Marriages are often characterized today as “loveless relationships.” It is a kind of an oxymoron, for if there is no love, it’s not much of a relationship. So how do we love each other when faced with challenging times of marital hurt and painful dysfunctional behavior from our spouse? Do we just recite our vows and try to “keep the pledge till death do us part?” A kind of "fake it until we make it."
The marriage union is much more than making a pledge by signing a piece of paper called a "Marriage Certificate." It is also more than simply "role playing," which is no more than "play-acting."
When a man and a woman are joined in marriage, they become one entity, what the bible calls, “one flesh” (Mark 10:18). It is a mystical union (Matt. 19:6) that our human finite mind does not fully appreciate or understand. A male and female are joined in a union where they give and take from one another. God intended marriage to be a "two-in-one-relationship" that expresses the character of God who is the source of marital union and intimacy.
So why so much dysfunction in marriages today and who often gets the blame? Oftentimes couples believe that each other is responsible for the dysfunctional behavior in their marriage and even give their spouse credit for having power over them. Making excuses, he/she made me “do it.” What your spouse chooses to do should never be the reason, nor an justification for you to react or to revert to self-pity. Neither is love simply denying yourself. It’s not a martyr complex, “poor me.”
You may feel sadness and frustration from a spouse who repeatedly expects you to fulfill their greatest need, or isn't even interested any longer in you. They may not show any interest in spiritual things as they once did and as a result you may be physically and emotionally drained and exhausted, not knowing what to do. This however, is the sad commentary of attempting to do marriage in "your own strength," which is a work of the "flesh."
We have all been there in our relationships and can certainly empathize, but no marriage partner should have that kind of power over you. Yes, you can grieve and pray that they might enjoy what you are experiencing but don't let the enemy rob you of the intimate joy that that is yours in Christ and don't allow their dysfunction become your sole focus. Your "walk of obedience" is the very thing that will potentially captivate your spouse but a down cast attitude, a whining and complaining spirit, will only turn them away. Peter reminds us of the power of Christ working in us. "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives" (Peter 3:1).
Your focus should be your relationship with Christ and how He wants to respond through you, not just a 'right' response and certainly not dependent on a spouse's behavior. What a novel thought, living from relationship with God to experience relationship with our spouse. How else do we expect to live relationally?
Marriage, like being Christian, is not “do right” religion but is participating in an intimate relationship with God’s grace activity. It’s not trying to get it right but being who you are in Christ. The “how” of experiencing intimacy with God is by our receptivity and availability to an ever-deepening relational intimacy with the person – Jesus Christ.
Intimacy is experienced as we relate to an intimate God, and participate with him relationally and consequently the only way we experience intimacy in marriage.
Marriage is “other orientated” but until we experience LOVE (Jesus) it’s impossible to express love. Therefore, your response is FIRST, for you and only secondarily for your marriage partner. What I mean by that is that God wants you to experience him first, and then, through you he will love your partner. You can’t express something you don’t know experientially.
Notice, who is the source of true love. As you choose to love, you experience love! You are not responsible for your spouse behavior, which would lead to a “codependent-kind-of-love.” Your "response-ability" is to “respond-to-God's-ability,” which is the only character that will meet YOUR needs and satisfy you and as a result allow you to respond in love toward your mate.
Paul wrote in I Corinthians chapter 13 describing love. The following are a few insights gleaned from this passage of scripture that would relate to any relationship that we find ourselves in, including marriage.
Love is unselfish and believes in what God is doing. It is the receptivity of God’s love, which is faith, that gives the expression of love. Love is the basis of trust and expects God to overcome all things. True love is directed toward others and desires that others have everything you have, and more, not simply getting what you want or your needs met.
Love is not resentful or judgmental and seeks to commend, not condemn your spouse even when you disagree. Love agrees to disagree agreeably. Consequently, love is not dependent on the "lovability" or behavior of your spouse doing right for you to act in love.
Love doesn’t compete and does not engage in comparison, “I’ll love you, if you love me.”
Love is not self-seeking, fighting to be in control of another person. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. Love surrenders control issues.
Love seeks the highest good of the other, with no thought of benefit to oneself. There is no self-orientation in love.
Love is willing to suffer hurts and is longsuffering.
Love builds-up your struggling mate and edifies; it is always constructive, not destructive (it’s not about winning or being right). Love cares and is kind and is not offensive.
Love in a marriage bears all in-sensitivities and believes that God will mold us together as we endure the inevitable marital conflicts (OK - fights!).
Love does not take matters into one's "own hands" to resolve the problem but always shows deference to each other and yields to what God is doing, thus, love is willing to engage in loving confrontation and is also willing to turn the other cheek.
Love is willing to work through one’s own emotional blocks, which allows us to be sensitive to our spouse when we disagree, acknowledging “God isn’t finished working on me yet.” Love admits I’m not flawless.
Love does not demand its personal rights and is not suspicious and learns to trust rather than doubt.
One of the hardest realities for Christians, is learning to live "in the less than idealistic" situations that they find themselves in, enjoying the sufficiency of Christ as being more than enough, and not feeling like they are lacking because their relationships are not what God may have purposed them to be because of an unwilling partner. Our view of life and marriage relationship is NOT to be dependent on our spouses "loving performance" and therefore distracted from focusing on our true love - Christ. Until we fully enjoy and appreciative the intimacy that we have in loving union in Christ we will never be content with our partner and their shortcomings.
2 Corinthians 9:8-9 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, “He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.”
Let us truly be in love with Christ more than our mates, only than will we be able to enjoy our marriages as God designed.
Remember as a Christian couple, you are first in a marital union in Christ, in relationship with the person of Love-The Trinity, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit and therefore, "As you choose to love, you experience love" because it is God who is at work in and through you.
Saturday, July 1, 2017