In these tender times, we lean into tender things, wishing we were sitting across the table, to hear softness, and see gentleness in kind eyes. There are conversations that are best in the context of real supporting, unconditional relationships, and we frame today’s conversation like that, with deep tenderness and genuine empathy and humble understanding. Today, it’s a grace to welcome my friend, Laurie Krieg, to the farm’s front porch today…
My heart felt icy. “Why am I even in this marriage?” I silently asked Jesus. “God, help me. Please, give me some hope.”
I clicked on a Christian podcast seeking to encourage married people. The gender joking began immediately: “Is it God’s big joke that He makes men and women get married?” I braced myself, guessing I knew what would come next. I’ve heard it dozens—if not hundreds—of times.
“I mean, seriously! We all want to have sex before we get married, but then we get married, and surprise! Men like their sports, not talking emotionally, want lots of physical intimacy, and they want to be left alone in their ‘man caves.’ Women? They like Pinterest, talking emotionally, they don’t want sex, and they want to relate in their ‘she sheds.’ But! We are in a covenant, and God hates divorce, so, ha ha! Stinks to be us. We are stuck!”
Click. I couldn’t listen anymore. My cold heart squeezed in pain.
Yeah. Why is it male-and-female marriage? If you all hate each other so much, why are you even married?
The weight of their gender jabs fell extra heavily on my ears. I wasn’t just wrestling with staying in my marriage to my husband, Matt; I was wrestling with staying in my marriage to a man.
We all have our own story and this is my story.
And I am grateful to vulnerably and humbly share my story, and grateful for people to hold space for my story and the way it unfolded.
For as long as I can remember, I have been attracted to women. After college, as I wrestled with either killing myself, or coming out as a lesbian atheist, I reached out to a therapist for help with the suicidality.
This Jesus-loving counselor not only helped to remove shame and self-hatred from my life—she helped me to encounter Jesus like I never had before.
Her work through the power of the Spirit did not transform me from gay to straight, but it cleared a path in my heart to receive more of God’s love.
Do you know what God’s love does? Paul in Ephesians says, “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (Eph. 3:19, emphasis added).
God’s love empowers us to die daily to self (Luke 9:23). It empowers all of us to surrender our own versions of brokenness to the Lordship of Christ.
Then God called me to marriage. “I have someone for you.” Marriage and singleness are equally valuable modes we do the mission to make disciples, and only He knows which one will sanctify and bless us the best. Marriage was for me—not for everyone like me.
After this call to marriage, God did not make all men attractive to me—that would have been weird and stressful. He connected my heart to one man, Matt. What started as friendship turned into intertwined hearts. I found I wanted to marry him. Not men, but Matt. (And he wanted to marry me, so that was good…)
We thought our unique situation would actually give us an advantage when it came to the marriage gig. We knew the stereotype that “men and women get ‘tricked’ into marriage by their hormones,” but we weren’t like them. We were better.
“We didn’t get snookered! Our life together started on the basis of friendship, being on mission with Jesus, and knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” I thought before getting married. Boom. Winning at wedding.
Until we weren’t. Our friendship had grown cold. The once-easy laughter was rare, and until a month before this moment when I flipped on the podcast, I had my eyes on the exit.
One foot in and one foot out, I went on a silent retreat—a last-ditch effort to sort out what God wanted for me. As I sat in a sunbathed room literally making a pro-con list of leaving my husband, God interrupted me with the book of Jude.
Who reads Jude? Apparently, I do, but only because it was next on my daily Bible reading plan that I was oddly still doing in the middle of this mess. Turns out, God’s Word truly is alive and active (Heb. 4:12), and He brought some of that living Word to mind as I wrestled:
But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them (Jude 17-19).
Those who follow their natural instincts…do not have God’s Spirit in them?
“So, if I follow what is natural to me because of the Fall—which would be leaving Matt—will I not have God’s Spirit in me?” I paused my journal-praying. “Well, what does your Spirit give me?” Everything was on the table.
In the next two micro-seconds something shifted in the room, and I experienced what I can only describe as a taste of hell: a tiny experience of a life completely devoid of God.
I was so cold and so terrified, and it wasn’t like I was empty—“Ho hum, I need a sandwich”— it was like I was emptiness.
I was left gasping for breath, but one thing was crystal clear to me: God’s Spirit—the Holy Spirit—isn’t some sort of Jiminy Cricket, “Always let your conscience be your guide!” character. He is the only Source of life, hope, and peace. The only Source.
And if I wanted Him, then I wanted what He had for me. What He had for me was this marriage. This impossible marriage.
“How are you going to fix this, God?” I asked as I absentmindedly twisted my wedding ring around my finger after clicking off the podcast. I was committed to God and therefore committed to this marriage, but I was baffled as to how He would fix it.
I was scared of listening to more podcasts. Scared of picking up marriage books. Most of them assumed you were pro-male-female marriage, and thought you’d laugh along with them as they built rapport with you through gender jokes.
Why male-female marriage, Jesus?
Then Ephesians 5 hit me like truck. I had heard verses 31-32 in Christian settings hundreds of times before, but I always missed the point.
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.”
Hold up, hold up, hold up: What is the “great mystery”? That the ol’ from-Mars men and from-Venus women fall in love? “But ha ha! You’re tricked into a covenant!”
No! The great mystery is that God wants to and will marry dusty, human, image-bearer, beloved us (Rev. 19:6-9).
What? That’s bananas. How different are men from women? I mean, okay, stereotypically pretty different. Hence, the jokes.
How different is God from humanity? Ontologically different! Eternally different! Cosmically different! Paul says in Ephesians 1:21, “Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.”
And yet Jesus will marry us!
Our marriages tell this love story. When very-different men die to self to be one with their very-different wives, they show the world how very-different Jesus died to be one with very-different us, and how we are to do the same.
Marriage is not a cosmic joke nor cosmic punishment. It is divine design. Marriage is a living, breathing picture of the gospel to our neighbors, to strangers, and to the children in our home.
Celebration of sex difference rather than eye-rolling was one of the greatest lightbulb moments in saving our marriage.
It propelled me not to run toward a Hallmark-movie-ending kiss with my husband, but it pushed me to take the next right step.
And now? Four years after listening to that podcast, I can’t believe I get to do this. I cannot believe I get to live this gospel metaphor with my husband.
But the battle for Christians to show the gospel metaphor through Christian marriage—specifically through sex difference—isn’t over. The gender joking in podcasts, books, retreats, and everyday conversation seems unending. Can we please stop?
Too many hurting married people are secretly listening to their friends, picking up books, and clicking on podcasts—looking for hope—and are missing something amazing: Sex difference in marriage isn’t a cosmic joke or punishment. It’s divine design.
Seeking unity through our differences preaches the gospel.
Laurie Krieg is a teacher, author, and ministry leader who equips the church with a gospel-centered approach to sexuality and marriage. Laurie’s husband, Matt, is a licensed therapist with specialties in issues related to trauma and sexuality.
Maybe you read this and were inspired at some level, but also thought, “But I don’t have an impossible marriage. They do. I don’t.” If you have been called to marriage, this means you have been called to show the world a living, breathing, 24-7 picture of the gospel through oneness with your spouse. For all of us? That is absolutely impossible–without Him (Matt. 19:26).
Read more about Matt and Laurie’s version of an impossible marriage (and receive some practical, gritty hope for yours?) in An Impossible Marriage. In this book, Laurie and Matt lay out an engaging picture of their marriage in all its pain and beauty. It’s a picture that points us, over and over again, to the love and grace of Jesus—as marriage was always meant to do.