Prince Charming: When the “Ideal Christian Marriage” is Idolatry
When my daughter Lindsey was four years old her aunt purchased her a floor-length Snow White costume. Puff sleeves and a velvet bodice. With her porcelain white skin and nearly black hair, matching hair bow and shoes, Lindsey truly fit the part of a princess. Every little girl wants to be a princess… and grow up to marry her prince.
“And they all lived happily ever after”…
In a Christian marriage we may replace the image of the fairytale a couple riding off into the sunset with a cozy couple sitting in front of a cracking fireplace while the husband reads the Bible aloud… the ideal image of the Christ-centered marriage. We have often heard a solid Christian marriage is like a triangle with Christ at that apex and the man and the wife occupying the two lower corners. However, as Christian women we are often guilty, just like an imaginative child, of idolizing a prince who will emotionally (and even spiritually) complete our lives. This is an even more seductive trap in the Christian community than the outside world because of our emphasis on finding the “right” life-long companion. A husband serves as the God-appointed leader of the home, but that does not mean that he takes the place of God at the top of that triangle in marriage.
Sections of Christian bookstores, seminars, and even radio programs focus our attention on the Christian marriage relationship. This relationship is proper as the second priority, below our relationship with God. It is idolatry to give the marriage relationship control to turn the rudder of our lives.
I can’t help but think of the Biblical example of Abraham. Abraham loved his wife Sarah (and lied on more than one occasion to keep other men from getting their hands on her) but his true love was his son Isaac. Isaac was the promised one, the one from whom Abraham was told he would one day have descendants as numerous as the stars. Yet, God saw that Abraham was putting Isaac on an improper pedestal and chose to test his loyalty. God allowed Abraham to bind his son and lay him on an altar before the Angel of the Lord stepped in and stopped the potentially horrific sacrifice. Who did he love more- his son or God? In this case, Genesis 22 shows us that Abraham passed the test and proved that God was most important in his life.
In marriage God does not ask us to tie up our spouse and throw him on the fire (even though during some heated arguments that might seem tempting!) We don’t often have a clearly defined way to test our own hearts to see if our spouse has taken the place of God in our lives. When pain and disappointment enter our marriages our true “god” is revealed.
“Prince Charming” takes a nose dive
Let’s look at the example of Jessica and Jeff. They have been married 12 years and have two adorable daughters, ages 6 and 8. Jeff is a youth minister at their church and Jessica spends much of her time mentoring the young teen girls and homeschooling her own children. They have common interests in helping others, raising Godly children, and good Chinese food. By most definitions they have a good, Christ-centered relationship, but one sin can reveal how fragile it really is. One night about a year ago Jessica was on her husband’s computer and came across some pornographic photos. She confronted him about them and he was broken and repentant… choosing to leave his post as a youth pastor at the church. She was initially thankful for his response, but her anxiety level continues to skyrocket. She hovers around his every move and chooses to distrust him. She is angry that God allowed her to marry this man when she deserved so much better. Her thoughts are consumed by bitterness over her husband’s sin and she is secretly contemplating divorce.
This one sin, though quite painful, reveals Jennifer’s true heart. Her spiritual health was contingent upon her husband staying on his best behavior. When her husband sinned all of her focus shifted to him instead of properly focusing on the Lord. Jennifer’s idea of an “ideal marriage” had usurped the place of God in her life. It is easy (and quite natural) to focus on our husband’s character flaws, idiosyncrasies, and sins, but the Bible encourages us to focus on our own hearts.
In Psalm 139 23-24 King David penned these famous words:
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
“Search Me, Lord, and I’ll trust You to take care of my husband!” Our spouses will sin and fail us, and “happily ever afters” are for Heaven. I am still in the process of learning that joy comes in worshiping the Unchanging One, our Heavenly Father and keeping Him (not my husband) at the center of my marriage.