Bear with me - I'm not sure if all these thoughts cohere enough to make sense. But I suppose that's really never stopped me before.
I'm leading a small group study of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace (highly recommend this study as a Biblical and thorough primer on how to be a wife, the purpose of marriage, and for anyone married and asking, "now what?") . This morning I read that "both the husband and wife are to minister to each other through pursuing God's purpose for marriage. The goal of the Christian husband and wife in their marriage is to have a oneness that is characterized by a loving spiritual and physical bond that glorifies God and thereby enhances personal spiritual growth (Gen 2:24; Ephesians 5:22-33; Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 14:4)". In short, we are to be intentional about helping each other become as much like Jesus as possible. We are to guide each other into holiness through encouragement and reproof (pointing out sin, in love, with the goal of restoring a right relationship with God).
This process is called mutual sanctification. There are three stages of sanctification - past (positional), progressive and future.
Past sanctification took place when I became a believer, God did all the work, he wooed me and gave me a desire to know Him. He convicted me of my sin and opened my eyes to my need for Jesus. I realized that I am nothing without Him and I've been given the enormous privilege of being called to play a part in His story.
Future sanctification will occur when Jesus returns for the believers, His church and gives each of us new and perfect sanctified body. Again God does all the work here.
Progressive sanctification is what we're all going through now. The cutting away and chiseling of our current image into that of Christ. It begins at salvation and ends when we're with the Lord. This is the process by which we grow and mature. God expects us to join Him in his work. He shows us where to go, what to do and gives us the Holy Spirit's enabling power to do it. "He convicts, disciplines, and enables you, but it is also a work of man as you are responsible to "...grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 3:18 - note: 'grow' is an imperative verb. This means it is a command.) You are also responsible to "pursue love" (1 Cor 14:1), to "...set your mind on...the things of the Spirit" (Romans 8:5, the "things of the Spirit" are what God desires), to "flee immorality" (1 Cor 6:18), and "to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness" (1 Tim 4:7). You have work to do to become more like Christ. God will enable you to grow spiritually by the power of the Holy Spirit. He will mold you into His image through specific tests and pressures."
It occurred to me while I was reading through all of this, that for married couples, marriage is not so much about love and building a life together, than it is about sanctification. About growing up. I entered into marriage focused on myself, my love for my husband, his love for me and the life we'd make together. Right from the start our marriage has been a series of one drama after another. About mid-way in our 18 year journey Jesus scooped both of us out of the mire and muck, restored us, and has been with us ever since. It was at that point I finally began to grow, change, mature. (but that's a whole other post).
About 10 years ago a friend told me that marriage is to make you holy, not happy. I laughed and thought that was a bit extreme. But, I've realized that it's pretty much true. (And thank you Lord for happy times!) God gives my husband and I a love for each other and a desire to endure. Without that initial fierce love for one another I don't think we would ever persist through the process of sanctification. God uses my husband to make me better. Each of us makes the other more holy (more like Christ), become more beautiful, more useful, more glorifying. It's not easy. It's often painful. But, it's only through the sanctification process that man and wife become one. It's then that we can move beyond our selfish love for the other (when the love you have for another is really all about you and how the other person makes you feel.) and become what we were intended to be.
And here's where Lars and the Real Girl comes in ... I had purposely put off seeing this movie because I thought it was about something completely different - see it.
There's a scene in the movie when Lars asks his brother, "How do you know when you're an adult?" and I thought the brother's answer kind of sums up the whole process of sanctification. He says:
"...when you learn to do what's best, not for you, but for everyone. It's not like you are all one thing or another. There's still a kid inside, but you grow up when you decide to do right, and not what's right for you, but for everybody. Even when it hurts."
"Like you don't jerk people around, you don't cheat on your woman and you take care of your family. Admit when you're wrong or you try to anyways. That's all I can think of. It sounds like it's easy, but for some reason it's not."
Yes. That's. it.