Moving Beyond the Fairy-Tale Marriage
The divine design of marriage calls us to something deeper—to God’s daily involvement. Because we can’t uphold our vows without Him.
Picture me wearing Manolos.
Yep, that’s right. Bold. Modern. Romantic. I pair the gorgeous shoes with killer abs in couture gowns. My prince brings treasures from afar as little woodland creatures do my housework. Even my morning bedhead radiates beauty.
Do you ever wish married life worked like a fairy tale? Yep. Me too.
I chuckle as I write these words, cuddled on the love seat in my Texas-sized bedroom. Barefoot in shorts and a T-shirt, with two-day-old hair and an empty bag of mint chocolate Milanos. Hey, that’s close to Manolos, right?
We know not to trust the fantasy of carriages and horsemen. Yet somewhere in our relationships, we’ve felt the draw to something more. Not something prettier—although we wouldn’t mind—but something deeper.
As a wife or bride-to-be, you’ve already heard the whisper in your spirit—the call to a marital experience different from what you’ve seen so far. We long to build marriages we love in the small moments. Not romanticized tales of perfect hair, homes, and husbands—because who can live up to that? We’re looking for genuine joy in the middle of the mess and learning to make peace with each other’s … quirks.
Sound like something you want? Yep, me too. We need God’s presence as the blessing of the third strand.
You’ve no doubt heard of this illustrious fiber. A bond between two people may shatter with ease but “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). We often acknowledge the presence of the third strand through unity candles or comingling elements on a wedding day, but we miss the grandness of this coupling if we relegate it to a symbolic act.
What is the third strand?
Marriage is more than a ceremony. Gloriously more. God wasn’t a guest at your wedding. The day you made your vows, He participated in active agreement, invisible yet majestic in glory.
If a pastor officiated your ceremony, he or she said something like, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God and these witnesses to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony.” You stood with your man just as I did with mine. By our actions we said, “God, he is the one.” And the Lord joined us to our husbands.
The Almighty wasn’t distracted by my grandiose daydreams of life as a wife. He knew all the hard times to come, the difficult conversations, and painful circumstances. The Lord saw the days when I wouldn’t want to consider Jared better than myself, or forgive as I have been forgiven. Yet He stood as witness to our union, providing a resounding “so be it” in the heavens as we vowed to honor and cherish for as long as we both shall live.
My vows weren’t foolish promises, although in challenging moments I question my sanity. God’s third strand compensates for where we lack.
The divine design of marriage necessitates His daily involvement because we can’t uphold our solemn words without Him. The threads of His tapestry hold our marriage together when everything else unravels.
To prepare for our pending nuptials, Jared and I wrote our own wedding vows. I spent hours guzzling lattes, making every attempt to draft passionate yet feasible affirmations. Noble, heart-moving words felt most appropriate, but I had a better chance at becoming Wonder Woman than fulfilling lofty proclamations.
“I will always honor and respect you.” Always? Maybe sometimes.
“I will submit to you joyfully as the head of our family.” Umm … I’ll try not to fight against your leadership? Yeah, that sounds encouraging.
Expecting to fail was to admit defeat before we even began. But to preface each vow with “I will try” was a worse alternative. With flushed cheeks and a diverted gaze, I admitted this concern during premarital counseling, hoping for supernatural insight, or at least a superhero cape.
“Vows are hard,” our pastor said.
“I do” is just the beginning
A wedding happens once. Each day afterward is an opportunity to say, “I still do.” Choosing permanence in our marriages and proclaiming “Amen and Amen” to ourselves when it comes time to practice the promises we made. Vows represent what we work toward and strive for throughout our entire marriage.
Some promises are all or nothing—you either protect fidelity or you don’t. But others endure as works in progress as we learn to love and honor each other. No wonder we need God’s company.
When two work together, we get a better return. We share strength and warmth. But what happens when the bed is cold? When one falls because the other pushed them, or isn’t around to help them stand again? When a bride works on her marriage solo, her nerves and energy soon fray.
As I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, I didn’t picture “becoming one” with my husband through terse conversations and irrational reactions. That’s the value of the third strand—when one or both of you fail, God picks you up. Even better than the important faith-filled loyalty one spouse shows another is the Lord’s faithfulness to your union.
You are not alone. He longs to hold the fragile moments of your relationship, to fortify delicate bonds with the tightknit fabric of His presence.
God wants us to include Him
God wants to be involved in our marriages—praise His holy name!—but we must include Him. In the same way He grants free will to receive salvation, He will not force His involvement in our homes. As a Gentleman, the Lord waits for me to invite Him into my relationship. And I’m good at shutting the door in His face.
Remember that glimpse into my life from earlier? Me curled on the sofa in desperate need of cookies and, someday, a nice long shower? I’m still here, but this time I’m pouting. Not that immature jutted-chin-and-diva-hair-toss petulance. The justified kind—if there was such a thing. I mumble complaints about “Jared doesn’t notice” and “Is he listening?” and defend my quiet protest as “prayer.” Who else would I be talking to, sitting in a room by myself?
Then I hear Jesus. His voice echoes down a long corridor because sometimes I need the dramatic so I’ll pay attention.
“I’m waiting in the hallway. Are you done, so you can let me in?”
Now, I know God is everywhere. He knows all things, discerns all thoughts, and hears every word. But I also know that thinking and talking are different than praying. Scripture tells me that God gives good gifts to His kids. Better than blue Tiffany boxes or fancy cars. Good gifts. The kind only He can give. Peace beyond understanding, hope without measure, and supernatural provision. Blessing a marriage with sincere harmony and happiness.
We must invite God to be involved
He says I don’t have because I don’t ask. Or my requests are selfish, looking to spend His generosity on my own pleasures (James 4:2-3). He’s right. I default to depending on my strength, advocating for my preferences, and I work hard to achieve my own results. It takes such arduous efforts to “fix” my marriage, to set us up for my version of success:
- Tearing down molehills to prevent future mountains
- Exhaustively talking through problems with few results
- Feeling like I’m the only one trying—and if I let go it will all fall apart
I catch some soft murmurs of “Yep, me too.” While I’m sorry for your pain, it’s good to know we’re not alone. No one signs up for this hardship.
We crave rare and exquisite marriages, spilling over with knowing and loving and being together. Not standing in proximity, but cherished in unity.
Instead, bone-weary women experience great loss. We’re at a loss for words. For strength. For direction and resources. Whatever we achieve is held with beautiful vise-gripped hands, fingernails digging scars into our palms for fear that we’ll lose what we fought so hard to gain.
We must let God be the third strand.
The Lord’s presence changes my marriage, and I am a gatekeeper.
Excerpted from A Wife’s Secret to Happiness: Receiving, Honoring, & Celebrating God’s Role for You in Your Marriage. Copyright © 2017 by Jen Weaver. Used by permission of Leafwood Publishers, an imprint of Abilene Christian University Press.