What Marriage Isn’t

John & Rachel Cavanaugh

“But I have this one thing against you. You do not love Me as you did at first…” Rev. 2:4

Husband brag:  My man is good at a great number of things–  He crushes just about any sport, can cook better than Martha Stewart (so I mayyy be bias), has the patience of a saint, communicates better than most women I know, and lives to serve. But despite his incredible character, many accolades, love for God, and huge heart– my man is absolutely terrible at this one thing.

So now that you know how awesome he is and how much I love him– I’ll take an unconventional route and let you in on what he’s not so hot at. This one thing– well, it kills me (quite literally). I’m certain he’ll never get any better at it. And the worst part is– he consistently fails in it every day and will continue to for the rest of his life.

So here’s the thing: as absolutely wonderful as he is– my husband makes a terrible god.

“Your spouse makes a crappy idol.” Maybe you’ve heard other married folks say this kind of stuff. Maybe you’re like single Rachel and quite frankly just can’t imagine someone who you’d actually have to keep from idolizing– because you know, you’re just too confident and cool to actually like anyone that much. Maybe you’re like I often am, and don’t even realize that you’re operating as if your spouse is your God. So single or married, let me tell ya, IT HAPPENS, so hear me out:

My sweet hubster wasn’t created to supply all of my needs. As well as Johnny loves and knows me, he cannot give me the strength, peace, joy, love, or comfort that I so desperately need. John Erik Cavanaugh is not all sufficient in himself– so how could he possibly sustain me? He cannot. He isn’t and wasn’t ever created to be my idol. And likewise, I shouldn’t be his either. The more I try to create space for him to fit in that role, the more he fails me– and the more angry, disappointed, and bitter I become.

As a result of idolizing my spouse, I’ve directed all my attention towards having the perfect marriage, and being a exemplary wife. Making certain we’re communicating well, being a light to others, and finishing each season strong. I’ve been striving and trying so hard under all this pressure and in my own strength, that I’ve forgotten my primary role as a spouse. I’ve missed that the whole point is to help and encourage Johnny to grow in Christ, to lean on Him for his strength, love and security.  Not to control him. Not to manipulate him into being a better Christian. Not to make sure we “look good” at all times. Not to make sure we read our Bibles every morning, and pray together every night. I don’t have to work and strive, strive and work.

So many things spin out of control when I take my eyes off of Christ. If He isn’t our foundation, we will crumble. He alone holds everything together. But before Jesus Christ can be our center, He must be the sole sustainer of my life– and He can’t fill that role if I’ve replaced Him. I’ve learned the hard way that you cannot depend on your spouse to make God the center of your life for you. I must fight the lies that Christ in my life isn’t important– on the contrary, it’s EVERYTHING.  We’re two human shells, created to be dependent on Christ, learning to grow in love for one another with a non-earthly affection. Marriage isn’t about idolizing your spouse. We weren’t born to be gods.

Whether it’s our spouse, occupation, children, earthly possessions or gifts– on this side of eternity nothing will satisfy. No marriage, relationship, status, or thing can fill the void. Christ alone satisfies. Only in Him our deepest desires are met; our fears are fought; our fickle love is surpassed; our victories are determined; our voids are filled; and our joy is made complete. So go to Him and let Him love on you. His heart is already turned towards you.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deut. 6:5 



Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6

Growing up, Mr. Martin was my best friend’s dad and I considered him mine as well. Whenever we talked about boys (which was often because we were boy crazy) he always reminded us that we were like pearls. He explained that one day, a man would fight to win our hearts, and that’s how it was supposed to be. He would marry us and only he would be deserving of our whole hearts. If his intentions were pure, he would want to fight and wouldn’t settle for anything less. Because a woman who knows her worth wasn’t easy.

Unfortunately, this typically went in one ear and out the other, because it wasn’t cool and I wasn’t necessarily looking to get hitched that exact moment. But I heard it frequently enough for it to take root in my heart. Looking back, I understand and appreciate his words today more than ever. Although he passed last year and is in heaven, what he taught us girls will remain in our hearts. His daughter is proof of what he instilled in us. An incredible man prayed her in, fought for her heart, and swept her off her feet. Now married, they portray a beautiful visual aid of what True Love Waiting looks like.

Most people today teach us to get what you can, and see how far you can go. I’m not going to sit her and tell you that this-that-and-the-other is wrong, or not to do “it”. Because Christian or not, no matter how great whatever with whomever is outside of marriage, you’ll always feel deep down that you deserve better. And deep down, you’re right. Temporary highs and fleeting passions aren’t enough to make anyone truly content. No matter how good you are at lying to yourself, “there must be more than this” will resound in your head and the fear of settling will echo in your heart. God built us this way. We each have a conscience that won’t be satisfied with phony mockeries of what’s supposed to be very real. No matter how good you think you’ve got it, you’ll always feel empty.

Purity isn’t about what you will or won’t do. It is a state of being. Purity is a byproduct of a satisfied heart. There’s a self value and inner confidence that comes only when you’re fully whole and completely content in Him. Without this, you’re simply saying no out of habit. Or maybe you aren’t saying no at all. But it’s so much easier to walk away when you know your worth. Your true value. If you’re aware of the great price on your life, you won’t waste it on meaningless detours. When you know who you are in Him because of who He’s made you, you won’t ever desire to settle for second best. Because you’re the real deal, and phony is simply not good enough.

So, hold your head high in the arms of Jesus.  In Him there are no pasts. He wipes away the hurts and only sees the future in your eyes. Surrender your unspoken expectations. Set your eyes on Him. And, above all else, guard your heart.


Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

It seems to me that typically, we don’t expect God to transform or fill us. And we look to things to fill the void because we don’t truly believe that we need Him.

For a few years now, I’ve been praying for my dad whom I haven’t seen since I was sixteen. I felt that if I had a father, I would be complete. His leaving was always my excuse; my reason, to be mad at the world and live however I pleased. Recently, my mom became engaged to an incredible man of God who treats her like a queen and spoils us rotten. Their relationship is a beautiful picture of what true Love looks like. I used to believe that this hole in my heart would be filled when a father figure stepped back into my life.

For the past few weeks, I’ve relied on my environment and circumstances to sustain me. Since I’ve returned from India, it’s been easy living. It’d been so effortless that I began to rely solely on the people and things around me. Yes, it’s absolutely wonderful that everything in life seems to be simplistically drama-free, but it’s been odd. Without battles, I’ve found myself distancing from God. Growing accustomed to coping without Him. As if I only need Him when I’m injured.

Yes, I’ve been spending time with Him. But I’ve also felt empty. Somewhere along the lines of my recently effortless life, I became self-reliant. I assumed since I now had everything I was “supposed” to have, I would be content. This counterfeit confidence lasted a few weeks as  I expected my heart to be filled. But, I was wrong. Slowly drifting away, my self-reliance was killing my purpose. I’m discovering that “happy circumstances” don’t equate to feeling whole, satisfied, or fulfilled. In the end, you find yourself coming up short and something still lacks.

I don’t want to share life with God only when it’s too hard for me to handle. I want Him to be with me in everything. I imagine that it wouldn’t be very fun to only take care of your child through the difficulties. The diaper changes, cuts and scrapes, and continuous messes.  But, I’m sure payment in the form of sharing their first words, steps, or graduation, is much appreciated. God wants to enjoy life with us. He desires to walk with us hand in hand through the bad and the good. If we look, we will find Him everywhere, in everything.

Nothing on this earth will fill me. No earthly relationship can sustain me. No one but Him. He is the Only Exception. I need Him, even when life feels okay.