Written by: Liz Wann
As little girls, we might have pretended to be a damsel in distress — held hostage by a fire-breathing dragon, and saved by a knight in shining armor. We grow out of pretending, but as women we still tend to gravitate towards romantic books and movies.
The thing we love most about a fairytale romance is the happy ending. No matter what the ups and downs, the guy and girl always make it in the end and achieve romantic bliss. It’s so neat and clean, and perfect. Yet, the romance books and movies are just pretend. They deliver us a modern fairytale: the American Dream that comes with a successful career, two children (a boy and a girl, of course), a faithful and devoted husband, good health, and an abundance of wealth and material possessions.
But what happens when reality doesn’t line up with our hopes and dreams? What if the real story of our life and marriage disappoints us? Is our knight in shining armor who we thought he was when we married him? Can he save us from the dragon?
The Married Have Not Arrived
The problem with translating a fairytale into our personal life is our unrealistic expectations. We want the happy ending in our own lives, and we think marriage will be that blessing. We expect the happy ending — sometimes even demand it. We all have a romance story playing in our head of what married life will be like, but eventually we’ll discover this fantasy world doesn’t match reality. Our lofty, fragile hopes and dreams are shattered. We’re hurt and confused by our husband’s sin (and our own). We never realized marriage could be so hard.
We love the romance books and movies — the fairytale — because our own love life can be a disappointment. We foolishly think we’ve finally “arrived” when we go from single to married. But God knows we’ve only just begun. We need to start seeing marriage through a different genre: the war movie.
We all need a wartime mentality on the battlefield of marriage. When we move past the decisions of the wedding dress, the flowers, the meal options, we are faced with the daily decisions of living out our marriage vows. The sweet romantic bliss tasted on our wedding day is a real part of marriage — seasons and moments that should be treasured — but it’s the hard fought battles won with grace that sustain a marriage.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, the battle begins, not ends, when we make our vows. Our sinful desires will immediately rear up like a fire-breathing dragon. Satan will throw his grenade of lies at our feet. We will have to watch our step, lest we set off his explosive land mines hidden in our own homes. Many times it’s our own unrealistic expectations in marriage that blind us from seeing the bullets flying all around us. We must let go of the childish fairytale, and ask God to open our eyes to the spiritual warfare in our marriage, the battle in which we must fight for faith.
Satan’s Hope for Your Marriage
Satan wants to tear apart the beautiful gospel picture in marriage: the representation of Christ’s sacrificial love for his bride, the church. The enemy will stop at nothing to destroy any image or reflection of Christ in this world. He knows unrealistic expectations in marriage might help him kill what God loves. So, he tries to cheat us by selling us short on what God intends for marriage.
Satan wants us to think marriage is about fulfilling our unmet needs and desires, living the dream sold in romance novels, checking off a box, or finally getting our lives together. He’s slowly, gently rocking us into an apathetic sleep, so that we’ll settle for less. We must wake up and see how our unrealistic expectations set the bar way too low. Our desires are too small when we place ultimate hope in our husband or marriage itself. Our expectations should rise as God uses our unmet expectations — and the resulting disappointment and hurt — to drive us to himself. Marriage is a road that brings us to the greater destination: God himself.
A Love Story Larger Than Marriage
You see, we really do desire the fairytale over the war movie, because deep down we know it is true. We know there is a knight in shining armor who will slay the dragon for us, who will beat all the odds and win the war, who will pursue us in our distress and save us. Like Snow White’s prince, whose kiss brought the princess back to life, so God gives us his divine kiss of life through Jesus.
Our knight in shining armor is a carpenter from Bethlehem; and he never disappoints. We think our marriages are meant to suit us and our little earthly desires, but our marriages are really part of a bigger story God is telling through his Son. Our expectations must be shaped by treasuring Christ. Only then will we stop pretending and engage in a wartime mentality toward marriage.
Liz Wann has a B.A. in English and writing from Rollins College. She now lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two little boys.