10 Things I Think I Think About Marriage

wedding-ringsChristine and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year and it’s motivated me to think about what I’ve learned (and am still learning) about my wife, myself, marriage, and God’s grace. I think that I’ll have more to share later but this seems like a good place to start.

10 Things I Think I Think About Marriage (aside: I’m pretty sure that the phrase “I Think I Think” originated with Peter King and his Monday Morning Quarterback column in Sports Illustrated)

1. I think I think that we pay much more attention to the state of our marriages than the Bible does. Listen to people talk, walk through Barnes and Noble, find out why most people seek counseling, observe the best selling Christian books and most attended Christian conferences and what you find that they have in common is the topic of marriage. We are consumed by the pursuit of having the ideal marriage. What seems a little odd to me is that marriage isn’t discussed that much in the Bible. Make a list of the passages that deal explicitly with marriage and I think that you’ll be surprised how short it is.

2. I think I think that the reason that the Bible doesn’t speak about marriage as often as we’d expect it to given our interest in the topic, is because we’ve put the cart before the horse. Let me explain. When the Bible does speak about marriage, it’s usually near the end of a letter (see Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3). In both instances the apostle Paul spends the first half of the letter laying out key doctrines and then in the second half of the book he applies that doctrine to various life issues. I understand that to mean that knowing and believing solid doctrine and theology is foundational to a good marriage. Believing good theology is the horse that pulls the cart of marriage.

3. I think I think that we’ve substituted technique and skills for Christian maturity. Much of the “counsel” about marriage whether it be found in books, seminars, or the advice of a friend, seems to deal with “how to’s: How to argue, How to divide up roles and responsibilities, How to budget, How to show love, etc… All the emphasis on skills leads us to think that we are good people who just need a few pointers, but it misses the important point that in reality we are selfish sinners. The main problem in any marriage is the sin of each spouse. While learning certain skills can surely be helpful, those skills don’t address the core problem.

4. I think I think that we might be better off focusing less on our marriage and more on becoming the right kind of Christian. When Christine and I had been married a very short time, a friend who was recently engaged asked what advice we’d offer. I remember saying that I’d found that my main job was to focus on growing in my relationship with God. If I was living out the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control), my marriage, like all my relationships, would go well. And of course if I lived out of my sinful nature, none of my relationships, including my marriage, would go well. There’s not much I believed when I was 22 that I still believe today but that’s one piece of advice that I’d stand by.

5. I think I think that we expect marriage to be something that God never intended it to be. Many of us think marriage is supposed to fulfill us but I’m not sure that’s a biblical perspective. I do think that a good marriage can be a a great source of joy, encouragement, and companionship but maybe that’s not God’s ultimate intention for marriage. Marriage doesn’t appear that often in the gospels but one place it does show up is Mark 10 where Jesus addresses the issue of divorce. What’s interesting to me is that Mark places this passage in a section of his gospel that deals with discipleship. It almost seems out of place until you realize that he’s put it there because marriage is for many people a key part of the discipleship process. Marriage is meant to refine you and change you so that you become more like Jesus. Sometimes that’s a painful process as you see your sin, confess it to God, and ask him to make you into the person that he wants you to be.

6. I think I think that when I get frustrated or angry with my wife, it says more about me than it does her. I’m learning that in those situations my first response needs to be self-examination. Usually I find that I’m the one with unrealistic expectations or a selfish agenda. But even if I think that she’s wrong on some issue or that she’s at fault in some way, maybe that’s a time for me to be patient with her and love her instead of attacking and accusing her.

7. I think I think that we might be better off treating our spouse as our neighbor or even our enemy. It’s ironic that Jesus said to love both our neighbor and our enemy but many Christians can’t love the person they are married to.

8. I think I think that in Jesus famous saying, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” we’ve focused all our attention on the wrong half. The reason that we are not to separate is because God has joined us. Think about that. God brought you and your spouse together. That’s pretty amazing. It means that behind your story of how you met, fell in love, and decided to marry, the God of the universe was at work. Your story was (and still is) part of his greater story. Meditating on this truth should give us confidence that God is at work in each of our marriages. It should give us great comfort to know that the God who loves us is using our marriage to make us into the person he wants us to be.

9. I think I think that the most helpful passage on marriage is found in Luke 7:36-50. While you should read the entire passage, the key verse says “Therefore I tell you , her sins which are many, are forgiven-for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). Jesus’ point is not that some are forgiven much and some are forgiven little. His point is that some sense and feel how much they have been forgiven and some don’t. When you realize how much God has forgiven you, you become a person who loves much, serves much, and forgives much (to just name a few of the changes believing the gospel makes in our life).

10. I think I think that a person who forgets they are a great sinner is the hardest person to be married to. As soon as you think that you’re a great husband, you start finding fault in your wife. But if you can remember that you are hard to live with, that you have great sin in your life, that you do and say a lot of dumb and insensitive things, then you will find it much easier to extend grace to your husband/wife when you see his/her faults.

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