This past March Rodney and I celebrated 10 years of marriage, and like every year before, we popped in our wedding DVD, sat on the couch and relived the day that changed everything. And, like every year before, the more we watched, the more we realized how naïve we were March 11, 2006.
The truth is, the things we were naïve about, were good things. We thought our marriage would be different. Better than any we had witnessed anywhere else. We thought what we had would be extraordinary. We thought our lives and our calling would be significant—full of meaning and intention—and every little thing we did would be full of the glory of God.
And not to be a downer, but then we got a few years in. Actually, we got a few weeks in. And the glory of God became less of a concern, and who was going to clean the toilet became more of one.
In other words, life happened.
I have a suspicion this sort of thing happens to everyone. And I also suspect when it does, it can masquerade itself as failure. Like you let the kingdom of God down. Like your grandiose dreams of making an imprint on the world got taken out with the three-day-old trash sitting in the garage. To say it’s defeating is an under statement. Sometimes you feel just plain foolish.
Who were we to think we could change the world?
I remember reading a marriage book when we were engaged that talked about the need to fight for the marriage, to preserve the marriage, to elevate the marriage over the lukewarm cups of coffee, the stack of bills, the dirty dishes, and the demands of life. In other words, to fight tooth and nail in search of the extraordinary amid the mind numbing ordinary that is often married life.
At the time it seemed like an unnecessary warning. That would never happen to us, I asserted. But, of course, it did.
And ten years in, this is what I’ve learned. The objective of marriage isn’t to push aside life’s mundane distractions in order to get to the serious business of building God’s kingdom. The beauty of marriage is making the everyday-ness of it holy. Of beginning to see that the glory of God is actually just as visible—maybe more visible—in the emptying of the diaper pail, the loading of the dishwasher and the filling of the tank of gas.
It’s only natural, to want relationships, a life, full of transcending moments. Of moments like the Transfiguration, when Jesus took Peter, James and John, and revealed who He really was, awash in light and clothed in glory, alongside Moses and Elijah. It shouldn’t surprise us that we pine after weighty moments full of wonder and significance. It’s in us to want it. So much so in fact, that sometimes I wonder if the Transfiguration was less about Jesus and more about Peter, James and John—an effort to appease their incessant need to see a glorified Messiah and not simply the self-sacrificial leader they were beginning to realize Jesus was.
They were the only three of the twelve who saw Jesus this way, after all, and this transfiguring only happened once. The rest of the time, Jesus was in the business of celebrating the ordinary, elemental, sometimes even messy stuff of life—in potent wine at a wedding reception, in muddy salve to restore a blind man’s sight, in freshly caught fish cooking over a fire on a beach, in fragrant perfume poured on dirty feet. This was the good and beautiful work of Jesus. It was in these that the real magic happened—among the things we often work to escape. In the gritty. The commonplace. The familiar. That’s the glory of God. And that’s great news for the whole wizened group of us—who set out in marriage with one objective in mind and now find ourselves in the midst of something different.
Because that means there’s something holy and sacramental, something spiritual and something good, about the lives we live more inundated with ordinary, than with glory. It means we may be closer to worship than we think when we meet eyes with our spouse over the dried cereal on the counter, the full sink of dirty dishes, the gathered crumbs in the corner and smile, because what a life this is. What a far cry from what we thought it would be. But what a life.
I think God is just as honored in the mess, the literal mess, and the common and the ordinary of marriage than He is in the overseas mission’s trips, the teaching to thousands on the stage, and the stretch and reach of influence that can be Christian celebrity. And I think He does more than just get glory in the far more typical lives we make for ourselves. I think He gets excited. Because He sees two people doing the dirty work of marriage. The unappreciated, unattractive, unappealing work. The necessary work. And I think, He thinks, “That’s good work. That’s my work. And the more of it you do, the more you’ll start to look like Me.” And isn’t that the point of it all anyway?
Maybe we weren’t naïve in our expectations. Maybe we were right on. Maybe the place we got it wrong wasn’t in what we wanted, but in how we thought we were going to get there. Ours can be a marriage that glorifies God, but in the most unassuming ways. And since no one else is showing up to do the laundry, pick up the toys, and pack the lunches, that’s a relief.