Throughout my childhood I was exposed to the imaginative work of Walt Disney through fairytales that chronicled the budding love between a man and woman and the magical moments that took place as they grew in their love for one another. Have you ever read the story of Snow White, or Cinderella? Or perhaps you watched movies like Sleeping Beauty or The Little Mermaid? Each of these stories introduce us to characters who struggle with discontentment in their singleness and eventually experience a fuller happiness when they find their “Prince Charming” and a life happily ever after.
One of the most beautiful things that the church gets to participate in is the wedding of two believers, created in God’s own image, justified by Christ, becoming one new entity. Those wedding days are great times of celebration where all who are in attendance reflect on the love of God and on the love that the bride and groom have for one another. There is often good food and dancing to be enjoyed, and generally a good time had by all. There are months of planning that normally precede these events and lots of money invested to make this a beautiful and memorable occasion.
And then, in a flash, the sun sets, the festivities wrap up, and everyone goes home. Just like that, its all over. And the bride and groom may be left to ask, “now what?”
In those Disney fairytales that I experienced as a child, the stories focused on everything leading up to the wedding, but the author or producer would summarize all that took place in the years to follow by saying (or suggesting) “and they lived happily ever after.” But our own life experience and a large pool of consistently disappointing statistics point to the fact that life and marriage aren’t always happy after the wedding.
I find that many times couples still take a similar approach; they invest in the wedding more than they are prepared to invest in their marriage.
The wedding day is just one day that passes you by in a blur. The marriage to follow is designed by God to be a lifelong commitment to gospel oneness, for so long as you both shall live.
At the Art of Marriage weekender that we recently hosted, I was struck by the final session titled “Love Always: Leaving a Lasting Legacy”. Though I had been through the entire weekend event once before and had listened to several of the segments additional times, I was given some powerful reminders for what a statement my marriage makes about the gospel and for generations to come.
As my kids get older I become more aware of what an impact my marriage to Erin has on them. I realize that one day they will start their ever-after and raise their own families, Lord willing. And I realize that their children will have children and that pretty soon there will be generations of grandkids that I’ll never know because I’m dead and gone. The Art of Marriage reminded me of the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his Letters and Papers from Prison:
“Marriage…has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy institution through which God wishes to preserve humanity until the end of time. In…marriage you are a link in the chain of generations that God, for the sake of [his] glory, allows to rise and fade away, and calls into [his] kingdom.”
You see, we are ancestors to generations yet to be born. Albert Mohler submits, “You are an ancestor to someone yet to come. If you live your life knowing you are an ancestor, that will change the way you make your decisions, the way you live your life, the way you love your wife.”
Wow, that is powerful stuff. I was forced to stop and consider again, “how differently would I invest into my marriage if I were able to keep that multi-generational perspective?” If I were able to keep this ancestry perspective then I would likely make a stronger statement about the gospel in my marriage, in my parenting, and in my investment at home. And by God’s grace, if my kids kept that perspective and a gospel-centered commitment in their marriages based on what I’ve taught them and what they’ve “caught” by watching and listening in our home, there are tens, hundreds, or thousands of people that could be impacted in the way they understand marriage and in their gospel commitment…all from future generations in my family tree. With every decision I should consider not what makes my wife and kids happy today (because the right decision isn’t always the popular decision), but what makes them happy in 20 years from now when they reflect on the gospel impact each of those decisions made in the long run.
Dave Harvey said, “Marriage is embedded in the culture as a gospel testimony that is always making statement. The only question is whether it’s a good statement or a bad one.”
If you are engaged or one day hope to be married, please invest in your marriage more than you invest in your wedding. Engage in biblical premarital counseling well ahead of your wedding day and learn from those in the church that seem to have gospel-centered marriages. (side note: this ancestry perspective would likely change our commitment to celibacy as well)
If you are married, commit to invest in your marriage now. It is never too late to make this commitment, even if you look back on many years of your marriage and shake your head in disappointment because of your short-sighted self-absorbed perspective. Seek marriage counseling. Read some of the great resources available from evangelical authors (I’ve provided a list of recommended reads at the end of this entry). Pray that God would resurrect your marriage and your commitment to a strong gospel statement through your marriage relationship. God specializes in that kind of thing you know…resurrection is one of his trademarks. And just as the fall in Genesis 3 dealt a fatal blow to God’s perfect design for marriage, the gospel resurrects that perfect design and gives your marriage hope. It is never too late to commit yourself to leaving a gospel legacy through your marriage.
And if you are divorced I want you to know there is no shame for your failed marriage(s). Even if you were the primary reason it (they) failed. There is forgiveness available through the cross of Christ and victory in his resurrection. If you are in Christ, you are no longer a slave to sin and the powers of this world, but you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20). Your sin is forgiven if you are in Christ because “for our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). You are a billboard for the power of the gospel and the reconciliation of God can be on display through your life. In fact, God often gets the most glory when we bring our broken stuff to him and allow him to make it new.
With regards to marriage, let’s concern ourselves more with our ancestry than the fairytale ever-afters. Let’s maximize the opportunity that we have to impact generations for the gospel through our marriages.
Dear Heavenly Father, I pray for the marriages at CBC and that we would be a people committed to a long view of gospel impact on display in our homes. I pray that you would embolden husbands to make a stand for the gospel in their family leadership. I pray that these husbands would completely reprioritize their schedules and commitments based on this ancestry perspective and that they would be servant leaders as Christ is of the church. I pray for the wives in these homes, that you would give them joy in submitting to the leadership of their husbands, just as the church should to Christ. I pray that you would be gracious to impact the hearts of future generations as they see gospel-centered marriage examples so that they, too, would be key influencers within our lineage, for your glory. Thank you for the sure hope of the gospel in our lives and our marriages. Amen.
Recommended marriage & family resources:
Parenting, Paul David Tripp
Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God, C.J. Mahaney
The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller
What Did you Expect? – Paul David Tripp
Gospel-Powered Parenting, William Farley
The Complete Husband, Lou Priolo
When Sinners Say “I Do”, Dave Harvey
God, Marriage, and Family, Andreas Kostenberger with David Jones
The Exemplary Husband, Stuart Scott
Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin
The Disciple-Making Parent, Chap Bettis