Now Featured at the Patheos Book Club
The Sacred Search
What If It's Not About Who You Marry, But Why?
By Gary Thomas
Book Excerpt 1
Ten years after you're married, what kind of tears will you be crying? Will they be the stinging tears of pain or warm tears generated by joy? The reality is, every marriage has plenty of both kinds of tears, but it's also true that some marriages are marked primarily by pain while others are marked primarily by joy. No marriage is easy, but some marriages build each partner up, while others tear each partner down. Every marriage takes time and effort, but some marriages sap the spouses' strength, while others generate joy and enthusiasm and intimacy.
I'm writing this book because I want you to cry tears of joy on your tenth anniversary. I want you to be able to say, with all sincerity,"Next to becoming a Christian, marrying _______ is the best decision I've ever made."
But here's the thing that might shock you: the answer to this question may well be driven more by why you get married than by who you marry. It's not that the "who" doesn't matter (in fact, it matters very much); it's just that asking and settling the "why" question first will set you up to make a wise choice about the "who." Why do you want to get married? That's what you need to ask before you decide who to marry.
I want you to have a spiritually enriching marriage, a marriage that spawns life, vibrancy, intimacy, a lifetime of memories with your best friend, and the overwhelming joy of creating a family together. Family life is such a good life, and intimate marriage is such an amazing gift. The friendship that results from facing all seasons of life together, praying together, raising kids together, serving the Lord together, having fun, having sex, suffering heartaches and heartbreaks, overcoming setbacks and learning to deal with disappointments, growing together through all of them, creates a bond that no initial sexual attraction or romantic infatuation could ever hope to match.
The reward for making a wise marital choice is so tremendous that I don't want you to miss it. The consequences of making a foolish choice can be so painful and lasting that I don't want you to have to endure them.
Can you help me out here? There must be a version of the Bible out there I haven't read yet, one that has a mysterious exception clause.
I thought I had the bases covered in my research. I've checked out the King James, the English Standard Version, the New King James, the New International Version (both the 1984 and the 2011 editions), the Message, the New Living Translation, the New American Standard, and many others. None of them—not one—contains the exception clause I'm looking for, so if you find it, will you please email me and let me know which version has it? Because apparently it's the version many singles read.
The exception clause I'm referring to is found in Matthew 6:33. Here's how it reads in the New King James Version: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."
The mysterious version I'm looking for, the one I see so many people following and memorizing, goes something like this: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, except when you're choosing someone to marry. In that case, you should follow your emotions, insist on a thrilling romantic attraction and overall relational compatibility that makes the relationship fun, and then all these things will be added unto you."
Let me ask you: do you trust Jesus? Do you believe that He truly has your best interests at heart, that He would never mislead you—that if you follow His advice, you're setting yourself up for the best, most meaningful, and most fulfilling life imaginable? Can you count on Him knowing what He's talking about? Do you think it's possible that the second most important decision you'll ever make—who you marry—should be based on Jesus's fundamental agenda for our lives: seeking first God's kingdom and righteousness? Do you believe every significant decision we make should be run through this grid? If our choice of marital partner is an exception, what wouldn't qualify as an exception? If Jesus's words aren't relevant for such a crucial decision, why would they have any importance in any lesser decision?
I want to make a promise to you: if you will seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness and let that agenda drive your decision regarding whom you choose to marry and refuse to compromise on that, you will set yourself up for a much more fulfilling, spiritually enriching, and overall more satisfying marriage. The degree to which you compromise on this verse is the degree to which you put your future satisfaction in jeopardy and open wide the door to great frustration and even regret.