As I head to my first anniversary, I am left thinking about how much God has grown me in my marriage. Tim Keller said it best, “marriage is unlike anything else. It is the only relationship that teaches you the depths of your sin. Why? You finally realize you have to grow and change or you won’t live harmoniously in your relationship.” This construct has lead me to reflect constantly in hopes of realizing the depths of my sin.
That reflection has taught me a few things, a few of which I will mention today.
Marriage takes understanding what meekness is. No, this is not the meekness in a worldly definition. Listening to Miriam's definition over the biblical definition may conflict God’s intent. One attribute of meekness is the ability to receive criticism and to stand corrected when needed. “Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity brags not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). The inability to admit error and hear true reproof indicates our high view of ourselves and unwillingness to heed understanding. If we love discipline we love knowledge, but if we hate it, we essentially hate wisdom. You see the Father can give us wisdom (insight for the application of knowledge) but we must obtain the knowledge.
Marriage is God putting a man (woman) in your life and you not making an idol of him (her). What it does not mean, is finding a “soul mate” or someone who will complete us. The problem with looking to another human to complete us is that, spiritually speaking, it's idolatry. We are to find our fulfillment and purpose in God and if we expect our spouse to be God to us, he or she will fail every day. No person can live up to such expectations. Perfection only exists in God, so put your faith in Him rather than your spouse.
Alternatively, consider seeing your spouse as an example rather than an idol. Someone who will help steer you in His direction. When my husband forgives me and accepts me, I learn to receive God's forgiveness and acceptance as well. In that moment, he is modeling God to me. He is revealing God's mercy to me, and helping me to see with my own eyes a very real spiritual reality.
Marriage takes clear verbal admittance of wrong doings. Fact: you are not always right, you don’t know it all, and you must resist the prideful impulses to believe that you do. Dictatorial conversation implies that a person shares their grievances, making all the rules and decisions, negating wrongdoings or a servant attitude - without the input or their spouse. That is not a conversation or sharing that is a dictatorship. However, humility has to do with submitted willingness. It involves a healthy self-forgetfulness. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Understand this: "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!" (Phil. 2:5-8). Learn to love discipline and submit yourself to the process of life-long learning in God with this man (woman) you are married to. Again perhaps support this with the “how” do we learn to love discipline? We look at Jesus dying on the cross which begs the question, “what’s He doing up there”? He’s dying for our inequity for our fallen nature. If that is the case, which it is, then when we give our lives to Him it requires something of us. Our lives are no longer our own. What does he want from us. Discipline is a great start.
Lastly, and perhaps most evidently, God has taught me that marriage is about serving. Love is the choice to cooperate with God in serving your spouse – even when you truly feel they have not earned it. Forgiveness and reconciliation is painful for the one granting forgiveness, I get that, but, from infidelity, to illness, to being dramatically different from one another - you still have the opportunity to serve one another. The individual who truly loves see themselves as God's agents for serving their marriage partner. Serving needs to be a way of life in your marriage. Christ served His disciples after being beaten, mocked and scorned. Surely we can serve our spouses in the most difficult of times.
If you are married then you know that you can absolutely adore a human being unlike you ever thought was possible, but then conversely feel very indifferent towards them all in the same day; perhaps even the same breath. However, scripture teaches that marriage is ordained by God; part of His original design for us as well as foreshadowing our eternal dependence on a relationship with Him. When we see that, we see the truth He has shown us; we see Him.
I have been married 366 days and still have a lot to learn. What I do know is that God puts us in communion with our brothers and sisters so that we can learn from each no matter our stage. We need to help each other out of this idea of me-centered happiness. If happiness is our primary goal, we'll get a divorce as soon as happiness seems to wane.
Jesus Christ has set the perfect example for us to follow – in life and in marriage. Becoming more like Christ in your marriage will not happen overnight. It will take persistence. It will take perseverance. It will take flexibility. And, most of all, it will take love: a love that shows your spouse that you are more concerned with his or her needs and desires than your own; a love that serves without an attitude.
So cheers Honey, my heart, to 366 days of making our God’s sacrifice live in our marriage! I love you.