Several months after our wedding, my wife and I made a startling discovery: we were different. Dismayed and agitated over our lack of common interests, my wife threw up her hands, “We seriously have nothing in common!” To be sure, we made a list of all the things we both enjoyed. After 10 minutes, we had just two: Jesus and Mexican food.
Six years later, I can see clearly what I didn’t see then: differences strengthen a marriage. While common interests are important, they’re not nearly as important as a common recognition that if each of us were completely like the other, we’d drive each other crazy. At the beginning of our marriage, I wanted a Kelly that was like me. Today, by the grace of God, I’m thankful Kelly is not like me.
Today, young singles and couples can put too much emphasis on finding common interests, and it stems from a self-centered view of marriage. Too many people think that marriage is like finding matching shoes instead of fitting a lock and key. But marriage is designed to say far more about Christ than it is about you. And that’s why men and women are different. In fact, the differences between men and women are to be celebrated. They show us our shortcomings, they teach us humility and dependence, and they train us to look away from our own beauty and to the beauty of the Gospel. Common interests can only overcome our differences, but a common Lord ensures that our differences actually work for our joy and for His glory.
When Adam woke up from his sleep, God had prepared someone for him who was similar but also different. Even her name was a testament to similarity without sameness: “She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Gen. 2:23) But God had been preparing Adam for Eve long before he woke from his sleep. God told Adam, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” (2:18) He then paraded every animal in front of Adam, letting Adam name each one. Unfortunately, Adam realized something was missing: “The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.” (2:20) Before the parade of animals, Adam was told he was alone and that it wasn’t good. But after naming each one, Adam knew for himself he was alone. He could feel the solitude. When Eve arrived, Adam wasn’t looking for a twin. He was looking for a helper who was “fit.” Eve wasn’t a matching shoe; she was a fellow image-bearer designed to accentuate their differences for the purpose of pointing to a Gospel where another bride and Groom would come together under infinitely greater differences. (Eph. 5:22-33) The greatest news on earth was embedded in their differentness.
Young men and women are called to pursue marriage like they just finished naming every animal on the earth. Marriage can’t reflect our strengths until it reflects our weakness first: we’re not self-autonomous. We’re insufficient on our own. We need a Savior. When we submit to that glorious truth, we begin to see why marriage should attract two very different people. The church doesn’t call upon the church to save itself, and neither should we expect to find joy and fulfillment in men or women who are exactly like us. Differences in a marriage shine forth the Gospel, and they remind us that true joy isn’t found in ourselves. Today, after years of marriage and two kids, my wife and I have much more in common than Jesus and Mexican food. But we have Jesus. And that’s the only “common interest” we really need.