Mark: We’ve all seen them on a hot day. Up ahead, it looks like there’s a sheet of water on the road. As we get closer, we realize there’s no water there at all. It’s a mirage caused by the heat mixed with light in just the right way.
Jill: We’ve all experienced soul mirages in some way. We tell ourselves, “In the fall when all my kids are in school, I’m going to get all the closets cleaned out.” Or “Next month, I’m going to sit down face to face with my spouse for a few minutes every night after the kids are in bed.” Or “When we got married, I knew I’d found my soulmate. What happened?” Or “I’m done with this relationship. I’m going to pursue this other person because we’re made for each other.”
Mark: These mirages are really illusions. They appear real, they seem possible, but in real life they actually don’t exist or can’t happen the way we ideally hoped. Soul mirages are the lies we tell ourselves. Some soul mirages are true fantasies—they simply don’t exist, and others are simply unrealistic expectations—things that exist but not to the level we are expecting in our mind.
Jill: Soul mirages set us up for disappointment, contribute to our tendency to rationalize, and too often lead the way to compromise. They cause us to chase ideas that will take us down a path that never satisfies.
Mark: I tend to have a lot of idealism inside of me. This positioned me to have extremely unrealistic expectations of what real marriage looked like. I was chasing soul mirages as I +allowed external things or other people to define me. Acceptance from others, financial security, and sex, among other things were things I believed I needed o be happy.
Jill: On the outside Mark was successful and happy, but on the inside I knew he constantly struggled with idealistic thinking and dissatisfaction in just about every part of life. He functioned externally but struggled internally.
Mark: I understood that God gives value and I KNEW that, but the collision of my upbringing, cultural ideals, and my flesh (wanting what I want) created a drive that was impossible to satisfy It wasn’t until I surrendered myself fully to the Lord, stopped chasing impossible ideals, and chased Him only that the stronghold of these impossible pursuits was broken.
Jill: Soul mirages often show up in the “if” statements we tend to make:
If I had better sex…
If I had more money…
If I had a different job…
If I lived in a different neighborhood…
If I was married to someone else…
When we start making these kinds of statements or thinking these kinds of thoughts, it needs to be a red flag that we’re starting to chase a soul mirage.
Mark: Soul mirages lose their hold on us when we stop looking at the mirage and start looking at God. They also lose their hold when we begin to dig deep into what fuels our idealism and unrealistic expectations (counseling was very helpful). For me, the soul mirages lost their appeal when I dealt with the fact that I was chasing external things for internal happiness. I stopped chasing soul mirages and started chasing after God and His Word. When that happened, my soul became stable.
Jill: When you’re married to someone who chases soul mirages, you’re never enough. Never good enough. Never encouraging enough. Never having sex enough. These days, I often say that I’m married to a new man. The stability in Mark’s head and heart have been game-changers for him and for our marriage.
So what about you? What soul mirages are you chasing? Where are you making “if” statements? Where do you need to stop chasing mirages and start chasing God?
PS…This is a partial excerpt from our upcoming book No More Perfect Marriages which will be out Feb 1! We’ll share more as we get closer to the release date!