EDITOR’S NOTE: Excerpted from Marriage in an iWorld: Restoring God’s Design for Marriage, by David H McClain.
I can remember when I was still in high school, my sister was watching a romance movie where the handsome main character was telling his beautiful recently discovered true love the depth of his everlasting love.
While I was trying to hold back my natural guy gag-reflex, my sister let out a loud and deep sigh of longing. In that simple sigh, she communicated what almost every high school girl wants—the desire to be loved by someone who will sacrifice and care for her through thick and thin. We see it in romance novels and movies like Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast. They are popular because of this universal appeal.
A recent Pew Research study showed that while most Millennials want a loving, lasting relationship like pictured in the movies, only 26 percent—a number less than any other group in known history—are pursuing it through marriage. In the last 60 years, our culture has moved from divorce being extremely rare to now a common practice. This uncertainty of lasting marriages leads to cohabitation as the norm to “test” the relationship—like testing out a used car. Even that has changed: Millennials ages 18 to 32 have abandoned both.
What happened? Why have younger people become so afraid of marriage? Certainly, the answer includes the lack of stable role models and a less-certain economy. But beyond that we all seem to instinctively know that something is broken in us. The fact that this brokenness is denied or misunderstood sets us up for failure because we misdiagnose the problem.
We know there is a God-given ideal of what was or could now be. Yet something tragic happened to make it far less than His ideal. It is a tragic event that our culture has forgotten this, and it severely impacts our relationships.
What is the cause of destructive conflict in our marriages?” So what happened?
We falsely believe we can be like God.
What this means for marriage is that we have two people who are self-appointed “gods,” who are in competition with the one true God as well as each other. Each tries to determine their own reality, their own morality, and their own importance independent of the God who created them. It is a path toward disaster because without an objective standard of fairness and morality, we are left to our own fickle judgments, which are guaranteed to lead to conflict—god against god. In a world of false god against false god, submission has no place.
If sin is about rejecting God’s best for you and thinking you know better than Him what that might be, then the problem is complicated even more when you relate to another person. The other person will have his or her ideas. Now we have two competing views about what is best— two set of values that may conflict with each other with no objective criteria to determine how to mediate between the two. If you add to that mix the fact that both people are pursuing their own interests based on their own subjective criteria, you have the framework for destructive conflict.
If you do nothing but urge people to “look out for number one,” as our culture has done, you will be setting them up for future failure in any relationship, especially marriage. Our constant demand for rights creates a sense of entitlement that can never be fully met. It is better if we start by each of us seeing our own selfishness as being just as central to the problem as our spouse’s, and maybe even more so. No one but you can deal with your own selfishness. Is it any wonder that Jesus reminds us that, “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13), and “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:24)
In a world of false god against false god, submission has no place.
Each couple must recognize that God created marriage for our good, and most of us long to sing the song of joy that Adam sang when God placed Eve before Him. The fact that we have the desire and the fact it is not realized shows that something is broken.
That broken something is us. We are self-centered creatures who have bought into a lie, and we have to stop thinking that people are going to treat us as perfectly when they will not.
We must acknowledge our selfishness and stop trying to “fix it” on our own. We must surrender ourselves to God first and allow His Spirit to transform our hearts.
As we saw earlier Millennials are the least likely group of any in history to marry. But why? More than half of the Millennials surveyed by Pew characterize their own cohort as self-absorbed. “Trying to live with somebody else and putting their needs first is more difficult when you have been raised to put yourself first,” says San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge.
In this simple statement, we see the heart of the problem. The solution lies in submitting ourselves to God first and learning to serve others first.