You might be expecting me to tell you that the way that God fits into marriage is to make sure to put him first. To keep him at the center. But I’m not going to talk about those things today. I’d like to tell you something else I am learning about God and his place in my marriage.
My husband and I fight. We don’t tend to yell or name call (though there have been times I’ve been guilty of both), but we definitely wound each other with insensitive choices, pick on one other with lazy ways of saying things, and withdraw from one another when we feel hurt. When my withdrawal kicks in sometimes it feels like the “jaws of life” couldn’t pry me out of the cast iron barrier of self-protection.
When communication goes haywire, and lines start getting crossed it can be particularly hard for me to remember that my husband and I are on the same team. Sometimes it just seems like he is advocating for a style and system of life that I just don’t know how to roll with. And when my expectations (both silent and spoken) aren’t met, I sometimes experience anger and frustration that makes me question the true quality of my character.
There are a lot of ways that we work to put God first in our marriage (and we intend to continue in these patterns). My husband and I both have regular rhythms of personal prayer and time reading the Bible. We pray together several mornings a week for our marriage, our children, our church, and our friends. We team together for ministry that includes our positions at FCC, our leadership in Missional Community, and our roles as mentors in small group discipleship. We attend the FCC Marriage Retreat Weekend together. Conversations about the beauty of the gospel are a regular and genuine part of our friendship. But we still fight. We still struggle to understand one another. We still treat each other unkindly. And we behave in selfish ways.
What I am learning about God’s place is my marriage is what a champion he is for the process of my husband and I learning how to love each other better. He is not nearly as surprised as I am at the ways we fail (he has, after all, watched every marriage since the beginning of time) and he has all the patience in the world for my husband and me as we fumble through the ups and downs towards marital bliss. He is not nearly as shamefaced as I am about the childish and ungracious attitude that arises in my heart during conflict. Instead, he looks into my hurt, and often resentful, heart and asks the gentle question,
“Is this what you want? I don’t think it is, Shannon. I think you want to love and be loved. I’ve seen you love your husband and I’ve seen you receive love from him. You two can do this. I’ll show you the way.”
God has shown the way. He came to his bride (his people in the world), expressed kindness and love to them, meekly received their rejection and abandonment in return, and then gave up his life so that she could be saved. Then he gave us the rest of our time on earth (so far, thousands of years) to figure out how to do the same for one another.
He has also left us with the gift of his spirit – the one who gives us power and strength to choose a life of sacrifice and forgiveness for one other, just like Jesus.
One of the hardest parts of making up with my husband is believing and trusting that he will do well with my heart again – and growing the grace and strength to know I can accept the pain of conflict when it comes.
God doesn’t require me to supply that trust, grace, and strength on my own. He only asks about my willingness to become that kind of spouse. He will work it out in me when I come to him willingly and in prayer. It’s the story he wants to tell in all of us – the story of imperfect people who are willing to become more perfected through a process of love, pain, prayer, and forgiveness.
God fits into marriage in any spaces of the heart and mind he is invited, at any time.
I encourage you and your spouse to check out the FCC Marriage Retreat Weekend for more connection and encouragement in your marriage.