October 21, 2011

Day 21: Love and Marriage

Marriage is a beautiful institution created by God.  I highly recommend it to those considering making the commitment.  However, you must know that when you get married you are marrying a person - not an idea, not a fantasy, not a robot - a real, live person.

So when Colin and I tied the knot, we not only got the joys and pleasures of till-death-does-us-part companionship and one-fleshedness.  We also brought our own sin and baggage into the marriage.  Take two people who love each other, but also each love themselves quite a bit, put them under the same roof and ask them to make life work and you're bound to hear (if the couple is honest) of arguments, grumbling & complaining, judgmental thoughts, etc., even in the midst of the delights of establishing a home, family, traditions, and routines that are unique to that couple that God has brought together.

Since this is my blog, I'll not go into Colin's "issues" and how God has used being married to such a wonderful woman like me to show him errors in his ways and change him ... ha!  If anything, being married to me has only grown him in patience and loving-kindness.  Dear man; if you only knew what he has to put up with!

More seriously, though, two things have come to mind that I want to share with you.  The first, is how God used the husband He had for me to address the pattern of guilt-tripping manipulation in my life.  The second, is how God uses my husband to teach me how much He really loves me.

God Uses Our Spouses to Reveal Our Sin

Like I mentioned earlier, we come into marriage with our history.  We can't leave it at the door; it's part of who we are.  I brought with me my people-pleasing and tendency to try to manipulate people into doing what I wanted them to do.  God, in his mercy, gave me a husband who will not be manipulated.  How convenient for addressing one of my major character flaws - that's God's sovereignty for you!  Because I could not make Colin do what I wanted him to do, I had to learn how to communicate better - talking about things that were difficult or uncomfortable - rather than reverting to passive aggressive behaviors, giving the cold shoulder, or just. plain. pouting.

It is hard to let go of ingrained patterns in our lives.  God uses our spouses and the wow-we're-together-every-day nature of the relationship, within the context of vows made, to reveal patterns of sin that will crumble the relationship if not addressed.  I'm so thankful that Colin is a strong enough man not to bow to a pouting wife.  It's been good for me!

God Uses Our Spouses to Reveal Himself to Us

We'll wrap up a decade of marriage next summer, and honestly, I'm in awe that Colin is still loving me, still likes hanging out with me, still listens to all my jabbering, still tells me I'm beautiful - all in such an affirming and edifying way.  Through his loving commitment to me and my good, I'm reminded that God calls me His beloved.  At moments, Colin is the very voice of God speaking into my life: you are loved; you are cherished; you are precious ... and yes, I do know ALL about you.

That's the most amazing thing to me!  I often find myself so unlovable, yet here is this husband who sticks around through the fun parts of life and through my moods, complaining, and sin.  Praise God for what commitment in marriage teaches us about the great forgiveness of our Lord, the depth of His mercy and compassion, the beauty of belonging to another.

*      *     *

If you are married, Satan would love to undermine your commitment to one another.  We must beware when we are proudly digging in our heels, rather than submitting to our spouse or putting their needs ahead of our own.  Bitterness, judgement, and unforgiveness can creep in so subtly, can't they?  In the book The Power of the Praying Wife, Stormie Omartian tells her readers they must begin with this 3-word prayer:  Lord, change ME.  That has always stuck with me.  When the going gets tough, we look for something or someone to blame (Genesis 3 style.)  In marriage, then, we're tempted to pray things like Lord, change HIM.  Or, Lord, change HER.  Omartain cautions that we must look at our own hearts first, so we can pray for our spouse for his or her good ... not our own!

Let's close today with some action points/questions:
  1. In what ways can you let go of your own agenda to better serve your spouse?  Try something new this weekend!
  2. How has God used your spouse to conform you more to His image?  Praise God for His work in you and let your spouse know how thankful you are God put him/her in your life.
  3. Read I Corinthians 13:4-7.  Ask the Spirit to be working this kind of love toward your spouse into the fabric of your being - it's no lovey-dovey passage ... it's tough stuff not to keep records of wrongs, to be patient, not rude, and so on!

Remember that the point in loving our husband or wife better is to bring God glory.  Look to Him for the strength and energy you need to love and serve your husband or wife sacrificially.  May God bless your marriages as you look back to how He's been at work and ahead to loving one another better.  And feel free to share your own "real life" marriage stories in the comments!

This is Part 21 of a month-long series you can learn more about by starting with Day 1 here.  There are many others doing super cool series this month as well, perhaps you'd like to see the list?

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