When talking to people about how they feel about their spouses, a common response is, “(insert name) is my best friend”. So what does that mean? Does that mean that we share all our common interests? Does that mean that there is no one I would rather hang out with? Does it mean that we’ll never fight, argue, or disagree? In chapter 4 of the book we are reading, The Meaning of Marriage, Dr. Keller explores the mission of marriage. He sums it up by saying, “(Marriage) is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us.” The main vehicle for this mission is true friendship. So the question I have for you is this: Is your spouse really your best friend?
Think back to when you first met your spouse. What were your thoughts? How did you feel when you first spoke to them? Take a moment and think about it. Remember it. I’m sure your first inclination was about their “inner beauty” right? It’s ok. It’s perfectly natural to be shallow at this point. I’ll admit it. I found Jen instantly physically attractive. It wasn’t until after I got to know her and began to understand her, that I also found her to be intellectually and emotionally attractive, as well as, physically beautiful. However, my first assessment was about what I saw with my eyes, not with my heart.
I shouldn’t be too hard on myself and neither should you. What do you do when you go to the bookstore or grocery store and walk up and down the aisles? What about as you browse the web? What catches your eye? Is it the dull and drab or the colorful and flashy? Why do you think the cosmetics industry is a multibillion-dollar industry? The revenue was over 54 billion in the US alone a few years ago. The point is that we have been conditioned by this world to look at and make judgments on outward appearances. How often have we found out, though, that what we thought would be delicious was, in fact, detrimental. (Admittedly, I’m thinking of the recent Thanksgiving feast here but you all understand where I’m going with this.) It’s true that not all good-looking things are always good for us.
So what does God tell us? How should we view others and ourselves? When Samuel went looking for the next king of Israel, he was shown numerous prime physical specimens. He was shown the best of Jesse’s sons. However, God instructed him, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) After all physical beauty fades and what is left behind? We need something more substantial to bind us together. Great. So look at the heart. Fine. But how do you do that? Well, it takes time and concerted effort. I know, right? BOO! Where is the quick fix? Where are the 3 easy steps? Sorry. Can’t help ya.
The answer in a word is: relationship. We are called to be in perfect relationship with God and perfect relationship with each other. Sin gets in the way, but this doesn't mean we give up. Marriage was originally designed to be a perfect relationship, but the only place it was perfect was in the Garden of Eden. But it's still a symbol of Christ’s relationship to the Church, which is why we keep working. We keep refining each other. We keep moving closer together—to God and to each other. We are called to be Christ to one another; to be intentional with one another; to love each other even when we don’t “feel” like it.
How does your spouse feel loved? Is it a date night? Is it a meal specifically cooked with them in mind? Is it holding their hand when you are out in public? Our spouses should be a priority in our lives. They shouldn’t have to compete for our attention or affections. Chances are you already know what to do. You just need to decide to do it, and by doing these things, we will develop true friendships. True friendship makes us better. They draw us out of ourselves and into another person. This doesn't mean you always have to hang out. It doesn't mean you'll always like the same things. But it does mean that you need to have a shared vested interest in each other.
We should be looking for ways to help our spouses become who God has destined them to be. How do you do that? Firstly, you need to seek a personal relationship with God. He will then lead you into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with your spouse. Listen to him. Listen to your spouse. Act out of love and wait for those seeds to grow and blossom. You don't need a ten year plan—just ten minutes to listen.