marriage stuff, for both the marrieds and the nots

Posted: November 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

Our pastors very bravely did a brand-new-to-them thing the last couple of weeks:  they gave the message TOGETHER.  “Tag-team preaching,” or something of the sort.  The two messages were “The Problem with Men” and “The Problem with Women.”  Both messages are well worth a listen (hence I took the time to link them here.)

One of the things I greatly appreciated was that while the messages contained a lot of information for navigating marriage, they weren’t just marriage messages.  There was an abundance of stuff that applies to ALL relationships, from family to work to one’s circle of friends.  The message for the men had a wealth of help for me about myself.  The message for the women was chock full of good stuff for the men as well.  I love that it was handled that way; years of sitting in church as a single person left me weary and a bit alienated when messages would focus solely on married folks, leaving me to feel like I couldn’t be a true part of the church until I found myself a husband.  I haven’t encountered that problem at our church; I’m grateful for that.

Having said that, today I am (as I so often do these days) focusing on marriage – but it’s kind of more a message for the not-yet-marrieds, so hang in there if you’ve made it this far, eh?

One of the points made in the messages was something I think can’t be said enough:  as a spouse, you are responsible to do the right thing, regardless of whether or not your spouse is doing the right thing.  That can feel like a very hard truth, in a world where we we do most things conditionally – a sort of “I’ll hold up MY end of the bargain as long as you hold up YOURS” proposition.  If the other party starts to fail, we tend to think…well then, we’re off the hook.  “Why should I work at it, if my spouse isn’t going to?”  This is very common, very human thinking, and if you go that route, experience has shown me, there will be an ABUNDANCE of people agreeing and supporting you as you retaliate.  It’s kind of who we are as a culture at this point.

But as I noted yesterday, God’s ways are not our ways.  We are called to a different standard.  It’s really true:  as a spouse, you are responsible to do the right thing, regardless of whether or not your spouse is doing the right thing.  This can be an exceedingly difficult way to walk, but the quiet mystery of it is that your choice to still show up, still love, and still make right choices can be a catalyst for your spouse to return to doing the same.  Your obedience to God can be a powerful force in restoring your spouse when they are struggling and stumbling.  This precept is how marriages last a lifetime, instead of just for a season.  It ain’t always pretty, but it is deeply beautiful.  It sometimes takes unreasonably long, but really we are participating in eternity here.

One element of walking this out is the all-important “trusting God.”  When your spouse is off the rails, you can surround them in prayer and trust that God will speak to them.  He will.  And here’s where my message today shifts from the marrieds to the not-yets:  part of this equation is that you also are trusting that your spouse can and will hear God speaking, because he or she knows Him, speaks to Him, listens for Him, and serves Him.

You’re not going to be able to trust in that, if your husband never knew Him in the first place.

You’re going to struggle to believe your wife will hear Him, if she calls Him “Lord,” but has historically not done what He says to do.

You’re going to doubt that he’s able to hear from God, if he’s never been a person of prayer.

You’re going to fear that she’ll never surrender to His leading, if surrender really never was her thing at all.

You’re going to worry that he won’t follow His lead, if his habit is to know what God wants, but do his own thing anyway.

This is why we have to be so careful, as we are watching for “the one” to arrive on the scene.

This is why we have to look so closely at how someone walks with God, and not just check “She’s a believer” off of the list and think that’s good enough.

This is why how much he understands what God’s directives are is a crucial question.

This is why we need to spend time praying with the person we are dating, and watching whether her life follows suit.

This is why we have to guard our hearts so diligently, and not give them too quickly and thus blind ourselves to who the person really is.

We have to do the “hard work” up front.  We have to look, pray, measure, and discern before we even start down that road.  We have to look around in our own lives, and find the people who follow God hard, and ask them what they think of a prospect we are considering dating.  We have to ask a lot of questions.  We have to look at how the person’s life is working – are they living what they believe, or just talking it?  We have to be patient when we want to run into the whirlwind.

And – here’s the major ouch – we have to be relentless with ourselves.  We have to not tolerate the making of excuses, the shinnying around what we know for the sake of convenience.  We have to BE the spouse that we want to have.  We have to do the work, and not just look at whether the other is doing his or her work.

It seems like a hard way to walk.  But when we do this work early, we end up being the person who can hold up our end of the bargain, and we find a spouse that we can trust to hear Him – even if she hits a downhill slide, even if he loses his mind for a little while, we can know that he or she will come around and hear Him.

If we don’t do the hard work early, holding up our part during the bumpy spots later is going to be exceedingly difficult.  It’s really WORTH doing the hard work early.

If you haven’t yet found “the one,” my prayer for you is that you’ll willingly do the hard work early, and reap the great benefits of it later.

If it’s too late for that, and you didn’t do the work early, and now you’re floundering as your spouse is failing – there is hope.  God is faithful.  My prayer for you is that you’ll let Him strengthen you to hold up your end anyway, and that your spouse will be drawn to do the same.

If you’re one of those folks who did the work early and can testify to its value:  who are you leading along this path today?  Who are you mentoring?  Whose relationship are you speaking into?  If you’re not, please look around and get busy.  Too many marriages aren’t making it these days, and YOU are an important tool in changing that.

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