You complete me. One of the most remembered lines of all time from a romantic movie. Did your heart melt like mine? I saw that movie when I was about 18 years old and I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to find that person. The one who will complete me. Who will look me in the eyes, just like Tom Cruise, and say those words to me: You complete me.”
Fast forward 3 years. A cinderella wedding. Nine beautiful bridesmaids and handsome groomsmen. A room filled with family and friends. As I stood at the back of the sanctuary, arm looped through my dad’s, I began walking towards my soul mate, the love of my life, the one who would give me my fairy tale ending. The one who would complete me.
Behind the scenes of this gorgeous, dream-filled wedding, was a whole lot of baggage. Both mine and my husband’s. Broken dreams, broken hearts, broken lives.
As I stood at that altar, unbeknownst to my dear husband, I had that suitcase firmly gripped in my hand. As I said my vows, which were very traditional, what I was really saying was this:
“I, Carrie, take you John to be my husband. Here is all my junk: all my hurts, broken dreams, disappointments, and unmet expectations. I expect you to fix me. I expect you to meet all of my deepest desires. I expect you to be loving and romantic all of the time. I expect you to know what I’m thinking and give me everything I could ever need. I expect you to provide the happily-ever after that I’ve always dreamed of and seen in all the movies. I expect you to be my Savior. I expect you to complete me.”
Sadly, he had his own suitcase, his own junk, expectations, and “vows” as we stood there on the altar before family and friends.
Wow! What a heavy weight to carry at the beginning of our marriage.
What we didn’t know that stifling hot day in July, was that this was never God’s design for marriage! Jerry was completely, utterly, 100% incorrect. Of course, I didn’t come to that realization easily. In fact, it took a lot of pain, a couple of therapists, lots of time spent in trusted community, and a deepening relationship with Jesus to even begin to figure this out. My spouse was NOT created to complete me. No one person ever could.
God’s perfect design for marriage includes two individuals who are complete APART FROM ONE ANOTHER. A complete me and a complete husband. Two lives that are complete in Christ. Two separate lives that are invested in growing in spiritual, emotional, and physical health.
As these two separate lives are separately receiving God’s love and pursuing relationship with Him and with others in community (the Body of Christ), there is an overflow of love and self that can be freely given in a marriage relationship, rather than the pressure that comes from looking to the other person to be complete.
After spending time investing in my relationship with God, myself, and community, I am finding that I have so much more to give to my husband. I am able to love from a place of fullness because I understand more and more God’s love for me and am daily being filled with “all of the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16).
I see more now that God’s design for marriage isn’t necessarily to make me “happy.” As Gary Thomas writes in his book Sacred Marriage, “what if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” What if God’s design for marriage is to sanctify us? To draw us into a deeper relationship with Him? To be the tool by which deep things are worked out in myself individually? What if, ultimately, one of God’s purposes in creating marriage was to reach a lost and dying world?”
This is not the kind of relationship that we watched on the big screen with Tom Cruise and Rene Zellweger years ago. It’s not the kind of marriage that we see in most of the world today. While that scene in Jerry Maguire may seem so utterly romantic (I recognize to some it was just cheesy!), there’s a big problem. That kind of relationship is destined to fail. Because you and I were never created to complete another person. That job belongs to one Person: Jesus Christ.
“[Jesus], YOU bring the healing and hope our hearts always hunger for”
(words from Wonderful, Merciful, Savior by Dawn Rodgers and Eric Wyse).
About a year ago, I wrote a new set of “vows” to my husband. One day, I would love to stand before our children, friends, and family and say these to him.
Bear (it’s really John, but this is his nickname!)
I commit to you first and foremost that I will continue to pursue a deepening intimacy with God. I commit to look to Him to meet my deepest needs, that only He can satisfy. I recognize now that you were never meant to complete me and that for years I put a pressure on you that God never intended for our marriage. I commit to continue to pursue deeper spiritual, emotional, and physical health. I know there is still plenty of “my junk” to be worked out, and I commit to remain vulnerable, transparent, and open in both my relationship with you and community as God continues to work these things out in me. I commit to continue to trust God and His sovereign plan for our lives, recognizing that I don’t have to control everything, because He’s got it! I commit to keep focusing on this truth, especially when things are difficult.
I commit to love you and support you for who you are, not the person I think you should be. I will support you in your relationship with God and your community. I commit to be your ally, not your enemy. And I commit to do my very best not to “run away” when things are difficult and I am afraid. I want to know you more and develop an even greater intimacy and friendship with you. I want to grow old with you and look forward, each day, to the adventures that God has for us. I am able to look forward to the days and years to come with hope … not hope in our marriage, but in Jesus Christ. I trust that the work He has begun in each of us, HE will be faithful to complete.
I love you deeply and look forward to what God has planned for both of our lives as we continue in this great journey.
I am so thankful that it’s never too late to do things differently. That God graciously showed me that there is much better plan for doing marriage than what I believed the day I said “I do”. I’m excited about the opportunity to continue walking out God’s design for marriage, not Jerry’s.