I just got married a few weeks ago (pretty good explanation as to why I haven’t been on here in a while, eh? 😉 ). One of our bags was lost for part of our honeymoon, I’ve developed strep throat since we’ve gotten back, and sleep has been an elusive little bugger. Yet this has still been the happiest few weeks of my life easily.
And that’s when the trouble started.
I once wrote on a different blog that I was having a difficult time keeping God first and Leah (who was then my girlfriend of just over a month) second. I got better, I believe, as some of the newness and excitement died down and the relationship grew deeper. We got closer to each other and to God. Things were going really well.
Then we got engaged and the countdown toward our married life and all the… ummm… benefits thereof began. The desire kept rising along with our impatience. Meanwhile, with our focus thus diverted and the remaining bit going to planning the wedding, finding a place to live, getting furniture, doing our budget, and seemingly a hundred other things, we made little time for God in our relationship.
We were happy still, and much happier after our wedding, but instead of simply being grateful to God for each other and remembering that no gift is greater than the giver, but rather a symbol of the giver’s love, we started valuing each other too highly. I stressed out over whether I was good enough for her in a variety of areas and she greatly feared disappointing me. We had all the grace in the world for each other and practically none for ourselves. We had a brief conversation about this on our honeymoon and it helped a bit, but we didn’t get to the heart of the issue: that we had been putting each other higher than God.
Fortunately, this tale does not include a huge argument or anything worse. We had a longer conversation a few days after we got back that included confessions on both sides of idolizing each other and we’ve been doing a little better since.
There are a few points I want to bring about this, though. The first is that you can idolize things even when you make a conscious effort to spend time with God daily. Despite the excitement of marriage and sex, Leah and I have missed only one day of devotions since we’ve gotten married. We’ve prayed together (not including blessing meals) almost every day. We talk about God and the Bible sometimes and have done Bible studies. We never forgot God during this; we just prioritized each other too highly.
The second, and more important, point is that you value highly what makes you happy. It may sound self-evident, but this came as somewhat of a revelation to me. Terrible though this may sound, I’m not used to being happy. It happens from time to time, usually through some combination of Oreos, baseball or hiking, and humor, but I haven’t had the happiest life. I was always latching on to what made me feel valuable.
I love Leah passionately, now more than even on our wedding day. She’s not where I should be getting my value from, though. I should try to make her happy (once our needs are met), but my value is not in my ability to make her happy. It’s not in my performance in the bedroom. It’s not in my ability to provide for her or give her children. It’s not even in how well I lead her as her husband or how strong our marriage is.
Before we got married, I was fairly strong in where my value came from. I had my weak moments, but if Leah had dumped me, I honestly don’t think I would have berated myself. I’d have been miserable, but I wouldn’t have questioned my value. I would have gone to God, gone to my friends, and gotten on with my life.
After marriage and finding out how happy I could be, I became terrified I’d mess it up and lose her. As a result, I did the worst thing I could do: I put her before God. It doesn’t sound as bad as cheating, I know, but it is a surer way to divorce or a horribly broken marriage if not checked.
What I was really doing is putting myself and my happiness before God. I feared losing that happiness and so started measuring myself mercilessly against my own preconceived standards (that she wasn’t holding me to at all) to try to keep her happy. Part of that was because I really wanted her to be as happy as I was, but the other part was that if she was so happy, she’d have no reason to leave or change what she’s doing.
It’s not just the things you get your value from that you can base your worth on, but what you get your happiness from as well, which can lead to huge problems if God is not the chief source of your happiness.
And that is the problem of happiness. God wants you to be deliriously happy. He created Heaven, love, marriage, sex, chocolate, beer (you Ben Franklin fans will know the quote I’m referring to), and a beautiful planet for us to explore. He wants these things to be the appetizer, though, or perhaps the cherry on top of the milkshake. The real treat is Him, the Giver of all these things.
If Bill Gates wrote a program to teach you how to program, you might learn how to program pretty well and be pretty pleased and grateful. But Bill himself could probably teach you much, much more than the software he wrote. He would be more interactive and would probably be able to explain himself better when you made an error. He is greater than his creation and far better.
It is the same with God, save that the difference between the gift He’s given me in Leah and Himself is so much bigger that all attempts to analogize it are futile. It is about finding my value in Him, but beyond that, it is about finding joy in Him as well.