As I said in my last post, dating in America is comparable to being a used car salesman. Really think about this. Maybe your whole dating paradigm is wrong. Most dating is an effort in creating false realities. The last thing you want when dating is for the other person to know you. I mean, actually know YOU. Not the “fun” you that you like to pretend you are and project to the world, but the Mean-Mouthed, Ugly, Petty, Jealous, Duplicitous, Vain, Sinful you that you like to hide. Let me be honest here: I don’t like me sometimes. I disgust myself sometimes. I want to hide truths about myself FROM myself sometimes. So why would you want to invite someone else into that big, hot mess – especially before you get married?
I’ll tell you why. Please get this, because it could save you from a world of hurt. The truth is, your loved one is going to find out how sinful you really are one way or another. The truth is, you are lying to yourself and your loved one if you refuse to pull the veil back from your self-worshiping temple and let them see every horrid corner. The truth is you have been chiseling away at a giant idol, using every opportunity, friendship, benefit, and blessing to make this idol bigger and bigger. Me too. We all worship someone or something. Romans 1:21-24 says that we all have hearts that are undeniably driven to worship. If your heart is worshiping God, fantastic. More often than not, we are worshiping “my glory, my happiness, my comfort.” Many times in dating situations, our goal is to create a version of ourselves that has no basis in reality, not just because it is safe but also because the image of myself and your opinion of me is vastly more important than protecting your heart. “Look at how fun I am!” “See how caring I can be?” “Aren’t I patient and understanding?” “Do you see why I’m such a great guy?” Our hearts are are idol-factories. Admit to yourself that you could be sabotaging yourself. Confess that you fool yourself more than you care to think about. Realize that your heart is bent toward idolatry, and this simple fact has a profound repercussion on your life.
You can hide all you want, but here’s the fun principle of marriage: Once you get married, you have no room to hide your ugly little self from your spouse. Period. Your idols are revealed. The curtain is pulled back and the great and powerful Oz is shown for the short, bald, weird little man that he really is. Your “show” and “game” no longer impresses your spouse, but repulses them, as it should you. My wife knows things about me that I’ve tried to keep hidden and “deal with on my own” for years. Anger, pride, idolatry, self-righteousness…. But it’s not the “big stuff” that I already knew about that is the worst part of this process – it’s the smaller, hidden things that I didn’t even know I had! She has helped reveal them just by being around all the time. I can only hide something about myself for so long, and then the truth will come out. Apparently, I’m far more sinful than I ever imagined. And you know what? So are you. Yay!
Paul Tripp says something incredibly obvious about marriage: We don’t date or marry perfect people. This should be very obvious to us, but it actually surprises us on a continual basis, doesn’t it? “How could you say that to me?!” I’m a sinner. “Why are you acting like such a jerk?” I’m a sinner. “Why are you so angry when you drive?” I’m a sinner. Both people in the relationship are like drug dealers – they are trying to smuggle something in that directly undermines and actively works to slowly strangle and kill – Sin. Even though we all have security measures in our lives, we can’t catch everything. The simple fact is everyone has the same sinful deficiency, it just manifests differently for everyone. It’s like we are going through the metal detector at the airport, and if the buzzer goes off, we say anything to explain away that blinking red warning light, our glaringly obvious sin. And if your loved one isn’t very observant or vigilant, they will let you in without any scrutiny…to their own demise. Dun, dun, DUN!
You see, when you are dating and go your separate ways at night (at least, you better be going your separate ways at night!), you can let your guard down, breathe a deep sigh of relief that you kept the facade going, and then revert to your true sinful self that only your roommates know about. However, when you covenant with someone, you are wrapping your arms around that sinful person at night, making coffee for that sinful person in the morning, communicating with that sinful person that sleeps through their alarm and makes you late for work, and navigating through life’s many challenges on a daily basis with that sinful person. You can’t get away from them and they can’t get their sin away from you. Just give it time. It’ll pop its ugly head up. Then step back, because your little sinful self will come bursting forth as well. There is nothing like sin to shatter the facade you built up while dating and reveal the ugly sinner underneath.
This sounds awful, right? All of the qualities you have developed, physical attractiveness you have cultivated, and lies you have crafted all come crashing down. We are hollow men, just like the TS Elliot poem, stuffed full of straw and empty. Decades spent on creating a facade, a fake person, personality, and character, years of effort pursuing what the world values and says is important…for nothing. There is an advertisement on Pandora right now that says, “There is nothing more important for a man than to learn how to talk to and seduce a woman.” No lie. “NOTHING” is more important than this? And people believe that! “Rather than deal with my own wild insecurities that push me to take advantage of, use, and abuse women, let me learn how to trick them into giving me what I want.” How tragic. Don’t fall for it.
There is hope. The question really becomes, “Will I accept other’s sins as moments of ministry? Or will I view their sins as obstacles to my goals. And will they accept my sins as opportunities of ministry? Or will they make it an opportunity to serve their idols?” That’s next time. Just know that as you move from dating into marriage, nothing functionally changes about the person you are marrying. Marriage doesn’t make someone better, holier, or nicer. It doesn’t change someone into a lover of God. It will not erase that nagging doubt, fear, or despair you may feel. So seek the Lord in prayer, worship, and in His Word, asking Him to show you if this is the person for you. He will hear and respond. Ask Him to peel back the layers of their facade so that you have eyes to see and ears to hear their true self, not their fake self. It’s very difficult to recover from the fact that you thought you married one person, only to find out you were in love with their facade. You are, in fact, married to another person all together.
Be willing to be transparent and honest about your sin and shortcomings. Michael Snetzer, who teaches Recovery at The Village Church, says that, “The extent to which you want to be free is the extent to which you will be honest. Want to be 100% free? Be 100% honest.” And if the other person is horrified at your sin when you let it out, that is not someone you would want to covenant with anyway. Jesus says something very interesting in Luke 7:36-50: The amount of forgiveness and grace and mercy in your heart that you give to others is directly linked to the amount of forgiveness and grace and mercy God has given you. You want to marry someone who has been given a lot of forgiveness and grace and mercy. Because you are gonna need it.