Turning points in my marriage…
“…The problem is that people don’t know how to be married. They don’t
actually get married in many cases, though they go through a legal and
possibly a religious ceremony. They are, sad to say, incapable of
marriage—the kind of constant, mutual blessing that can make two
people in conjugal relation literally one whole person (Ephesians
5:22-33). It is not their fault. In their world, how could they know?
Who would reach them? This is the soul-searing fact at the heart of
our modern sadness.”
-Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart
These words of Willard’s are so challenging. Certainly his words ring
true with me as I consider the culture.
His words also make me want to break with a longstanding pattern – I’m
actually going to share something about my marriage.
In the past I’ve been reluctant to share because I’ve wondered what
people could possibly learn from our marriage. My wife Nikki and our
relationship has been a gift, pure and simple. Still, there might be
something encouraging in our story. Certainly I know when we’ve
received the gift of knowing Jesus we can share about it, as a gift.
I guess that means I can share about this other gift I’ve received -
Seven turning points come to mind – and maybe one of these would apply
1. I remember the day, sitting at my dormitory desk, a short time
before our wedding, when the weight of what I was taking on hit me. I
realized I couldn’t love my wife in my strength.
I voiced the words to the Lord: “God, you’re going to have to give me
the strength – I can’t do this in my strength.”
I didn’t feel anything dramatic – but I didn’t need to – I’d made a
transaction with God.
2. Before we got married, I’d seen one Christian couple who had
devotions together – and I concluded that we should pray together
before we went to sleep, so we started that practice right off the
bat. (I understand it’s much harder to start later!) Thank goodness –
the practice has served us well over the years.
3. After we were married, some of my other turning points involved how
I thought about our marriage, which of course shaped how I acted. The
writer T. Austin Sparks helped me see the immensity of what marriage
is about. He described how any problem in a marriage touches the very
honor of heaven! Our conduct in marriage affects God’s glory –
negatively or positively. We – every married couple in or out of
Christ – are part of the eternal drama of good overcoming evil.
4. I needed to repent from bad patterns of thinking. Something that
helped me repent was another book: Lovers: Whatever Happened to Eden?
By Donald Joy. (I realize not everyone can respond to books that way,
but God can bring conviction in various ways!)
I realized that there was subtle condescension in my attitude towards
women – including my wife. I needed to repent and change – and see her
as my equal and completion. We are one flesh, in two bodies.
5. Of course, my repentance needed some outside help. There came a
moment in our marriage when my wife said: “I’m going to get some help
for myself – what you do for yourself is up to you!” After seeing how
talking to a counselor and going through a relational healing course
helped her – I realized I needed some help.
Now you may say – well, I don’t need counseling. Maybe not – but you
probably need outside friendships who can point out God’s truth and
expose the lies you may have been unconsciously believing.
6. Even recently we took the scary step (for both of us) of going to a
“Marriage Encounter.” It’s a particular style of marriage retreat
which teaches a great communication skill and thus transforms – at
least for us – a ho-hum and functional marriage into something deeper
and more fulfilling.
7. This is a subtle turning point, but oh so wonderful. It’s the
turning point of renewed vision. I need vision to “keep on keeping on”
in the gift of marriage. I found it in a friend’s book recommendation:
The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason (unlike Donald Joy’s book – it’s
still in print!) Mason draws wonderful word pictures which helped me
start to grasp this wonderful truth:
“As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is
joined to his wife and the two are united into one.’ This is a great
mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church
are one.” (Ephesians 5:31-32 NLT)
That’s what we are about – illustrating God’s relationship with those
who know and trust Him.