By the time I married, I was 34 years old with seven years of pastoral ministry experience. In many ways, this experience prepared me for marital disaster. I’ve seen the tragic effects of adultery, addictions, abuse, anger and apathy. I’ve heard stories revealing the worst of the worst.
I have also heard many men I deeply respect, with model marriages that I admire, talk about how difficult the first few years of marriage can sometimes be.
The pessimist within me expected my own experience to be marked by more bumps, but in no way have I found that to be the case, not yet at least. I’ve been married for a little over a year, and it has been good and easy, marked by a deep sense of peace and unity.
“Just give it some time,” you may be thinking.
Similarly, I’ve had friends struggle to find a Home Group at The Village because their marriage is “too good.” Surely they must be hiding something. I’ve known single men who have been rebuked for dishonesty because they’ve claimed to not have a problem with pornography and masturbation.
To be sure, people lie. Many choose to hide behind a facade of faithfulness while a fire rages within. But, still, something is deeply wrong with our understanding of the gospel if we simply cannot account for victory and purity and holiness in the lives of believers. Likewise, many marriages are on fire but certainly not all.
“It’s OK to not be OK, but it’s not OK to stay there.”
This has been a slogan for vulnerability and authenticity at The Village from the very beginning. Yet, as with any short and succinct statement, there is always a potential danger of misinterpretation and misapplication. A statement intended to comfort the contrite can be twisted to encourage complacency and apathy toward sin and a deep sense of suspicion toward anyone seemingly walking in freedom. I wonder sometimes if “it’s OK to not be OK” means in the minds of many that “no one is OK and, therefore, anyone who professes to be OK in any area is hiding and lying.” What a drab and pessimistic picture of the Christian life.
There is obviously a sense in which this is true. No one is fully OK this side of glory. We still wrestle with the residue of the flesh. We always will until Christ returns and transforms us fully into His image. Anyone who denies that is a liar (1 John 5:8, 10). But we also recognize a fundamental distinction between who we are and who we once were.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9–11
The kingdom of God is a kingdom populated by washed, sanctified and justified saints. Perfect we are not, but pursuing and actually growing in holiness we are. The Spirit is working in our hearts and lives to make us look more like Jesus each day. In light of His work, there exists not only the possibility but also the expectation that we will reach greater and greater measures of maturity marked by purity, love, peace and unity.
I don’t know fully what the future holds for Kaci and me. Next year might be marked by pain and toil and strife. But that certainly is not my hope or expectation. It is not naive to hope for and expect imperfect yet profound unity and peace in my marriage. And it is not naive or immature to hope for and expect imperfect yet profound victory in the days ahead in whatever sins you are currently battling.
Maturity is no guarantee of peace, and unity isn’t necessarily owing to holiness. There are myriad contributing issues that factor into marriages and struggles: compatibility, personality, context, etc. But may we be a people passionate to pursue purity and peace. And may we ask expectantly for it.
It’s OK to be OK.