During the sermon this week, while the pastor was making a very good point about why praying in Jesus' name involves submitting to God's will, he made an unfortunate side-comment about marriage. It went something like, "so many people in their marriage want to be happy, but sometimes God is not concerned about our happiness, he is concerned about our holiness." It sounded very pious, but it also gave me the creeps.
Part of that is due to this post and my fragility right now regarding spiritual manipulation and how a joyless God is very often the starting point of abusive theology. Part of it is also due to the fact that the first few months of our marriage were pretty unhappy for both Matt and I (I really need to write that post about the Pill), and I am REALLY GLAD to be happy in our marriage these days. And I believe God is happy for us to be happy.
To be fair, it is not always sunshine and smiles around here. Sometimes I am unhappy - because my attitude is wrong, because circumstances have disappointed me, or sometimes for no conceivable reason and I have to sing kids' church songs under my breath as a prayer (I've got peace like a river, love like an ocean, joy like a fountain in my soulllll). But deep down, our marriage is a source of joy and hope - a safe place to laugh, cry, pray, fall apart, and eat cereal for supper - and I don't take that for granted. We are partners, Matt and I, in happiness AND holiness: in laundry, youth ministry, learning second languages, eating ice cream, and cleaning up after the dog.
In the times when unhappiness lurks, and in hard seasons where joy is harder to come by, I hope nobody tells us that God just wants us to be holy.