Over the last 3 months I have been surrounded with marriages crumbling. From as close as family, to dear friends, to friends of friends, friend’s with couples in their small group, leaders in the church, etc headed towards divorce. Some of these couples have been married less than 5 months, some 7-10 years. It is astounding. And ALL of them are Christians.
God calls our marriages to be different. Don’t hear me saying marriage is always all roses and easy. Marriage is hard. Marriage is work. But it is glorious work.
The most common picture God gives us of the relationship between us and Christ is marriage. He is our bridegroom. The church (Christians) are his bride. I am the bride of Christ.
Marriage was the first “institution” God created. It was a solid and permanent covenant meant to represent or exemplify his relationship with us. And look what we have turned it into.
Even Christian marriages these days are focused on how my spouse is treating me, what I am getting out of the relationship, if I am happy. It becomes this scale of how much have I put in vs. how much have they put in. What if marriage isn’t about “I”?
I am meant to be the tangible love of God to my husband. God doesn’t have arms and vocal chords here on earth, he has given me a gift and a privilege and responsibility to show Jesus’ tangible love to John. What a blessing, what a responsibility. My words have the influence to steer John towards God or away.
Also, when we stand on the altar at our marriage, I think a lot of people bypass the miracle that occurs. Do we not focus on the fact that during our marriage ceremony, God actually takes two separate people and makes them one?? The more I think on the concept of one-ness, the more amazing it is to me. John and I are ONE. One in body, spirit. That is a supernatural miracle. Try separating two pieces of paper or fabric that you have superglued together. It is nearly impossible, but at best it is messy. You end up with two broken pieces, two messy pieces, two pieces torn and tattered. I think we miss this when we consider divorce as an option. From what I have heard of friends talking, they see divorce as the easier choice, just an escape from the work that would have to be done to restore, a fresh start, another chance at a better, happier life. We don’t think about the destruction of our legacy, the separation of oneness that God has joined. You can’t un-one yourselves. That is why God is so clear on divorce.
Legally our marriage is a “Contract”, but if you are a Christian, it is more so a covenant than a contract. A contract is an “I will if you will” “i’ll pay this debt if you give me this service” “i’ll give this as long as you give this”. This is not what our marriages are supposed to be. It is a permanent covenant. God never breaks his covenants. Our marriages should be a reflection of Christ’s covenant with the Church. He didn’t leave us when we got messy, when we stopped serving him, when we stopped making him happy, when things got messy or hard, when we cheated on him time and time again. Our marriage is not intended to fulfill our every desire, longing and happiness. It is to point people to Christ and his consistent and unconditional love for us.
I think so often that we let our marriages fall to the backburners. Our kids take #1, our careers take the #1 spot, our comfort and happiness take #1. You have to be intentional.
One thing our mentors shared with us early in our marriage was this
Discuss daily- have at least 30 minutes face to face time (no tv, phone, computer) discussing more than just schedules and how was your day stuff. 30 minutes of heart check, how are we doing check, what is God doing in your heart talk.
Date Weekly- If finances don’t allow for dinner out, or babysitter, get creative. Cook brownies together and eat them on the floor of a random room and enjoy conversation, Give each other a massage, pedicure. Get creative at home. Or just go spend time in a bookstore, coffee shop, walk around the neighborhood, kick a soccer ball at a park. All free. Do something that reminds you that you just enjoy being with that person.
Depart quarterly- Get away once a quarter, even if just for a day trip (preferably overnight) and enjoy a trip together. Use that time to refocus your goals as a couple, your ministry as a couple, where you are in your marriage, what you want to get better at, how you want to grow spiritually and can encourage each other. Take advantage of this time more than just a vacation, but do just have fun! This has been such a great one for John and I to make ourselves a priority, leave the kids and focus on ourselves. Our kids now get excited about this (most of the time) and what a gift we can give them to show them how that Jesus is my number 1, John is my #2 and they are behind him at #3. The minute i get those out of order, we will be those empty nesters that after the kids leave look at each other and say “i don’t really know you anymore”.
Disclaimer: We don’t have a perfect marriage. We constantly work at it, we constantly work through issues. We have been to counseling at one of the harder parts of our marriage and it was such an amazing experience for us. Everyone needs help. That is why God calls the spirit the Counselor. Who am I to think I am too good for asking for someone else to speak into our marriage. Marriage is two imperfect people coming together, there are going to be hard times. Be prepared and take even the good times in marriage and work at making it even better. Pray hard against Satan who wants nothing more than to see our marriages end up broken and have divorce be a part of our kid’s view on marriage.
**Please youtube Andy Stanley’s sermon called iMarriage. Thankfully we heard this at our church (Northpoint) in Atlanta around year 1 of our marriage and it set the tone for us.