A few years ago, Scott and I went to a local air show. Scott’s father is a pilot, so he grew up around airplanes and different aspects of aviation. As such, he was less enthralled by the stunts of the pilots than he was at the childlike enthusiasm of his wife, who had never seen anything like that. I loved it. I stared, mouth agape, as the planes zoomed overhead and dipped down low. My stomach would leap when the pilots’ planes rolled, and I would gasp during each nosedive as though I had never seen it before. It was amazing.
The most phenomenal part of it all, though, was the amazing synchrony of the pilots and their planes as they flew in formation. The planes moved as though they were one, zipping and dipping and plunging and racing through the sky together. We spectators didn’t know what was going to come next, but because of their synchrony of thought and the infinite hours of practice that had gone into making the routine become second nature, the pilots didn’t have to think much about how to pull it all off. They communicated with each other through their on-board radios, but they were one in their thinking; their actions reflected that, forming a beautiful display for everyone watching.
As I thought about it all later, I was struck again by what I had seen and thought about what it must take to become one in thought with another person in that way. The pilots obviously had spent hours together in practice, but most likely, their relationship doesn’t stay on the airstrip when they go home at night. In all likelihood, the two share meals together, talk about their wives and their families and their day jobs, and enjoy other pastimes together. They put effort into their relationship because the display, which everyone sees, depends on it.
For those of us who enjoy the fantastic blessing of marriage, there is a lesson here for us. We have united with another person in a covenant relationship that is about more than the two of us. Our marriages are bigger than ourselves. The relationship of marriage is intended, from the start, to be a demonstration of Jesus’ relationship with the church, and the strength of our marriages is crucial for conveying God’s love to a watching world. As other people look at our marriages, they see God, and it is up to us to make sure that what they see is accurate.
A caveat, though: this is not something that can be faked, and it is not something that comes easily. A comment Scott and I receive often from others is that our marriage seems perfect, and the implication in the remark is that our “perfect” marriage “just happened”…as though somehow we are the only couple in the world who has no disagreements…no stress within our relationship…no trials…no temptation to succumb to the selfishness within ourselves. People stare at us incredulously sometimes, remarking about how we still seem like newlyweds or snidely pointing out that if we had the issues they had in their lives, our marriage would be junked up, too.
That comment comes across, at first glance, like a compliment. To be honest, though, it settles in my heart almost as an offense. We work for what we have. We put a lot of intentional effort into what we do. A good marriage is not a gift, in the sense that we are “gifted” at the art of marriage. Rather, a good marriage is a skill that has to be learned…honed…practiced. We are what we are – where we are in our relationship – because we work at it.
We have date nights every single week. We share devotional time and search God’s Word on what He has to say to us. We attend marriage conferences together. We pray together before falling asleep at night. We intentionally try to carve out time several nights a week to just be together, perhaps doing nothing more than cuddling on the couch for ten or fifteen minutes after our daughter is (finally) asleep.
We work at it.
We invest in this thing called marriage. We’re in this for keeps, and we know that God has called us to more than a simple co-existence…sharing of a last name…financial partnership. This is about two people becoming one.
For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
We are ourselves, certainly. Our personalities are different. Our interests are different. Where we come together, though, is in our hearts. We have a unity of purpose and a sacred commitment to something bigger than ourselves. As individuals, we exist to glorify God. As a couple, we exist to do the same – TOGETHER.
Our marriage looks good on the outside because it is good on the inside. Notice, please, that I did not say “perfect.” We are not perfect people, nor is our marriage a perfect one. What you see on the outside is a genuine reflection of what we work hard on every day.
Imagine if I, astounded by the display the pilots put on for us at the air show, had approached them afterward. Imagine that I gushed and raved about how they were just naturally in sync.
“You guys are amazing! That you can just hop in your airplane and make it do that and never crash into each other or anything! That’s incredible! Of course, if I was naturally gifted at flying and just had a perfectly in sync relationship with another person like you two obviously have, I could probably do that, too. I don’t know how to fly, though, and my stomach leaps when we even drive through a parking lot too quickly, so I could never do that. I just don’t have that natural, perfect gift that you do. Y’all are just phenomenal. What a gift, to have that ability from birth…”
That would be ridiculous, and I think that the pilots might be a little offended at the suggestion that it all came to them effortlessly. Flying that way is not a gift. It is a skill, and many, many hours of dedicated practice went into perfecting what everyone sees when they take their show into the public eye. They work at it. Hard. Stunt pilots could never fake or force the synchronization of their actions, and we cannot fake unity in our marriages. We cannot create a perfect facade if the underlying relationship is far from ideal. It simply is not possible, and it benefits no one if we “fake it” so that people think we have wonderful marriages. Rather, we should all accept that marriage takes work, and that none of us – none of us– is exempt from the effort required to make our marriages an accurate reflection of God’s love for the world. We are imperfect people, and we have a lot of things to work on if we want any aspect of our lives to reflect Christ. We must put time, effort, and energy into them if we want them to be beautiful. Beauty simply cannot be faked, for it reflects what lies under the surface.
Is your marriage beautiful from the inside out? Can the word “beauty” describe what people see when they look at your relationship with your spouse? What do you need to work on to make it so? What one thing can you do this week to become a little more in sync with the one with whom you are one flesh? Commit to it. Commit to synchrony.
Journeying with you,