When I was 10 years old, I had a letter-writing kit that included a four-foot-long piece of stationery. My pre-teen self thought the best use for this long sheet of paper was an ultimate list: a future husband checklist. I wrote a comprehensive summary of non-negotiable characteristics — everything from his height and eye color to his favorite pet and movie genre. I was almost as tall as the list! I knew exactly what I was looking for. And since I would marry someone who fit all my requirements, our marriage would be easy peasy.

Someone once said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”1 Experience has taught me that real life and real relationships are tough. I’ve learned that I can’t write a list equal to my height and expect life to roll out exactly like I planned (can’t blame a girl for trying!). What my 10-year-old self didn’t realize is that we are all broken people. As long as we are living on this side of heaven, we are not immune to falling sick in mind, body, or spirit. Our spouse isn’t going to morph into a preconceived idea of what a “better half” should be like.

Marriage is hard. That’s a given. But as followers of Jesus, we’ve been let into the (not-so-secret) recipe for true and everlasting joy: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

In the pursuit of our own happily ever after, John Paul II, inspired by the teachings of Scripture, reminds us:

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.”

If you’re standing on rocky ground, don’t be afraid to seek help. Take your brokenness and bring it to the foot of the cross of Jesus, asking him to make you whole. Invite the Holy Spirit to lead you as you continue to live out the mystical reality of being united with Christ (Ephesians 3:16-21. Let God show you what love really looks like!

As it turns out, my husband doesn’t have the “right” eye color and failed the pet and movie categories. Thankfully, my four-foot list was destroyed in a flood, rendering it invalid.

#####This video, Broken Together, helps us reflect on what marriage truly is.#####

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1. The quote above is probably a paraphrase of these words of William Shakespeare: “Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises; and oft it hits where hope is coldest, and despair most sits (All’s Well That Ends Well).”
updated September 2019

Photo Credit: Andreas Rønningen