Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Guard your Marriages

Marriage is a lifetime commitment between spouses to continually rediscover each other.

Nearly five years into marriage, I am starting to understand that.

As I've talked with more people about marriage, I've realized that marriages fail because couples enter into the institution with some incorrect and dangerous assumptions.

For Jonathan and me, the first year of marriage wasn't the hardest — it was the easiest! Life was bliss! While he and I only dated a short time before we decided to get married (we'd been friends for years), we were a healthy amount afraid to enter into a commitment of that caliber. And why shouldn't we be? You can't know what you're getting into ahead of time. It's a leap of faith. It requires an immeasurable amount of God's grace and His spirit as two sinners navigate the broken road together.

Also, in the same way that Christians are promised persecution, marriage will inevitably be difficult — at least from time to time. I can promise that. It doesn't mean you married the wrong person — it only means you need to adjust your expectations to be happy.

How do you know when to get married then? Answer: When a Christian man and a Christian woman are ready to commit to the covenant of marriage for a lifetime (the book Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will helped me to make that decision for myself).

Elisabeth Elliot, the famous missionary and writer, wrote the book Let Me Be A Woman to her newly engaged daughter about the prospect of marriage. After providing her daughter a list of questions to ponder when considering marriage (conversation starters to make a couple consider whether they had common interests and were on the same page on foundational issues), Elliot concluded by adding, "It is a mutual commitment to a common belief that is the only solid base for lasting communion, in marriage or in any other fellowship. Anything less will not stand the test of living."

The nature of a marriage changes necessarily as you settle in over the years. I want to share a few of the valuable lessons I've learned:

• I know it sounds cliche, but love is indeed a verb. Sometimes you are doing acts of love even when the feelings aren't overflowing in your heart. Sometimes you will clean your house unto the Lord so that you won't hold resentment against another person. Pray that those feelings of love that ebb and flow will always be revived again. I personally think that God loves to answer that prayer because it's certainly in line with his will!

• Look for ways to serve each other. Uplift, encourage and pray for each other. Be grateful for the positives about your spouse while always working on yourself. It's all too easy to find another's faults when two imperfect people are living a messy life together. Love must first flow vertically from the Lord before you can pour it out more perfectly into horizontal relationships. You'd be amazed what this will accomplish if you can put it into practice.

• Whether through apathy or rebellion, you will discover that you've put your marriage down from time to time. You must pick it back up. Daily pick it up. The Bible calls these sins of commission and omission. You will do a lot of both in marriage. Repent and ask for forgiveness. Extend forgiveness where forgiveness is due.

• Remember to fight FOR your marriage, not against your spouse. Your spouse is not your enemy no matter how convenient it is to blame the person nearest you. Satan is your enemy and he works to destroy Christian marriages.

• The hard truth of the matter is, even when your spouse isn't in the right and isn't walking with the Lord and isn't meeting your expectations, you have to find a way to honor him/her anyway. That's a picture of the Gospel.

• Pray for more love — to love better — to BE better yourself. Pray for God to guard against your marriage so that it will be a picture of the Gospel, how Christ laid down his life for his bride, the church.

Couples who honor this commitment and allow God to be at the center of their marriage will nourish a beautiful relationship with their best friend. You will actively build a better love than you ever thought possible.

"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage." ~ Martin Luther

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