Marriage Out of the Shadows

Updated: Jul 21, 2019

Earlier this year on the heels of his hit film “Get Out", Jordan Peele released his highly next anticipated movie titled “Us”. This critically acclaimed horror film is premised upon the notion that each of us has an alternate self—one that is a shadow of us. We think that this shadow is benign—just a mimic of our actions. But, as Peele creatively unfolds in “Us”, your shadow is an insidious foe bent on replacing the authentic you with a diminutive identity that does not look like the person God created you to be. It is naive, if not foolish, to regard “Us” as just an entertaining screenplay. 

New York Times bestselling author, Stephen Pressfield warns us to avoid succumbing to our shadow in his helpful book, Turning Pro. Pressfield rightly argues that your shadow never develops the character or the volition to be your best.

In his insightful book, Overcoming Your Shadow Mission, Pastor John Ortberg delves more deeply into the spiritual dangers of the shadow—warning Christians of the beguilement inherent in the shadow mission. The shadow mission represents a degeneration of the heart that robs you of your calling and leaves your soul dissatisfied. The shadow mission is deceptively dangerous because it almost sounds just like what you feel God has actually called you to become. Yet, it is a lie. The shadow mission centers on your ego rather than elevation of the Savior. While your shadow mission aligns with many of your gifts, it fails to credit or give deference to the giver of those gifts.

You may wonder why I have  spent so much space here talking about your shadow. The truth is that the vast majority of Christian marriages are shadow marriages.

Scripture tells us that we are wonderfully formed in the image of the Creator—blessed with divine gifts with the potential to transform the world. He then reveals to us the mystery of marriage that while you alone can chase a thousand demons that as a married couple acting in unity can put ten thousand demons to flight. That’s simple math. Christian couples should have ten times the power to create, to heal, to minister, and to set captives free. We have access to the most powerful source of spiritual and natural energy in the world when we walk authentically in unity.

But, what happens when we remain content with a shadow marriage? Look around you. The shadows are everywhere. Shadow marriage is a hijacked version of the mission God gave you and distorted it to serve you rather than God.

Christian husbands and wives stay at odds over money, sex, parenting, giving, and even the tenets of the faith. It's actually remarkable when we encounter a Christian couple living God's best for them. That's sad.

For the shadows, Christianity in our marriage is an elixir that gives us a warm feeling—false security that we are doing something meaningful.

For the shadows, Christianity in our marriage is akin to what psychologist Lyman Wynn describes as the “rubber fence” allowing us to choose who is inside and outside the fence’s perimeter.

For the shadows, Jesus Christ is a savior from our sins but not from our self-centeredness.

Without liberation from selfishness, we are trapped in the most pernicious idolatry—self worship. Ego and its incessant pleasure pursuit is the ‘golden calf’ of modern Christian marriage. We epitomize what the book of Timothy calls “a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5-7).

God is not pleased with the shadow marriages plaguing Christendom and his judgment on us is no substantially different than it was on the Hebrew people. So many Christian marriages are wandering in a proverbial desert place separated from God’s best for them—and not even realizing how far off track we are.

As Pastor Ortberg aptly intuits, being just a few degrees off of God’s plan for your marriage will ultimately leave you far from where God intends you to be as the years go by.

There is only one path to redeem us from our shadow selves. The shadow in each of us must be crucified by renouncing our right to do marriage according to our rules. Each of us must submit to serve our spouse before ourselves. Each of us must submit to seek God’s answers to our pressing questions rather than relying on our own intellect. Each of us must submit to sacrifice that which matters most to us—our will. 

The story of “Us” must be one of submission and redemption with Jesus Christ as the director. In that unfolding story there is no place for the shadow in your Christian marriage. In the attached video, Pastor John Ortberg uses the story of Queen Esther to show how the shadow must be defeated to change the direction of the world. Then, he follows with a question to you.

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