Is what you see really what you get? I guess it depends on what you see. The Old Testament book of Numbers, chapter 13 is not a biblical text that is normally used to talk about marriage, but I think there is a really significant application here.
As chapter 13 opens, the Israelites have come to the border of the land God has promised to give them. God instructs Moses to select twelve men, one from each tribe, to scout out the lay of the land before the Israelites proceeded into it. So, for forty days these twelve men moved throughout the Promised Land, observing and learning all they could. At the end of the forty days and with a cluster of grapes so big it took two men to carry it, they returned to their camp to give their report to Moses and the rest of the Israelite nation. Here’s what they had to say:
We went to the land to which you sent us and, oh! It does flow with milk and honey! Just look at this fruit! The only thing is that the people who live there are fierce, their cities are huge and well-fortified. Worse yet, we saw descendants of the giant Anak. Amalekites are spread out in the Negev; Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites hold the hill country; and the Canaanites are established on the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan.
Caleb interrupted, called for silence before Moses and said, "Let's go up and take the land—now. We can do it.
But the others said, "We can't attack those people; they're way stronger than we are." They spread scary rumors among the People of Israel. They said, "We scouted out the land from one end to the other—it's a land that swallows people whole. Everybody we saw was huge. Why, we even saw the Nephilim giants (the Anak giants come from the Nephilim). Alongside them we felt like grasshoppers. And they looked down on us as if we were grasshoppers." (Num. 13:27-33, NIV)
Think about it. All twelve scouts saw the same land. All twelve agreed that it was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. They all saw the unbelievable goodness of the land, knowing it could provide amply for God's people. Yet ten of the twelve said, "We can't do it. This is an impossible task that will completely destroy us." Only two said, "God is on our side. The land is already ours. We just have to go take it." Same set of facts; totally different viewpoints.
So the real question is what viewpoint do you bring to your marriage? Do you see your marriage as land flowing with milk and honey, a Promised Land that is a blessing from and blessed by God, or do you see your marriage as a land filled with unbeatable giants that are out to destroy you and your mate?
Please understand that I am not naïve in asking this question. Just because you want to see rainbows and butterflies, that doesn't mean it's going to happen and that you will have a fairy tale marriage. Maintaining any relationship in a healthy and productive way is going to be a challenge, and because marriage is so intimate it can be especially challenging. (If a marriage relationship doesn't present any challenges, it is very likely that one partner is being repressed in some way.) But, we tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you consistently focus on the things that can disrupt and destroy your marriage—finances, personality differences, sexual issues, extended family, work schedules, children, or whatever else—then those things will dominate and define your marriage.
But you can also choose to see your marriage as a place that your love for God is lived out in your relationship with your spouse. You can focus on the promises of your covenant relationship, the times you laugh together and find joy in each other, and the all the other good things within your marriage relationship (no matter how big or small). You can continually see marriage as a place of blessing and experiencing the goodness of God. Then that outlook will become your default view for your relationship and for your mate.
One of the surest ways to recognize the point of view you are bringing to your marriage is to listen to the way you talk about your marriage. If you regularly use large, encompassing words in a negative sense there is a good chance you might want to honestly assess what you are allowing to shape your view.
"You NEVER help with anything around the house."
"You ALWAYS blow the budget."
"Do I EVER get the benefit of the doubt with you?"
I could go on, but you get the idea. Carefully consider what you say and how you’re saying it. You could be revealing more about how you view your marriage than you realize.
Having a positive viewpoint is not a cure for problems in marriage, and it is not an excuse to overlook or minimize issues that need to be dealt with. It is, however, a powerful barometer of the path you are setting for the future of your marriage relationship.
Do you see your marriage as a Promised Land flowing with milk and honey or a grasshopper crushing giant? It all depends on where you focus.