Marriage Series #3: The Glue

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In part two of this series I wrote about two people joining together to become one new person. In this post we will look at what keeps the two together as one. Whenever you place two objects together you have to have some kind of adhesive to make sure they stay together. We aren’t talking about Velcro, tape, or superglue though. In order to keep two people together as one, we need something far more powerful.

Have you ever tried fastening two objects together with the wrong substance? You’d never use duct tape for water pipes. Or wood glue for metal parts. You wouldn’t try to solder two plastic items together. Only the right adhesive will work. Use the wrong stuff and over time the objects will fall apart. Sometimes this happens quickly, but others, over a long period of time. When binding two people together, its no different.

So what is the correct way to bond the married couple as one? Most mainstream magazines would argue that it’s love. This, of course, depends on what definition of love you’re talking about. The so called emotion of love is an awful binding agent. Feelings come and go as we all know. Unfortunately this is the definition of love that most in the world operate with. That’s why we hear people say that they “fell out of love” and that’s why they are separating. What they are really saying is that the warm and fuzzy emotions aren’t there any more and they want to go search for them in someone or something else.

Another response that some might give to what keeps people together is commitment. But that warrants the question: commitment to what? I’ve known people that have stayed ‘together’ for decades but their marriage was a wreck and they simply lived together and tolerated one another. I’ve also seen people so committed to their spouse that they change to become whatever their spouse wants them to be, even if that is so far from who God called them to be. Does that sound like God’s design? Not even close.

Love and commitment are huge! Bigger than huge! I don’t even know what word would adequately depict just how huge they are. But they have to be centered on the right thing. We must be committed, not to the institution of marriage, but to the ones involved in the  marriage. Before you think that I can’t do math or that I put a typo in there. The ‘ones’ that I’m referring to are your spouse and the third person in the covenant relation: God. We also have to love both our spouse and God but not in the way that the world generally defines love (more on that further down).

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (ESV) [my emphasis]

This passage obviously speaks about more than just a marriage but it is also meant to explain a covenant relationship between two people and the third strand: God. Whenever two people enter into a marriage they aren’t just making vows to each other, but also to God. A married couple becomes a threefold cord which are three parts laced together to make stronger. It’s not three parts side by side taped together. The three parts are literally overlapping and intertwined. In other words, they are meant to be inseparable. Take one strand out of the cord and it quickly unravels.

Many couples around the world view their marriage as a union of two people. God is often discarded, or not even recognized from the beginning. If that is the case, then it’s not a marriage according to God’s original design. God included himself in the equation and we cannot afford to write Him out. He is the adhesive. He is the ultimate superglue that binds us to our spouse.

He [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Matthew 19:4-6 (ESV) [my emphasis]

God joined you to your spouse, therefore He holds you together. We have to be committed to Him, and His commands, and His guidance. We serve Him and love Him first, and from that comes our love and service to our spouse. It’s in the pursuit of God that our marriage is enriched and our love becomes genuine. It’s in the pursuit of God that our lives are changed so that we can be the person that our spouse deserves. What does that look like? We need to go to God before we go to our spouse. We should be praying before we bring things to our spouse. We should be self reflecting through time with God before we dare to point a finger of blame. We need to make sure we are treating our spouse like they are a child and treasure of God. We need to speak to and treat our spouse like we would speak to or treat God himself. We need to be faithful to our spouse like we would be faithful to God. We need to be spending time with God in prayer and bible study with our spouse.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

Most people have seen this passage quoted. A lot of people even put it on marriage invitations or wedding glasses or fancy signs to hang in their homes. But how often does our love for our spouse really reflect the words in these verses? There is nothing in here about warm and fuzzy emotions. Love is the way we choose to treat our spouse. Love is a way of life. Love is selfless and giving. Love focuses on others and how we can benefit them. A marriage full of this love, which is only possible through a life lived through and for God, will hold together. This isn’t worldly love. This is Christian love. This is God infused and Holy Spirit empowered love. If we want to love our spouse as we should then we need the third part of the threefold cord. When we do, our marriage will be strong and it will endure.

Follow Up: Use these questions for your own self reflection or to have a deep discussion with your beloved.

1- What do you do with your spouse that includes God and is about God? (i.e. prayer, bible study, worship, serving others, etc…)

2- Do you ever pray before bringing something up to your spouse or while in the middle of a disagreement?

3- How often have you covered your spouse in prayer?

4- Do you view your spouse as a child and treasure of God?

5- Does your approach to loving your spouse reflect the words in 1 Corinthians 13? What areas do you need the Lord to change you in order to love them better?

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Marriage Series #2: One not Two

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This is the second post in a five part series on marriage. In the last post I talked about how we need to view our purpose in getting married. This post is more focused on what happens to people when they do “tie the knot” as the old adage goes.

I think that a lot of conflict in marriage results from having a two person mentality. What I mean by that is that we still view a marriage as two people in a relationship with one another. Isn’t that what it is? Not exactly. I’m going to try and use a rough illustration so bear with me please. Lets pretend that the lovely couple getting married are two companies (weird I know). Many people look at marriage as though the two companies are signing a contract to work together on a joint venture. Contracts are mutual agreements and if one party doesn’t hold up their end of the deal, the contract is off. Two companies that write up contracts to work together remain two companies with separate identities. However, marriage isn’t meant to work like that. God designed marriage to be a merger. In a business merger, two companies see the advantage to joining forces and instead of signing a contract, they unite into one new company. Usually one company will take on the name of the other. I think you probably see the parallel I’m trying to draw.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24 (NIV) [my emphasis]

I know, I know, many people have taken this to mean that husbands and wives are to consummate their union through physical means. I’m not about to argue that it doesn’t mean that. I’m just saying that, like with the rest of scripture, there is far deeper implications than the surface level. When you get married, you are uniting with your spouse into one new entity just as the merging companies did in the illustration. As a result, you and your spouse are now meant to be joined in purpose and direction. Imagine if two merging companies decided on a different purpose and direction and pursued them. The new company would disintegrate pretty rapidly. There would be plenty of internal squabbling and unrest until they finally reached the point of “irreconcilable differences.” On the other hand, merged companies with a united purpose and direction will operate much more smoothly and be able to resolve differences in order to achieve the desired outcome.

This is an incredibly difficult concept to grasp, mainly because you are still you when you get married and your spouse is still your spouse. You don’t actually become one person physically. To operate as one, while not physically being one, is the essence of the marriage union. Success in this area requires extreme intimacy and openness. When communication breaks down, so does the system. There also has to be a high level of servant hood on the part of both members. A unique challenge to marriage is that two people, with two sets of dreams, two sets of talents, and two backgrounds, are now trying to coexist as one.  To overcome this challenge each person needs to commit to forming a new dream that they can help one another in achieving together. Each person also has to use their talents to compliment the other’s. That means we have to admit we aren’t perfect and the strengths of our spouse can help us overcome in areas of weakness. Each person should also commit to the new life they have begun together and only draw off of background experiences that can nourish their relationship. All of that is far easier said than done, I know.

Some may fail at this because they want to be the bigger company that their spouse is merging into. They place demands and expectations on their loved one rather than seeking to meet them half way. They place priority on their dreams, refusing to change course, while not even stopping to think if its God’s design for their life or consulting their spouse. They continue pursuing a life with, yet separate from, their partner. Over time their lives drift in different directions and resentment bubbles under the surface.

When we get married we have to realize that our spouse becomes as much of us as we are of ourselves. I hope that made sense. We have to embrace an entirely new outlook on our future because it is now inextricably linked with another. Jesus tells us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. When two people get married, they become one new house, one new person, with a direction that is meant to be unified. A couple that is joined in purpose and direction can endure, even the most difficult of times.

No matter where you are in your relationship, Jesus can be the captain of your course correction. He is our healer so there is no marriage that is too fractured. Jesus also has to be the unified vision of our marriage. Pursuing Him brings us together in a real and very spiritually deep way (More on that in a later post). If you’re not married, this is a great time to consider what it will mean for you if you make that commitment some day in the future. You’ll be saying goodbye to yourself and hello to the new you that is joined with the love of you life. That’s pretty awesome.

Follow Up: These are great things to ponder on your own or use to talk with your loved one. Blessings!

1- Have you been pursuing your own dreams, possibly at the expense of your spouse?

2- Do you have a unified vision as a couple that you help one another to reach?

3- Is your ‘house’ divided in any way? If so, what part can you take to bring unity?

4- What talents does your spouse have that compliments you and helps the marriage to thrive? What do you bring to the table?

5- Are you pursuing Jesus as a couple?

Marriage Series #1: I married you why?

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This is the first post in a five part series on marriage that I’ll be sharing over the next several weeks. For our first post I thought it best to start from the beginning and talk about how people approach the marriage relationship. Most people ponder the day they’ll meet Mr. or Mrs. right at some point while growing up. They imagine the day they’ll walk the isle and their dreams will come true and they’ll have that happily ever after fairy tale story that Disney and so many others have filled our imaginations with. But then they get married and they see just how different it actually is. They wonder then if they chose the wrong person. They ask themselves what went wrong. And sadly, so many decide that they just can’t continue any longer. That’s the bleak reality, and unfortunately, it probably hits home with a lot of those reading this post. Statistically speaking, most people in the United States have experienced divorce either first hand or second hand. I believe that to be the case due to the fact that the view of marriage is all wrong from day one. The faulty view in itself, sets us up for one bumpy ride!

If someone were to ask you why you got married, or wanted to get married, what would you say? The romanticized version would probably be that you fell in love and wanted to spend the rest of your life with that special someone. Am I close? Whatever the response I’m willing to bet that it had something to do with feelings of love and not wanting to be apart from them. We like the way we feel when we are in love and most people don’t like to be alone all of the time. We are relational beings. It’s how God designed us. So it is good to want to be with someone. It is good to want to be loved and valued. We are designed that way too. But neither of those should be the reason for getting married.

Most people begin a marriage with a self-centered point of view. Meaning, they want to get married so that they won’t be alone, or so they can be loved by someone, or so they can feel valued and wanted. Some people may get married because they want kids. Some people get married because it’s an expectation of them by parents or society. In all of these instances, marriage is all about them. Whether we admit it or not, we enter marriage with a “what can I get out of this” mentality. Put two people together with a self seeking approach to marriage and you no longer have to wonder why the divorce rate is so high.

I remember watching my bride walk down the isle on our wedding day thinking, “wow, I can’t believe she is going to be my wife!” Her beauty captivated me and her heart was as big as the sun and warmed my very soul. I was the luckiest man in the world. I’m sure most people felt similar feelings on their wedding day. But I was looking at things all wrong. She is extremely gorgeous and she has an amazing heart, but instead of being enthralled with having her as my wife, I should have been thinking about how awesome of a privilege it was going to be to take care of her for the rest of my life. It’s great to admire her qualities and feel blessed to have her, but I should’ve wanted to marry her because I wanted to help her become everything that God created her to be by encouraging her and serving her. I should’ve wanted to marry her so that I could show her Christ’s love in how I related to her. I would love to say that all of those things were running through my mind when I decided to ask her the big question, but that wouldn’t be honest.

There is nothing selfish about marriage. At least that’s how God intended it. Here are just a few verses that depict that:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Ephesians 5:22-31 (NIV)

The best way for a marriage to thrive is for each person in the relationship to view it as an opportunity to make life easier and better for the other. Instead of looking at our spouse as a means to our end, we need to view ourselves as a vehicle for love and nourishment in their lives. Instead of pondering what we want out of our spouse, we need to think about what they need from us. Getting married is not about your spouse giving themselves to you, it’s about you giving yourself to them. A wife has to die to self in order to submit to the godly leadership of her husband. A husband must die to self to lead through servant hood and sacrifice.

Imagine how families and culture would change around the world if people were making the marriage commitment in order to further the gospel of Christ. Imagine how things would change if people were giving themselves in marriage rather than taking others in marriage. Imagine if the words “I do” meant that I will love and serve you till the end. Imagine if the words “I do” meant that I do lay down my life here and now for you. Imagine if people didn’t get married to fill a perceived need of their own but as an opportunity to fill the needs of another.

For those of us who are already married, it’s never to late to change gears. Even if we didn’t start from a place of selflessness, we can live the rest of our lives that way. That hardest part about all of it is, our spouse may not be selfless too. But, that doesn’t matter. After all, Christ didn’t come to serve us and give his life for us because we were such amazing people who served him. It was quite the opposite. Jesus is our example, our spouse isn’t. And the only way a selfish spouse will ever change is by seeing your selflessness and only if that selflessness is genuine. We can’t serve in order to manipulate our spouse into doing the same. That’s selfishness and deceitfulness. Yikes! We love them because Christ first loved us and because it’s how God designed marriage to be. We want others experience the love of Jesus. Who more than our spouse?

If you’re not yet married, then you have a huge advantage. You get the opportunity to walk into marriage with the right mentality and the right heart. You get to have an even greater impact on your spouse! How cool for you and how unique you’ll be.

Follow up: These are for you to ponder and, if you want, use as a way to start a discussion with your spouse.

1-How am I serving my spouse currently? How could I serve them more.

2-What unfair expectations have I placed on my spouse?

3-Am I seeking fulfillment in any way from my spouse?

4-How can I make life better for my spouse?

5-Am I loving my spouse like Jesus loves me?