Many unhappy marriages are the result of seeing a spouse as nothing more than a “function” – the mother of my children, the bread winner of my household, the person I am intimate with, the person who pays for my house. Even when we pigeonhole a person into “husband”, “wife”, “mother”, or “father”, we are using very limited terms. Consider a few marriages that were more about function than deep commitment:
Ahaseurus and Vashti – In Esther 1:1-8, we find King Ahaseurus parading around his wealth, declaring to the world his glory and power. Like many rulers of his day, though, he also wanted to show off his beautiful queen. The text states that he wanted to “display her beauty to the people and the princes” (Esther 1:11), but she refused. Apparently no longer in control of his queen, Ahaseurus sends her away and vows to marry another. Like many marriages today, this king was apparently only interested in marrying a person for her beauty, and the image associated with it.
Jacob and the sisters – Jacob, Leah, and Rachel are an altogether sobering example of the dangers of a purely functional marriage. Because of jealousy toward her sister, Leah cunives and schemes her husband for the singular purpose of having children (Genesis 30:14-16). Because she is childless, Rachel responds with pure vitriol, saying, “Give me children, or I else I die!” (Genesis 30:1). Jacob went from madly in love with Rachel (Genesis 29:20) to burning in anger toward her (Genesis 30:2), all because their relationship had become so one-dimensional.
Abigail and Nabal – Surely there was not much love lost between Abigail and Nabal, whose very name means “Worthless” (1 Samuel 25:25). One can only imagine the utter unhappiness of this godly woman, who suffered through years of marriage to a horrible man who might have only married her as part of an arrangement with her father (not uncommon for the time).
We have to be careful about letting our relationships become one-dimensional and functional, and keep the emotional attachment just as strong (or stronger) as it was from day one. Recognize and value the uniqueness of your mate by seeing that he or she is not just a parent, a sexual partner, or a financial dependent. When you start to see your spouse as a special and uniquely qualified partner in your life, you realize how irreplaceable he or she is.
“Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all!” (Proverbs 31:29).
“Like a lily among the thorns, so is my darling among the maidens” (Song of Solomon 2:2).
“My beloved is dazzling and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand” (Song of Solomon 5:10).