Posts Tagged ‘relationship’







By John Mark Comer

February 11, 2014

Why happiness is the result, not the reason for a good marriage.

That’s why you get married. That’s why God created marriage. Here’s the problem—that’s not why most people get married. At least, that’s not why I got married. I got married to be happy.

Don’t get me wrong. I was into all that other stuff. She was my closest friend. There was a calling on our life together that we were excited about. Sex … uh … yes. And we both wanted a family one day. But none of those reasons were the reason. Like millions upon millions of other Americans, I married for happiness.

That sounds innocuous at first glance. Heck, it sounds romantic. But the trouble is that happiness is the result of a healthy marriage. It’s not the reason for marriage. Happiness is a great thing, but it’s the by-product, the after clap of marriage. It’s not the point. Happiness is the result of a healthy marriage. It’s not the reason for marriage.

God doesn’t look down on Adam and say, “He looks sad. He needs a lift. He needs another human being to quench the thirst of his soul. I will make him a helper to satisfy his deepest longings. Eve, the pressure’s on.” Of course not. Only God can do that. A spouse is not a substitute for God.


The point of marriage isn’t to find our missing half. It’s to help each other become all God intended. Our future, real selves. In marriage, two people partner to that end. They see the best in each other—the person God created them to be—and they push and pull each other toward that goal.

Don’t get married because you think he or she is “the one.” Trust me, they’re not. There’s no such thing! But do get married when you see who God is making somebody to be, and it lights you up. When you want to be a part of that story of transformation, that journey to the future. When you are well aware it will be a long and bumpy ride, but you don’t want to miss one mile. Because you believe in God’s calling on them, and you want in.

My wife makes me a better person. She calls out the best in me. She calls me to live up to who I really am, to who God is making me to be. She also brings out the worst in me. What Paul calls “the flesh.” The ugly, nasty part of me that doesn’t want to change. She exposes my selfishness and my pride.

That’s why marriage is humbling. I thought I was a pretty decent guy—and then I got married. Turns out I’m kind of a tool shed. It’s easy to be a decent guy when you live in a bubble. But when you step into marriage, your true colors bleed out. It’s like squeezing a sponge. Whatever is on the inside comes out, for better or for worse.  I cringe when I’m at a wedding where the guy says, “I promise to make you happy.” I want to stand up and scream, “You can’t keep that promise. It’s impossible. You aren’t God!”


Is it any wonder that the number-one justification for divorce is “I deserve to be happy”? If you put your faith in your spouse to make you happy, it’s only a matter of time until they let you down.  Our whole mindset on happiness is deeply flawed. “I deserve to be happy.” Really? I’m not sure that’s right.

All of life is a gift from the Creator God. We think we have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but contrary to what the American propaganda machine says, happiness is not a right. It’s a gift. God doesn’t owe you anything. And neither does your spouse. It’s all a gift. If you go into marriage searching for happiness, all you will do is walk out filled with disillusionment. You have to get this before you get married. Sadly, I didn’t, and it caused me so much pain. Not to mention how it hurt my wife.

If you go into marriage searching for happiness, all you will do is walk out filled with disillusionment. Don’t get me wrong. Marriage is incredible! But it’s not heaven on earth. It’s two broken people coming together to follow God’s calling on their lives.


Let marriage be marriage, and let God be God. Let marriage be for friendship and support and sex and family and re-creation. And let God be the well for your soul. Your source of life.

This doesn’t mean you won’t be happy in marriage. I am. Most of the best memories of my life have my wife attached to them. Our honeymoon in Europe, moving to Portland, starting a church, the birth of our first child, that vacation in Kauai—we did all of that together. And it was fun. If I were to edit her out of my story, it would be flat, anemic and boring.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the last few years. God is the source of my life, not my wife. She’s an amazing gift that I don’t deserve, but she’s not Jesus. It took me a long time to get this. And to be honest, I’m still pounding away on living it out. Hopefully, you’ll get this sooner than I did. Because the beauty of this way of living is that if and when happiness shows up on your doorstep, it’s icing on the cake.

John Mark Comer is Lead Pastor of Bridgetown; A Jesus Church in Portland, Ore., and author of Loveology: God. Love. Marriage. Sex. And the Never-Ending Story of Male and Female, which released Feb. 4, 2014.


photograph by Alec Casto

Learning from the Artists about People and Place

by W. David O. Taylor  9.10.12
Christianity Today

I am told that novelists approach their work from different starting points.  Some begin with a theme, like the fear of the unknown, as is often the case with science fiction writers. Others begin with families, as is nearly always the case with Pulitzer Prize–winning novelists. Some begin with a character or a historical time period, such as ancient Rome. Still others begin with a place: Casablanca; Port Royal, Kentucky; the Shire. I sometimes wonder if human beings behave like novelists, as it were, especially in their decision to move from one place to another. Some move to be nearer to family. Some move for a job. Some move for the excitement of a city’s culture. My friend Melody willingly left a community of dear friends in Austin in order to relocate herself to Seattle. She said she “fit better” there. The Northwest was her kind of place: cloudy, cool, mossy, saturated with grey and black wardrobes. I couldn’t understand her decision at first. Why leave all these people that know you and love you to move to a place where she would be an instant stranger?

Sometimes you leave your hometown in order to find your place elsewhere. Sometimes you leave your place of birth only to return years later and find that you belong there after all. Or more grandly, as Kathleen Norris puts it, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” Here is where you belong. Here is where you will stay put. It is your place and it is our place together. Norris has her place: the Dakotas. Eugene Peterson has his too: Lakeside, Montana. It’s where his people come from, it’s where he intends to remain till he dies. Melody now has her place. Wendell Berry has his place, and Bilbo Baggins has his own too.

My uncle just yesterday sold the house that his parents bought in 1947. It’s been Uncle John’s place for 65 years. The house is perched a handful of yards west of Southern Methodist University’s campus in Dallas, Texas, 3028 McFarlin Road to be exact. It is the place my sisters and I have loved above all places in America. As children, after driving five days in our yellow Suburban through the pockmarked highways of Mexico, northward on our way from Guatemala, where my parents served as missionaries, to the redbrick front porch of my grandparents, we couldn’t wait to rummage through the cereal box cabinet and the Dallas Morning News TV guide so we could find when the cartoons came on. My grandparents’ home was our one stable place during our years as missionary kids.

photograph by Alec Casto

My confession? I feel misplaced in my current city.  While I know plenty of people who thoroughly love Durham, North Carolina, I fluctuate between total ambivalence and intense aversion to the city. It is a city that irritates me almost daily. After living here for three years, I have made my peace with the fact that Durham will be the first city in my life that I will be happy to leave.  Despite the fact that it hosts the annual American Dance Festival, that Burt’s Bees has set up its headquarters here, that Branford Marsalis chooses to call it home, and that Richard Florida placed it at the top of his list of creative class metros, I feel no love for Durham.

I genuinely wish it were otherwise. My wife and I struggle with mixed feelings. Are we being selfish? Are we not trying hard enough? Are we hopelessly, blindly infatuated with Texas, our home state? We do keep trying to connect with the city. It is the “City of Medicine” and the “Cameron Crazies,” after all! But we still sense that at some level we are misplaced here.

I know we are not alone in feeling misplaced. Joseph son of Jacob lived nearly his entire life misplaced from his father’s house. The prophet Daniel, like the people of Israel and all refugees ever since, was forcibly misplaced from his homeland. Migrant workers make a habit of living misplaced, though rarely to their liking. A divorced couple willingly flees to opposite coasts in order to escape the pain of hurtful relations. Some of us live in towns that feel strange to us, and it’s an easy temptation to resent this place where we do not belong. It’s easy to resent God for putting us here.

photograph by Alec Casto

But artists come along and perform an invaluable service. For those of us who feel a tenuous or adverse relationship to our places of residence, artists help us to see that, in fact, God is happily at work here, quietly making grace happen in unexpected ways, gently rebuking our stubborn refusal to see that salvation and sanctification are occurring in this place—this street, this humidity, this church, this grocery store, these people. As Peterson remarks in his book Subversive Spirituality, describing the effect of novelists on his work as a pastor:  Every time . . . a street is walked, noticing the details, observing the texture and color, insisting on the immediate particularity, the gospel is served, for space is cleared and location provided for yet another spin-off of the Incarnation, most of which came to its definitive form in small towns and on country roads.

This is what the installation artist Craig Goodworth, recently featured in the This Is Our City film “You Are Where You Live,” does in a warehouse in the city of Phoenix, Arizona. He takes misplaced things and places them in a sphere of meaning: Arizona corn grain from Casa Grande; leached water from the warehouse itself; Desert Durum wheat grains and the cornmeal from Arizona Grain; a donkey from Maricopa County; asphalt from nearby; steel rails from 20 yards outside the building. Put together, the materials tell a story about Phoenix.  It’s a place-based installation, Goodworth says, and it’s a way of telling Phoenicians: “Here is the stuff of your place, and it’s good stuff.” Inviting his audience to touch the materials, to be near them, to smell them and know them, is a way to help them love their city. It’s also a way, as Peterson reminds us, to protect us from gospel-killers—”grand abstractions and standoffish condescensions” that keep us in a negative stance towards our given place.

photograph by Alec Casto


In watching this short film, I find my discontented heart softened by lyrical images of blues and yellows and of people moving in and out of the lovely stuff that makes up a place as particular and as broken as my own. Artists like Goodworth offer us a great gift. Their gift is to help us see our place of residence as lovingly as God does. At the very least, the City team’s film stirs in me a renewed desire to not give up on Durham, North Carolina.

W. David O. Taylor, former arts pastor of Hope Church in Austin, Texas, is pursuing doctoral studies in theology and the arts at Duke Divinity School. The editor of For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker), he and his wife. Phaedra, currently live in Durham.


photograph by Alec Casto