The following are true stories… both are stories of love and hope but also of struggle and pain. (The names have been changed.)
The “everything is fine” marriage:
Susan and Bob were heavily involved their local church. In fact, he was the pastor. Their lives were on auto-pilot as they raised their family. He returned to seminary to get his doctorate once the kids were older. When Susan’s father died and they traveled back home to help her mom plan the funeral, it didn’t even seem to occur to Susan to ask her pastor husband to speak at the service; it hurt Bob, but as was their way, they just didn’t talk about it.
The struggling marriage:
Jack and Diane were the model couple. They were both believers who loved the Lord and invested in their marriage and family. Jack allowed his guard to drop and started watching porn as a stress reliever. It took over his thoughts; he began seeking out ways to act out what he watched. He began having numerous one-night stands because he knew Diane wouldn’t do some of the acts he had watched and begun to fantasize about. Diane discovered his porn use and physical affairs, uncovering layers of lies, manipulation, and even pride. Both of them were crushed, and their family as they knew was destroyed. Diane demanded Jack move out, and they began a formal separation process.
The struggle is real. Life is real. Even when we are anywhere between those marriages above, relationships require intentionality. As Dr. Robert Kellemen states, “we live in a fallen world and sometimes the world falls on us.” And, sometimes, that world falls on those we love.
This month we are going to talk about marriage and how we see what God says about the marriage relationship. Mirroring how we ended the post last week, we again focus on the prayer of Paul because these concepts of relationship are important to understand and have huge impact on not only a marriage but on all aspects of relationships and how we relate to the Lord.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19)
Please note that we have hope, riches of glory, and greatness in power. The context of those verses is one of relationship and coming to know that through our redemption in Christ we are not the same people we thought we were. This is a very true reflection of how we should view marriage as well. Unfortunately, many people see marriage as a contract between individuals that live life together. A current dating trend is even a “Dating Contract.” You can do an internet search for templates. One article we read mentioned how a dating contract participant says if her fiance “is at risk of getting on her nerves — for example, by chewing loudly, protesting girls’ night or trashing her new favorite hip-hop song — she can shut it down in a word. ‘I just say, ‘contract,’ and we kind of return to a natural calm state.’” There is no recognition of current individual concerns or legitimate needs or changes that they have both experienced. This doesn’t include, of course, prenuptial agreements, letters given on the wedding day of ‘what I commit to do for you,’ or any version thereof. Marriage is meant to go way beyond that distorted view.
We could explore the theology and origins of marriage, but for the brevity of this blog, we will simply summarize and say that we believe God has ordained marriage from the beginning and that marriage is a reflection of our relationship with the Lord. Our world today battles against this truth, which could be a whole blog post of its own.
What we want to do here is demonstrate our model of relating, specifically in marriage, which we call ‘intentional intimacy.’ In our humanness we can forget that we are created in the image of God and that He is a fundamentally intentional God who loves us very much. God is the ultimate picture of intentional intimacy and what we should base our relationships upon. With that in mind we need to have as a reminder that life is not about us. As husbands and wives, our marriages aren’t about our happiness and our desires. A quote we often repeat in our home is by Steve Austin, “Everything is always all about God.” Look how Ephesians reflects that concept, “…the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:14)
While everything is always all about God, how do we apply that to our relationships? What if we better reflected the character of God? What does that look like? Meditate upon these verses.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
- Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. (Ephesians 1:4)
but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior. (1 Peter 1:15)
If we are to be Christlike, then we should be loving and holy. In our world we often focus on our happiness, pleasure, or comfort. So, we ask, “Are you happy in your marriage?” That isn’t the goal. Are you miserable in your marriage and want out? That’s not the goal either. Well, if our happiness and well-being are not the goals of our marriages, then why should we prioritize our marriage in the first place?
Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31)
The goal of a Christian marriage is to bring God glory. God’s will is the ultimate goal in all that a Christ-follower does and that includes our marriages. Everything we do and are should bring God glory. What better witness to love and faithfulness is a marriage?
The “everything is fine” marriage:
Through some of the required classes at seminary, Bob had to participate in the mentoring program, not as the mentor as he was used to but as the mentored. He was challenged to live with intentional intimacy. Bob began to put that concept into practice in his marriage. He listened closely to Susan, not to fix her problems but to know her heart. He shared thoughts that he was afraid would drive Susan from him but instead they drew them closer. At his Senior graduation dinner, he shared, through tears how transformed his marriage and family were by living out intentional intimacy.
The struggling marriage:
About a year after their separation, Diane left her and Jack’s three children with him while she went to care for a dear friend. Jack had worked hard over the year to draw close to the Lord, accepting that he had ruined the family he loved but determined to be a loving and Godly-again father. As Diane drove back to pick up the children at the end of that long, emotional, exhausting day, God brought to mind each of the different sins her husband had committed against her. Instead of giving over to hatred and self-pity, God gave her the power to say, out loud between her and the Lord, “I forgive the debt.” When she picked up the children, Jack had them ready, helped load them into the car, and stood by the fence as Diane was about to sit down to drive away. She looked at him and said, “I forgive you” and drove away. Her forgiveness that day led to a year-long reconciliation and reunification process. They renewed their vows and have lived an intentionally intimate marriage since that time more than eleven years ago.
If these couples had viewed their marriages strictly through the lens of a contract, both would have ended and felt justified. But, God had bigger plans.
We all want happy marriages — fulfilling relationships with our spouses that give us safety, security, companionship, and unconditional acceptance. However, if we are looking to another human being for all our needs, we will be colossally disappointed. Human beings make mistakes. We get hangry, we get tired, we get sick, we get depressed, we get distracted, we get selfish… the list goes on. Your spouse WILL fail you at some point. However, if you put God first and foremost on a personal and marital level, then intimacies are sweet. Being intentional about relating to your spouse brings vulnerability, but it can bring all those things you desire, too.
In this blog we have often mentioned ‘intentional intimacy,’ so let’s define that phrase beyond its component’s meanings of ‘deliberate closeness’ in light of God’s word. Intentional intimacy is “the passion and desire to pursue being known and to know another deeply for the glory of God.” IT IS ABOUT SOMETHING GREATER THAN OURSELVES!
The amazing part is that we have the opportunity to glorify God in our relationships, especially our marriages. For some of us that might seem like a task too difficult to accomplish, but God empowers us. Peter writes…
His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)
If we obey the word of God and apply it to our relationships, we will not only have better relationships, but we will glorify God in the process. And, since that verse is truth, we can live in His divine power — not our power or the world’s power but God’s power, which is given to us through the knowledge of Him who called us. It is a calling to live for Him. It is a calling to bring Him glory.
With all that in mind, we hope you feel motivated to dig deeper. Please join us each Tuesday in March as we continue to explore marriage through the concept of intentional intimacy.