(Notes from my breakout session at Abide conference)
I’m happy to be with you! I love marriage, not because it’s always blissful but because it’s God’s amazing plan. It’s the bedrock of our society and of our relationships.
All my life I daydreamed about marriage. I knew I’d need a job, but I never wanted a career. I only wanted to be a wife and mom. When I was 20 I married my college sweetheart. We’d had dramatic conversions to Jesus a few years earlier and I thought that was enough for us to have a good marriage. I didn’t pay attention to the red flags. In 6 years our marriage ended. He didn’t want the restraints of marriage or Christianity. He left me with our little boy and I was pregnant with our daughter. I was devastated and didn’t know how I’d recover.
About 6 years later, I married Tom. We’ve been married 36 years; marriage has been wonderful and hard. We’ve had 2 children, which makes 4 total. And we have 4 very cute grandchildren!
I didn’t know as much as I thought I did about marriage at first & I’m still learning today!
It’s so important that we have God’s perspective, & that takes hard work! It takes no effort at all to be transformed/ brainwashed into the world’s way of thinking. We hear the world’s messaging loudly all the time through different media. Transforming our minds isn’t for wimps! It’s intentional life-long work. We have to study & embrace His Truth. We can’t be passive & driven by feelings. We can’t let ourselves fall in love with this world.
Show examples of world’s angle in magazine.
“Don’t allow this world to mold you into its own image. Instead be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing and complete.“
“Make it your aim to learn what pleases our Lord. Don’t get involved with the fruitless works of darkness, instead expose them to the light of God.“
What comes to mind when you think of marriage? Why did you want to be married, or do you want to be married?
I wanted someone to make me happy and take care of me. I was totally selfish.
What does the world teach us?
It says, “find your soul-mate, be happy, fall in love.” People are looking for someone flawless and rich. They want potential partners to be perfect for them, but they expect to be accepted as they are without changing.
Women & men have misunderstood God’s beautiful design & abdicated the original purpose. Brokenness makes us twisted.
Women have endured abuse, and reacted by trying to be like men, denying femininity. They hoped for freedom & happiness but sometimes their plans backfired and they were hurt instead.
When we disregard the beautiful qualities God created in women, we miss the potential and value we have at home & in society.
Men & women need each other. We can try to compete with God’s plan but we’ll be most fulfilled when we live in agreement with it.
What has the church taught us?
It hasn’t had a lot to say about marriage, historically. My children were taught to save sex for marriage, but not much else. Someone said, “sex is dirty, save it for the one you love.”
With all the education kids receive, like “safe sex” it’s so frustrating to me that they’re not taught about marriage. They don’t realize its benefits. No relationship has been more distorted and undervalued.
I hope you have godly examples in your life. The best education comes from watching married couples in daily life. The best gift we can give our children is a thriving marriage.
Over the centuries marriage has changed a lot. Before the 18th & 19th centuries, marriage was an institution that gave stability to children and the society as a whole. Couples were usually faithful and bound to their covenant.
After that time, marriage became more me-centered as it is now. How can I find someone who makes me feel how I want to feel and attain what I want in life?
What does God say about marriage?
The Bible begins and ends with a wedding! Between the weddings is a story of the Great Dance; our love relationship with God. He keeps pursuing us even when we reject Him. In the OT we read of His love for His people Israel. In the NT we learn about our bridegroom, Jesus & His love and sacrifice for us.
The last wedding is in the book of Revelation. At the wedding feast of the Lamb, the church will forever solidify its oneness with Jesus.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. Then He created man. God looked at His creation & called it good, except for one thing. The man He created was lonely and needed a companion. God put Adam to sleep and removed his rib, then He made a woman from the rib. She was a perfect fit because she was a part of him. When Adam saw Eve, he said, “At last!” “Meeting you fills a void in me” This was the first wedding.
God made us for relationships, not to be alone. Adam & Eve were to steward the earth and have dominion over all living things. After them, people would continue to bear children & build civilizations one generation after another. Eve complemented Adam and helped him in areas where he lacked ability. In all the world, a woman was the answer!
God planned for man & woman to live in paradise, but life became difficult when they sinned against God & were banished from the Garden of Eden. HIs design for marriage didn’t change: a man would leave his family and cleave (adhere) to his wife and they’d be one.
The man & woman would join together sexually and emotionally to create an unbreakable bond which would fortify them & help them oversee the new world. If you think of anatomy it’s easy to see how perfectly God made a man & woman to be together.
The word ONE in these verses actually means ONE. Numerically one. One flesh. Perfect. A completed end goal.
2 pieces of paper- pink & blue- have a volunteer super-glue them.
God had unity in His mind from the beginning. Unity with Him and in marriage. Oneness has always been God’s plan.
Satan has tried to destroy oneness from the beginning. He despises men & women and the prospect of man being reconciled to God.
Harmony, unity and oneness that God designed were damaged after the fall.
Today division is natural and oneness is unusual.
One of God’s great purposes in marriage is to picture the relationship between Christ and his redeemed people.
Marriage works when we follow the pattern of God’s selfless love.
ABIDE is our conference theme.
Jesus said “I am the vine and you are the branches, if you abide in me and I in you, you will bear great fruit. Without me you will accomplish nothing.”
John 15: 5
The gospel of Jesus & marriage explain each other. When God invented marriage, the plan for Jesus’ salvation was already in His mind.
In John 17, right before the crucifixion Jesus’ thoughts were on you and me! It’s impossible to fathom His Love! He thought of his disciples and people like us who’d come later, RIGHT BEFORE HE WAS KILLED! He prayed about our oneness with Jesus and the Father. He couldn’t wait to be in heaven with all of us. His divine love and oneness with His Father spilled over into humanity!
“In this moment, Father fuse our collective glory, and bring Us together as we were before creation existed. You have entrusted me with these me who have come out of this corrupt world order. I have told them about your nature and declared Your name to them, and they have held onto your words and understood that these words, like everything else You have given Me, come from you. … I’m now making an appeal to you on their behalf. This request is not for the entire world; it is for those who you have given to me because they are yours. Yours and mine, mine and yours. For all that are mine are yours. Through them I have been glorified. I’ll no longer be physically present in this world, but they will remain in this world. As I return to be with you, Holy Father, remain with them through your name, the name you have given me May they be one even as we are one.
John 17:5-10 The Voice
“This prayer is also for all the believers who will follow them and hear them speak. Father may they all be one as you are in me and I am in you, may they be in Us, for by his unity the world will believe that you sent me. I’m not asking solely for their benefit; this prayer is for all the believers who will follow them and hear them speak. Father may they all be one as You are in Me and I am in You; may they be in Us, for by this unity the world will believe that you sent me.”
Being one with Jesus is the only way we can carry out His purposes in the Kingdom! Being one with Him prepares us to be one in marriage.
Another benefit of marriage is that it’s a ministry. It’s not for just the two of us; it’s also for the people around us.
In the best of godly, strong & loving marriages a home is a beacon of light that attracts & rescues others. A home with kindness, expresses hospitality in encouragement over family meals and practical daily help. Marriage can be a healing center, where people come for peer counseling and then try to take the model of wholeness back to reshape and heal their own broken families.
Oneness between spouses is one of the greatest illustrations of how humans should get along. It reflects the harmony of the Godhead.
Marital ONENESS shows people what AGAPE is. Couples stay together and are faithful even when things are difficult. They HONOR THEIR COVENANTS—one with their spouse and one with Jesus.
Marriage is also the absolute best method of populating the earth and showing younger generations how to love and live in community. We’re told in God’s word to love our brothers and sisters. We need to remember, our husbands are also our brothers.
Let’s be honest, marriage is also HARD! It comes with a LOT of conflict, because we’re two different people after all. Satan’s mission is to divide but we can learn to use our differences for good.
Differences aren’t right and wrong-they’re like a multifaceted diamond. We see things through different angles & filters…our differences increase our value together.
I never liked conflict. Growing up I learned to avoid it. I thought conflict was wrong. We should be nice & and get along.
I’ve learned I don’t need to be afraid of conflict in marriage. It can be positive and instructive. It’s helpful to expect conflict ahead of time and imagine how to handle it.
If my beliefs, attitudes and behaviors were never challenged, my character wouldn’t improve. Conflict changes me. Trying to escape conflict in marriage doesn’t work. You have to deal with it together.
If I consider that my own self-centeredness is the main problem, I’ll have a better marriage! Another way to say it is, (as a friend said) I’m 51% of the problem.
I’ll share a recent story from our marriage.
I was very angry with my husband. He took a long phone call just as he walked through the door after work, already late. Supper was waiting. I felt justified in my anger. I also knew this was an opportunity to redeem a bad situation. (I was very sensitive & accountable to the fact that I was mentoring others through my blog.) I went outside for a walk to blow off steam, then came inside to shower. I couldn’t believe he was still talking. When he finally got off the phone, I had a choice. I could respond by pulling away in pouty silence WHICH IS MY NATURE, or I could move towards him in love, and share my feelings. Tom apologized before I spoke. I hugged him, told him I loved him and thanked him for marrying me. Then I said, “I’m still really angry with you!” It was honest and I needed him to know. Coming together diffused my angst, and I put my head on the pillow that night with a good feeling about how we’d navigated conflict. Growing up, I never saw conflict modeled in a healthy way; I’m grateful for what I’ve learned.
I hate divorce even more because I’ve gone through it! I always worry for the children. My family, especially one child, has been affected negatively by my divorce so many years ago. It alters your life. Divorce is like a bloody amputation.
Try to tear apart the pink & blue paper apart. It won’t separate cleanly. Divorce leaves bits of each spouse in the other one.
Don’t ever think that if you bail in your marriage and look for a new spouse, that you’ll be better off. It’s 1000 times better to repair a marriage than to try to replace it. And it’s more rewarding & cheaper too.
Studies over many years have shown that divorce doesn’t usually make people happier. In a study of 645 unhappy couples, ready to divorce, of the ones who stayed & fought for marriage, 50% said they are happier now than they ever thought they could be.
If you’re struggling in your marriage and aren’t able to resolve your problems, you may need help from a counselor or pastor.
…wives you should patiently accept the authority of your husbands. This is so that even if they don’t obey God’s word, as they observe your pure respectful behavior, they may be persuaded without a word by the way you live.
1 Peter 3: 1-2
This verse indicates how our life can affect husbands even if they aren’t Christians.
How to live in Oneness:
Freedom is found in God’s design. Every organization or society has someone in charge. Members support the whole by carrying out individual, distinct roles. It’s similar in marriage; we each have our roles so the family functions better.
And remember, the Scriptures we’re referencing are written for believers in Jesus.
We need the Holy Spirit to help us love & prefer another person. The Holy Spirit-filled life is the normal life for Christians.
“The Father is sending a great Helper, the Holy Spirit, in my name to teach you everything and to remind you of all I’ve said to you.”
The Holy Spirit helps us do what we can’t do alone. We’re selfish. It’s against our nature to surrender. But, true freedom comes when we surrender completely to God and His Plan.
We live in the world, but we don’t live the way the world lives. We live in the kingdom of God—a civilization that reflects heavenly qualities and surrenders to King Jesus. We’re ambassadors of that kingdom even while living on the earth.
Jesus reiterates oneness in marriage.
“For this reason, a man will leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”
“And the Spirit makes it possible to submit humbly to one another out of respect for the Anointed. Wives, it should be no different with your husbands Submit to them as you do to the Lord, for God has given husbands a sacred duty to lead as the Anointed leads the Church and serves as the head. (The church is His body; He is her Savior.) So wives should submit to their husbands, respectfully in all things, just as the church yields to the Anointed One.
Husbands you must love your wives so deeply, purely, and sacrificially that we can understand it only when we compare it to the love the Anointed One has for His bride, the church. We know He gave Himself up completely to make her His own, washing her clean of all her impurity with water and the powerful presence of His word. …husbands should care for their wives as if their lives depended on it, the same way they care for their own bodies. As you love her, you are ultimately loving part of yourself. …There is a great mystery reflected in this Scripture, and I say that it has to do with the marriage of the Anointed One and the church. Nevertheless, each husband is to love and protect his own wife as if she were his very heart, and each wife is to respect her own husband.”
Ephesians 5:21-33 (excerpts)
Here are 7 things I’ve learned in my marriage:
- LOVE IS A VERB
PUT ON LOVE like you slip into a jacket.
It took me years to learn to express love to my husband in a way he understood. I had to make a habit of touching him. I hug as soon as I see him. Scratch his back when we’re sitting together. Reach for his hands. I like touch too, but don’t thrive on it as much as he does. It became a daily habit like exercise or brushing my teeth. I do it without thinking now. Agape love is action, not a feeling. Sometimes you’ll feel all lovey dovey and other times it will be an act of obedience. That tingly feeling may not show up as much as it did at first. Life with its mundane aspects and unrealistic expectations get in the way of romance. It only takes one of you to change the course. Be that one! Your feelings will catch up to your obedience. Do things that express love to the other one, even if you don’t feel like it.
“Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly love,clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together.”
“A good marriage is made up of 2 great forgivers” Ruth Graham
“Be kind and compassionate, graciously forgive one another just as God has forgiven you through the Anointed, our liberating King.”
You can tell if you’ve forgiven your spouse by asking yourself: “Do I still want to punish him?” Let your revenge go; get free from your anger.
Forgiven people are forgiving people.
Forgive immediately. Side note: Forgiveness isn’t the same as trust. Winning back trust takes longer.
3. PUT EACH OTHER FIRST
Marriage comes before kids, ministry & friends.
The best thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse.
Spend as much time together as you can—work against isolation. (especially us introverts.)
Try not to be too busy!
Move toward each other, not away from, especially in conflict. I used to think being quiet in conflict was more holy, but it’s not. Address your point of contention, and find resolve.
Celebrate your covenant; your relationship. You know how much trouble you go to to celebrate your friends & your children? Treat your husband that way. Use the gifts you have (the things you’re good at) for him.
Couple I saw on social media, married 86 years—best tip–togetherness!
Date each other. My friend Courtney just had her seventh baby. 🙂 She and her husband have a date each week. He brings a meal home for the two of them and they watch a movie after the children are asleep. If they can do it, you can too!
4. COMMUNICATE, NOT JUST TALK.
ASK HIM HOW YOU CAN MAKE HIS LIFE BETTER. BE READY FOR AN ANSWER!
When I asked my husband this question, I thought he’d tell me there was nothing I could do to improve; I was such a perfect wife. Believe it or not, he actually had some suggestions for me!
REALLY LISTEN/ DON’T INTERRUPT OR REACT/ LOOK AT EACH OTHER.
Thank him for something you take for granted like his hard work. Comment on something you admire about your spouse, when you start to criticize.
One time when Tom and I were driving I thought of something to criticize. I touched his back and started to talk when something (the Holy Spirit) stopped me. Tom said, “What?”, knowing I was about to speak. I quickly said, “You’re sexy!” He knew that wasn’t what I intended to say; we both laughed.
5. INITIATE SEX SOMETIMES EVEN IF YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT
Keep your marriage alive and happy.
Tell him “I belong to you; I’m part of you.”
“Hold marriage in high esteem, all of you, and keep the marriage bed pure because God will judge those who commit sexual sins.”
“Because of our tendency to embrace immoralities each man should feel free to join together in sexual intimacy with his own wife, and each woman should join with her own husband. Husbands and wives have reciprocal duties. Each husband has the responsibility to meet his wife’s sexual desires and each wife should do the same for her husband. In marriage neither the husband nor the wife should act as if his or her body is private property– your bodies now belong to one another, and together they are whole.
1 Corinthians 7:2-4
Put worries aside; kiss, hug, smile, renew your wedding vows often with sex.
The person we love the most often gets our worst.
We may be super-spiritual around others, but if we’re serious about walking in the Spirit, we’ll love our husband well.
“If someone claims, “I love God,” but hates his brother or sister, then he is a liar. Anyone who does not love a brother or sister whom he has seen, cannot possibly love God, whom he has never seen.
1 John 4:20
6. PRAY FOR YOUR HUSBAND & PRAY WITH HIM.
7. CLOSE ESCAPE ROUTES
Never threaten with the D (divorce) word. That door closed when you made a covenant. Have the mindset that you’ll stay together no matter what. Marriage takes more than love. You have to be willing to change, grow up and be unselfish.
Speak blessings not curses over your husband and marriage.
Only God knows what benefits will eventually come from your marriage, the effect it will have on children and others, as they watch your faithfulness. There’s nothing more important to me than mentoring younger people, personally or from a distance. Not by perfection; but feebly walking out the redemption story in our lives as we become closer to Jesus and each other.
We’ve been through a LOT of hard places. I didn’t know how I’d survive. A severely disabled daughter who kept us up all night, week after week. She’s an adult now, and still requires constant care, still isn’t able to communicate. An accident at work which could have killed Tom. Painful job situations. The terrible effects of abandonment on the children of my first marriage. Tom and I have had times of forced separation and cold emotions…but we’re still here!
A few weeks ago, I got up before my husband left for work, which I don’t do regularly. He leaves very early. After a quick hug & kiss he ambled out, a little more leaned over than he used to be, and climbed into his car. He held his right arm awkwardly due to his latest surgery. His hair has thinned; what’s left is of the gray frizzy variety. He’s still brainy and nerdy like way back when we met. I smiled; he looked good to me. I longed for it to be 12 hours later so he’d be back home. I have friends who’ve lost their mates. I can’t imagine. He’s my person and I’m one with him. We’re an inseparable unit. Also, he calls me “Gorgeous” and I believe him.
Our marriage has grown us into better people, and we’re still learning how to love each other. I think we’re becoming who we were meant to be. We’ve become our glory selves, as Tim Keller says.
*Some notes to share with the women: I’ve been through some really hard things since I’ve been married. God has been faithful through it all, but it hasn’t been easy. I don’t know what difficulties you’ve had; I just want you to know I’m here to encourage, not to judge or discourage you in any way.
*My thoughts today don’t address serious issues like abuse, addiction & infidelity. Please get additional help if you need it.