By Ashley McIlwain
Here I was watching this man struggle to pull in whatever it was he had snagged on the end of his fishing line. Back and forth. Tugs and pulls. Focused and poised. It was shocking how much effort went into reeling in this watery creature. I mean, there wasn’t even any guarantee that what was causing all of this commotion was worth the effort, but nonetheless, he continued to toil tirelessly. Until …
Alas, with a shout of triumph and a sigh of relief, he pulled in a decent sized fish that he held up in victory. But what he did next caught me by surprise. He unhooked the fish and tossed it back in the water. I stared at the TV unsure of what to think. Granted, I am not a fishing guru by any stretch of the imagination, so excuse my ignorance, but I was confused. Why fight so hard for something that you just toss back to sea? What was the point to it all?
My mind still whirling, I was struck by the notion that this fishing escapade I had just witnessed reminded me a lot of relationships.
We tend to labor tirelessly in the dating process to win the heart of someone special. Turning a blind eye to this special someone’s faults and flaws, we alternately choose to sing their praises. We are creative, thoughtful, kind, careful, and forgiving while we woo them. When he/she speaks, we listen as though our life depended on it. Even if we hate theater or sports, we put aside our preferences to show him/her that we don’t care what we do as long as it’s together. And if any opportunity arises for time together, we drop everything to seize the moment. Our pursuit of love is marked by eagerness and fervor.
Like a skilled fisherman, we exert our every effort to reel in this prize catch. Literally we do whatever it takes to win their heart over and claim them as our own. And when the moment comes that they agree to forever with us through marriage, we hold them up proudly exclaiming, “Yes, he is all mine!” “Look, she is my wife!” We pat ourselves on the shoulder, jump for joy, and then …
Well, we toss them aside.
I’ve seen it too many times. A couple gets married, and one or both spouses sits back and props their feet up. It’s as though their work is done. The mission was to do whatever it took to snag their spouse, but now their work is done. Mission accomplished.
And so the deterioration of the marriage begins.
Our spouse is not like the catch of the day. They aren’t just some trophy that we work hard to reel in but then indifferently toss aside once they’re hooked. No, the real work begins the day you said, “I do!” That’s when we should be saving our best efforts for.
It amazes that so many people work so intensely to get a spouse but don’t want to have to do anything to keep them. Every day you should be working to win the heart of your spouse. Every day you should be giving your everything to your marriage. Every day you should be pouring yourself into loving, nurturing, and growing your relationship with your spouse. That’s what it deserves, and that’s what it needs.
The reward of the hard work you put into catching your spouse is the lifetime you get to have together developing love, friendship, and intimacy. It’s not simply, “I did it! I convinced her/him to marry me!” That’s just the beginning of it all. Now you have the honor and privilege of enjoying your choice and cultivating that which you already laid the ground work for. This is what you labored for.
Otherwise, what is the point of working so hard to snag yourself a spouse? If you don’t actually want or treasure him/her, then why not just save yourself the trouble to begin with? Why work so strenuously to have them in your life forever if they’re just the footnote? If you are just going to chuck them aside while you got about your life, then why did you want to get married?
Perhaps it is the misconception that marriage is a self-fulfilling entity where your spouse is brought on to meet your every whim, need, and desire as though they were your personal servant. Many people envision marriage to be this way and are shocked when their spouse doesn’t comply with this oh-so-enticing role. Marriage is about serving alright … serving the needs of your spouse. Philippians 2:3 says it best, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
Marriage is truly a gift and a blessing. Your spouse is more than an accessory to your life but rather the heartbeat of it. They help give purpose, meaning, and motivation to the daily grind. They are a reminder of God’s goodness and grace as well as a tangible, earthly example of His love. They are our helper, lover, friend, and companion. They are precious, wonderful, and amazing. They are our co-pilot and adventurer through life. They are the single most important relationship we’ll ever discover, enjoy, grow, and experience.
There’s no single “secret” to marriage, but I can tell you that effort is a huge component. If more spouses put in the same amount of effort to their marriage now as they did in the dating stages of their relationship, the divorce rate wouldn’t be what it is. A great relationship requires great effort with a great attitude. It’s not just about the catch of the day; it’s about the journey through life.
Above all, love each other deeply … 1 Peter 4:8