Every person works to build his or her own kingdom. This affects all of our relationships, but the effect is compounded in a marriage relationship. In marriage you have two people who are each bent on meeting their own needs and getting what they want, living together in the most intimate of arrangements. Each person took a vow to love and serve the other, but they’re still human, and their default approach to life is to ensure that they get what they want.
This is why much of what is typically done in marriage counseling falls short. A couple that fights frequently and has difficulty resolving their conflicts could certainly benefit from marriage counseling. And very often, this counseling will focus on their communication. They will be taught to “argue better,” to make sure that what they are trying to say is being effectively communicated, to better control their tone, etc. Christians counselors will also teach couples biblical principles of communication.
But what happens when this couple heads home with their newly improved communication skills? They will continue to build their own kingdoms. Only now, they have more impressive communication tools for getting what they want. They are better manipulators. Better kingdom-builders.
Our only hope of enjoying the kinds of marriages that God intended us to have is to let go of our kingdoms. If my life is based on expanding my own kingdom, then my wedding vows were a sham. If I am bent on gaining control over every aspect of my daily existence, then every compliment, every “I love you,” every time I take out the trash or empty the dishwasher is simply a manipulative attempt to reign over a kingdom that glorifies myself. So we have to let go.
As I said yesterday, this is extremely difficult—it requires us to lay every thought, desire, skill, and interest at the Lord’s feet, allowing him to use every aspect of our existence however he wants to. Yet this is how we were created to function. Life is about God and his kingdom. Living life for any other purpose amounts to forcing a square peg into a round hole. It’s incredibly frustrating, and ultimately it doesn’t work.
This is true of life in general, and it is true of marriage. Two opposing kingdoms can’t co-exist under the same roof. And you can’t get around this by simply joining your two kingdoms into one. I think that this is the gameplan of most people as they head into marriage. They assume that sharing everything means that they can co-govern their domain. But it will never work. And even if it could work, it’s wrongheaded from the start. God already has a kingdom, and our task is to submit our kingdoms to the service of his.
So let’s take everything that God has given us personally and everything that he has given us in the context of marriage, and offer it to him to use in the way he knows is best.