Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Perfect Marriage


When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. ~C.S. Lewis

I have started writing on this subject several times, deleted some of it, and rewrote it several more. I suppose it is an important topic to me because I have a soft spot for marriages, more to the point, for mentoring young wives and mothers, wives and mothers of any age with troubled marriages, and even single ladies who wish to be married. I am not sure what my Lord wants me to do with it exactly because we have a very small church and the women's ministry that is doing well. What I would like to do is a bit more specialized and perhaps not a large group ministry type of thing.

About two years ago we had more members in our church and some were having martial problems. The pastor began a Sunday night study based on Fireproof, a Christian movie about a couple whose marriage was falling apart. I remember one of the questions asked in the first part of the study was if anyone had a "perfect marriage." Immediately, everyone rolled their eyes and shifted in their seats: young and old, short term and long term couples, couples who had only been married once and couples had been divorced and remarried. Everyone had the same reaction and everyone agreed that there was no such thing as a "perfect marriage." Everyone, that is, but me.

Perhaps my motivation was that I have this aversion to going along with the crowd, or that I like to shock people so they will consider different ideas on the subject, or maybe I just see things from a different perspective. In all honesty, I myself am not always certain of my reasons, but I was praying it out to make sure whatever the reason that it would be to serve my Lord's purpose. So, I hesitated in giving my opinion as I sorted it out until after most everyone else had voiced their opinion on the matter. Then I said something to the effect that I believed in the perfect marriage but my expectations of a perfect marriage probably differs from the expectations of everyone else.

You see, I believe a perfect marriage is not where the couple never argues and gets along all the time and is always in agreement. To me, the perfect marriage is about good communication and sometimes there will be a bit of arguing. In the movie Jerry McGuire, Jerry is frustrated with his client, Rod Tidwell, who says: "See, man, that's the difference between us. You think we're fighting, I think we're finally talking!" If done with respect and with the goal of not just expressing one's thoughts but relating them so the other will understand the motives behind the thoughts, arguing, to me, is just working out some kinks in communication. I rather not argue, but I do not see it as an evil thing that will split my marriage apart. Some of our arguments end with laughter, some have involved door slamming, most ended with an apology, but all of them never really end until both of us felt that the other understood why we held the position we did on the matter, even if we still disagreed. Some would call that agreeing to disagree, which is a term that I personally find irritating, but it works for some people, I suppose. I do not have a term for it; I just consider it a part of life that my ideas will not always meet with approval from everyone else, including my husband.

Set aside the arguments, a perfect marriage is simply one based on the Lord being Master of over the couple, family, and home. Between the couple, there is trust, respect, compassion, and edification—you probably noticed I did not write "love" in that list.

Most people think love is necessary for a good marriage and I agree on that point, but I do not agree with most people about what love is. In truth, love is a choice. It is choosing to be committed to a person each day regardless of how life turns out. To me, it is not a feeling, for feelings change; I have fallen in love with my husband many times, which means that I have often not felt "in love" with him, and yet I have always loved him.

Love places a binding connection between people that can never be severed even when the two part ways completely. Ask anyone who has been divorced about their ex-spouse. I have known many people who did not have children and after their divorce had nothing to do with their former spouses, yet I can still hear the remnants of love, that unsevered connection, when they talk of them. Whether good or bad or even feigned indifference, there is still an underlying emotional connection, if only one of regret.

Anyone who has lived through abuse knows that love can be twisted into a confining straitjacket or manipulative puppet strings. Some would say that is not real love, but it is love that binds us into such situations at least in the beginning, because one can love and not be loved back; it is always a hurtful situation for the one loving the other who does not reciprocate even when the relationship is pleasant.

I once knew a Christian woman whose drinking husband ridiculed her beliefs and generally made her life miserable. She stayed with him and prayed for him. She felt the Lord wanted her to continue in the marriage and try to help him see Christ in her sacrifice and service to his cruel and demanding ways. I wish I could say the story had a happy ending, but the truth is I moved away and we did not stay in touch. I used to think she was just crazy, but I was very young then. I have changed my mind on that issue, because I since have seen some marriages just like hers completely changed by my Lord's Hand and, if not the marriage, the believing person in it. This woman kept her focus on God even though her home was at times a punishing place. She relied on Him more for her emotional needs than on her situation or any person, and it gave others the opportunity to minster to her also. She trusted Him more on a daily basis to provide the love she needed than most people with good marriages. So, I see that she had something that I may have lacked at the time and, if our goal is to keep our focus on God, to trust Him completely, and grow in discipleship, then we should have Paul's attitude when he was in prison of thanking God for all of it and rejoice when suffering because we are being purified.

My husband and I had a very rocky start to our marriage even though I was certain God had chosen him for me. The first three years...we often say that the wedding was x years ago, but the marriage started x - 3 years ago. Those first three years seem unreal to me now, and I am still not sure how either one of us survived it. We both had more than the average baggage from our pasts and some of it was still involved in our lives right then also. My husband nearly had a breakdown while he was losing the battle in seeing his daughter and I felt I was ignored and alone holding on to a sheer cliff by my fingernails trying not to fall back into an abysmal depression, as I had just a few years before. However, with God's guidance through that time we grew very close and we learned to communicate. My husband knew I would not leave him when things got rough and I knew that he would place me before his own interests. Eventually those wounds inflicted by our former lives healed, fusing us in marriage together with God. That was when we began to realize we had a perfect marriage.

A perfect marriage does not just happen. In truth, our perfect marriage did not really begin three years after the wedding; it began the day I asked my Lord to provide the man He wanted me to marry and that I would not rely on my own judgment but His only. My husband was not saved during those years, although both he and I thought he was. He will tell you that he asked the Lord into his heart because of our marriage and the next six months things changed significantly. Our marriage had to be refined and is still being refined.

The perfect marriage is not an unattainable goal, nor is it an easy marriage, nor is it ever stagnant; it is an ever-changing living entity created by a man and a woman seeking to please their Perfect God. The perfect marriage is the one that serves God's purpose and helps us to see God's purpose and helps us to desire God's purpose, even if only one person in the marriage is willing to accept this.

Lately, I have been asked to pray about some troubled marriages, some families I know and some I do not. From the ones I know, I hear things like "I am fed up..." or "He/She did [this and this and that]," such things, no doubt, that I once said myself. I do not hear surrendering the marriage to the Lord or the willingness to accept the Lord's purification of the marriage and these are indicators to me when even Christian marriages are falling apart. I hear things that cause more and deeper wounds to both themselves and their spouses and their children. I hear hate-filled hearts. And, there are times when even I think the couple or their children would be better off if the couple would separate...but that is very difficult for me to admit because I do not agree with divorce, even though (or perhaps especially because) I have been divorced. However, the decision is not one that should be made on how one feels. Love as a feeling is a wickedly volatile vapor and divorce never severs the binding connection of love.

I do not have all the answers about what makes a perfect marriage, but this one thing I do know: All wounds can be healed, fusing the couple in marriage with God, but if God is not the focus, if the "what I want in a marriage" has priority to what God wants or has provided in the marriage, then it is not serving God's purpose and one must get his/her heart right with God first, before one will accept how He will purify and perfect the marriage.

~ My Lord, thank you for purifying my marriage, for making it perfect. Help us to honor You in our marriage always. ~

2 comments:

  1. Seeking I read this yesterday but didn't comment because I wanted to think about it some more. Having thought lol, for what it's worth, I don't agree 100%. See I hear you talking about an ordinary marriage & yes, communication is key, but what of the marriages where one partner becomes mentally ill, or physically debilitated or in some other way incapable of good communication. The perfect marriage is a matter of the will, of abiding by the marriage vows, for better, for worse, in sickness & in health. Like so much else it is less about what we do, or don't do, than about having the right attitude before God. Them's my thinks for today. Tomorrow they may be different. ☺

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  2. Ganeida, having lived with an abusive parent, I understand somewhat what you are saying, for such people are mentally unbalanced and usually controlling; this does make for an unbalanced marriage as well. Where you say the perfect marriage is a matter of will, I would say love is a matter of choice and God perfects the marriage, which could mean giving a person strength to make the sacrifices necessary. Basically, we are saying the same thing in our own terms on that part.

    In regards to communication, I did not mean to give the impression that "good communication" is what most would expect to be "ideal communication." My relationship with my husband basically started by phone and I now see that as one of the ways our marriage was perfected for he has always worked long hours and has had to travel. I am content because we are able to communicate well when we are apart so much, but I know that some marriages do not endure this well because one, if not both, of the couple need physical presence to feel they are "communicating." Likewise, I believe that there are differing forms of communication one may need to master or be given by God according to His purpose in the marriage.

    If you had not had the challenges you have, would you have leaned so heavily on Him? Would you have learned to listen to Him? Would you have become the parent God could have used to develop children with such a heart for missions and serving God? We are often convinced that such answers we may not really know, but then I think we are given such answers and know them in our heart.

    And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~Romans 8:28

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.