I was really thankful that I was given the opportunity to write about marriage this week. Not because I am so awesome at marriage but because it is the area of my life that is the easiest to neglect and I needed to remember that marriage is a special, one of a kind gift. This topic has forced me to slow down and do the difficult work of processing through my own thoughts about marriage, what the culture tells us about marriage and about what God says about marriage.
I will be married to my husband Jake for 13 years next week. We started dating in 1999, right before Y2K, the year our technology would shut down and everyone’s jam was Prince’s Party Like It’s 1999! (And you are welcome because now the lyrics “two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time” will be going trough your head for the rest of the day) Can. You. Even. We have seen each other through college, the passing away of dreams, each of us losing a parent, and our own roles as parents. I have spent half my life with this man and the last 17 years have been a gift, not always easy, but a gift nonetheless. Marriage sees so many seasons and requires so much work that it can be difficult to remember that being called into marriage has a holy purpose. So I hope that through these next few paragraphs, we can remember together the sacredness of this calling as we prepare our hearts for the message being taught this weekend at WRCC.
As Christians, we believe that God created the idea of marriage and that He has blessed it. The very first human to human relationship that was created was that of a husband and wife, Adam and Eve. And since that time, families have been the building blocks of God’s world. Through the union of a man and a woman, children are created and the world is filled. Today we are seeing more and more reliable research indicating that healthy, thriving families create healthy, thriving cultures. We don’t know why God has chosen to work this way but He has made it clear that He works through marriage and that it is close to His heart. (Hebrews 13:4 “Let marriage be held in honor among all…”)
I love the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. It has formed much of how I approach marriage. The book can be summed up in this one sentence on the front cover. “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” He goes on to tell about his brother asking him what marriage was like and this is how he replied “If you want to be free to serve Jesus, there’s no question-stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become more like Jesus, I can’t imagine any better thing to do than to get married. Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise.” What wise advice! Marriage is not about sappy Facebook posts or romantic fairy tales. Marriage is not about completing us or making our dreams come true. If we put ourselves at the center of our marriage, it will fall apart but if God is at the center of our marriage, it will have a firm foundation that can withstand the toughest of storms and through those marriage storms our own sanctification is taking place.
So, going back to Adam and Eve, we might stop and question why did God create two to become one? What is really so significant about a piece of paper that legally binds this covenant? We only have time to scratch the surface here but I would encourage you to dig in to this topic. If you do so prayerfully, I promise God will blow you away with the richness of His truth! The Bible indicates that marriage is a powerful foreshadow of Christ’s union to his Bride, the Church. It symbolizes something holy that is coming. We are looking at Ephesians 5:21 but if you glance down to Ephesians 5:31-32, it says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” God has a holy purpose for marriage and through our marriages we can pursue God and his mission. A marriage centered on Christ as the foundation has a sweetness to it that shows the world a new kind of love, a new kind of devotion and a new kind of hope and a Christ-centered marriage is a beautiful reminder to those inside the church of those very same things. So often we want to make everything about ourselves, including our families. But we have to stop that thinking. We have to realize that while marriage is an incredible gift from our very good Father, marriage is not just about us. God created it so that through it we could bring glory to His name and together, with our spouse, pursue an eternal mission.
Anyone who has been married for more than a day understands that marriage can be hard and pursuing any mission with another person can be a difficult and maddening task. There are sure to be fights and disagreements and periods of time where it is difficult to get along, so how can we protect this sacred covenant? I believe we find it hidden in the short verse of Ephesians 5:21. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Husbands and wives protect their marriage by submitting to one another. Here Paul is offering us a way to move past our desires to control and get our own way. We are only looking at Ephesians 5:21 today but I encourage you to continue reading the rest of Ephesians 5. Paul walks us through the different family relationships in his culture and gives very specific advice on how to submit to one another. Notice he doesn’t assign cultural gender roles. Submission is not about the wife having to stay at home for the next 60 years or about who pays the bills. We cheapen God’s design for marriage when we try to make cultural norms God’s perfect truth. Submission is about putting the needs of someone else above your own. It is about saying no to your own flesh so you can serve another. And husbands and wives submit to one another in different ways and it is a beautiful thing! God’s created design is absolutely fantastic. I know from first hand experience that submitting to God first and my husband next has helped me flourish spiritual, emotionally and physically in a way I never could have done otherwise. I have begun to see my submission to my husband not as me following orders but as recognizing my husband has been put into my life to help care for my soul. He has been faithful to that task and I hope I have been faithful as well. But here is the thing, I fail all the time. And that is okay! I am growing and learning and relying on God’s grace to help me.
Submitting to one another is not some grandiose idea that only happens in the bigger moments of life. It is the day to day, mundane activities that creates a heart of submission. For my marriage it looks like stopping what I am doing so I can help my husband find his keys for the 19th time in 5 minutes, it’s making him breakfast when I would rather be doing something else because he is rushing out of the door to get to a meeting, it’s my husband taking all three kids to batting practice, even though he is bone-tired from work, so that I can go to a meeting that is important to me, it looks like him putting aside his favorite hobbies so he can spend more time with his family. It has looked like me saying no to a career for a time so I can stay home and manage the family. But it also looks like my husband supporting and encouraging me in my desire to reenter the work world sometime in the future. These are just small decisions we make daily but it is these smaller decisions that create the culture of our family.
Since the theme over the next 5 weeks is Godly Legacies, I will leave you with a final thought. Now, I understand that not all marriages result in children but children are still watching your marriage and you can influence the next generation whether or not you have kids of your own. So, the question is what kind of legacy do you want your children to see through your marriage? How do you want your children to remember your marriage? Do you want them to remember quarreling and bickering and constant power struggles? Or do you want them to remember a marriage where both parents flourished and grew into the people God created them to be? I want my kids to remember a marriage that was marked by selfless acts and generous hearts towards one another. A marriage that had inside jokes and lots of laughing. A marriage filled with depth of conversation and one where each person was challenged to become more and more like Christ. Is it an imperfect marriage? Yes. But I am okay with imperfect because I know that through our weaknesses my children will see the power of God’s grace. I believe that submission is spiritual and can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that lived in Jesus as he submitted to the Father, lives in us. By His power and in His name, we can submit to one another and build a healthy family culture that brings God glory. And through that we can leave a legacy that will impact our kids, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren for years to come.