thank you for your transparency and indirect encouragement through this post! My husband is also in medical school and we’ll be treading those waters of residency very soon. It’s a strange dance, walking out these early years of marriage during something like med school – where the work is rigorous beyond the comprehension of most and the schedule is consistently inconsistent (at least in our case). I’m curious as to the field your husband is entering? (The “controversial” tag piqued my interest!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad it could be an encouragement to you! Medical school is brutal, but I’ve seen God do some amazing things in the midst of all of its rigor and uncertainty and loneliness. My husband is going into OB/GYN and he’s interesting in possibly doing a Maternal/Fetal fellowship, its an area in which being pro-life is often frowned upon especially among issues of abortion and end of life ethics. God-speed in your adventures in medical school together, hold fast to Christ and he’ll carry you through ever single difficulty 🙂

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  11. I appreciate the emphasis. Here’s a thought: When God said, “It’s not good for the man to be alone,” He implied that something important was missing. If a wife disappears into the dominance of a husband, he is alone again. I use the wedding “Sand Ceremony” as a visual to teach this truth, check it out, “Does unity sand offer a better picture of marriage?” https://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/does-the-unity-sand-offer-a-better-picture-of-marriage/

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  12. Interesting blog post. Coming from an egalitarian perspective I would say that what you describe as a partnership is not a partnership at all – it’s a contract. Contracts are for mutual benefit (what each party wants to get out of the relationship) whereas, as you would agree, marriage is a covenant. A true partnership is where a married couple have a common vision (the biblical paradigm being Genesis 1:28). In any sphere, for example, the business world, partners are people who have agreed to a common path and purpose.

    In your case, as in most cases, your husband has a different vocation to yours and it is commendable that you support him in his by moving geographically. But the vision in terms of commitment to church, to family life and mission for any Christian married couple can be the same because the vision rests on principles that apply wherever you are geographically.

    Even if I held a complementarian view I would say that decision making does not rest solely with the husband – decision making should be shared but if you hold a complementarian view the husband has the final say – often this is not necessary especially if you have a common biblical vision. Leaders in any sphere do well not to make decisions in isolation and therefore a husband making decisions by himself without input from his wife is an unhealthy model for a complementarian marriage.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Tom.
      I think perhaps the most important aspect of what your saying is the idea of a common vision, my point is that there will be times when the vision is not unanimously agreed upon (though in a Christ-centered loving marriage, it likely will be most of the time). Certainly leadership and submission don’t take much when you agree, it is in the moment of disagreement that they come forth as commands. If we have a biblical perspective of marriage, and a biblical vision, we cannot ignore the clear model set forth in the passage I quoted, and elsewhere in Scripture.
      Where I agree with my husband, I don’t have to submit, I already agree, its easy. It is in those (albeit rare) moments of disagreement that I must trust God’s leadership over our marriage and submit to the model God has given us even where I may disagree with my husband’s final decision, or where there is difficulty in trusting the path he is taking.

      I never said that a husband ought to make decisions alone. In fact I pointed out that it would be his failure to uphold the command to love his wife if he didn’t consult her and her wisdom and feelings on each decision. I agree that that would be an unhealthy model, after-all that it isn’t a biblical model either.

      I highly recommend the books I referenced at the end of the post, especially God’s Design for Man and Woman, I think the Kostenbergers do a much better job then I ever could in illuminating the scriptural design for marriage.

      Take care!
      Lydia

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  13. You and your husband are very lucky. Most married couples NEVER reach the level of commitment, understanding or happiness you are both experiencing in your marriage. And, the reason is exactly what you’ve so eloquently striven to explain – a selfless, and simple yet profound, faith in the Word of God, as truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. […] MARRIAGE: SO MUCH MORE THAN A PARTNERSHIP […]

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  15. This is such a wonderful post. It can be very difficult! I have left 3 jobs for my husband (including 1 that I had only been at for 3 months!). In 2013, we packed up and moved to Cali (SanFran), from PA. Fortunately, we found great friends in the LDS Ward we belonged. Everyone was in a similar situation – uprooting their families to teeny apts.
    Cut back to 2015, we’re back. Our family has been blessed as we live the gospel and lean on each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      Like

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