Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread, — behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies …
Sonnet by Percy Shelley, 1818
The Painted Veil
The painted veil is what we would refer to in modern-day terms as rose tinted spectacles. Part of us may be worried about lifting the veil for what we might see. This is important to think about in terms of our marriage and being prepared to truly look at what our relationship may be trying to tell us: how we can grow as an individual and spouse.
Our marriage partner provides us with a mirror to see oursleves fully and if we are brave enough, we can look at the reflection that our partner provides in order to raise our level of self-awareness and better understand interactions in our marriage.
When we shy away from this, when we keep the painted veil or rose tinted spectacles in place – we don’t really want to see what’s happening. It’s like the Bible verse that reminds us that we can easily forget the truth: ‘For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like’ (James1: 23-24). If we’re not careful, we can also easily walk away from the truth that God wants to reveal about our relationship.
When we enter marriage we can be taken by surprise by strong emotions or unusual situations that we’re confronted with. You may think ‘This isn’t what I signed up for’. If we think about the example of Mary and Joseph’s unusual situation, on the brink of marriage he found out that Mary was pregnant. So he backed out, he broke off their engagement. This isn’t what he’d signed up for. Fortunately his resolve was supernaturally restored through a visitation by an angel. We find out after this visitation that: ‘When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.’ (Matthew 1:24).
We don’t always get supernatural reassurance to pursue our partner, commit and move forward when things don’t seem quite right in our relationship. But couples often share the hope and fear that Mary and Joseph must have had about what the future held. The twin destinies of fear and hope are often present in relationships, but God is present with us in this journey too.
Search me and know my heart
One of the reasons why things don’t seem as they should in marriage may be related to what we’re bringing to the relationship and what we’re projecting onto our spouse. Unrealistic expectations, or projecting our anger by being passive agressive. For example, by withholding or not listening. As well as exploring these dynamics from a psychological perpsective, we can also ask God to show us what we may be responsible for in our marriage: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life’. (Psalm 139: 23-24).
Lifting the veil
We may say to ourselves there is nothing wrong in viewing our marriage through a painted veil or rose tinted spectacles. After all the view, although distorted is more beautiful, pleasing. Alternatively, we may use the painted veil as a shield to protect us. It helps us to ignore the difficulties that we can’t bear to recognise. But we don’t get to see our marriage in its true form.
Help us God to lift the painted veil. To take a better look at our marriage and discover more of your truth. The full reality and the truth that ‘will set you free’ (John 8:32).