Friday, November 11, 2011

Marriage

I am putting together an article on marriage. I'm  sure not an expert and would not have chosen this assignment. Not because I have anything against marriage, it's just that after 29 years of being married I realize more and more all of the mistakes I've made. And, I see more clearly than ever the truth that marriage.is.hard.           

What's so crazy though its that there are more books, sermons, movies, counselors and blogs giving advice and help for marriages than ever before in the history of mankind! A quick peak on Amazon revealed these book titles:


4 Days to a Forever Marriage

The Ten Commandments of Marriage: The Do's and Don'ts for a Lifelong Covenant 

The Rules for Marriage: Time-Tested Secrets for Making Your Marriage Work 

5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great

Reading these book titles leads one to believe it's so easy.  Look, in 4 days you too can have a forever marriage.  In just 5 steps your marriage will be great. With all this help, what continues to be the problem?  Why is it that all this education and wisdom has not been able to help stop or at least reduce the growing number of struggling marriages and divorces?  What in the world is going on here?

I don't know about you, but when I read or hear advice like this, I feel burdened and it weighs on my heart.  I think, what's wrong with me?  Why can't I get it together?  Why can't I be the kind of wife that just applies all these time-tested secrets?  Why can't it all be perfect?  What is so hard about following these 5 simple steps?  Why can't I do it?  I'm a failure, that's why.  The world shouts at me, just do this!  What's wrong with you?  (which by the way applies to all areas of life - parenting, work, ministry and self-improvement programs to name a few) Where does it end? How many steps must I take to continue this path to "success"?

As I wrap up my research for the article I am convinced that just like the world, the church is sending the same message to wives and husbands. Work harder, do more and you too can have the marriage you've always dreamed of. The sobering reality is that it's simply not that easy and relationships definitely do not respond to a 5 step plan or a cookie cutter process. I would never want to take anything away from all those who labor to guide and instruct engaged couples, newlyweds and long time marrieds - we need that and it's important. But to instruct others to believe that it's all up to them is a burden they were never meant to carry. It bears some resemblance to a prosperity gospel. Do all these things, check it off on the list and you will get what was promised. Do the 5 steps and you will get a great marriage. But it begs the question, what if I've done those 5 steps and my marriage is still struggling? You say, "surely I must have done something wrong.".

Let's face it, none of our marriages are perfect.  There are seasons that are better and there are seasons that are extremely difficult.  Newlywed bliss is pretty much a myth.  Even those couples who have made it to their silver anniversary have difficulties and challenges.  Sinners living together 24/7 will have relational strain - there is no way around it.  

If 5 Steps and 10 Commandments aren't the answer...what is the answer?

The short answer is rest. Listen to these gospel words:

Romans 3:10:
as it is written:
None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Romans3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 5:6
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Galatians 5:1
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

What would I tell a couple preparing for marriage?

I don't have it figured out.
Marriage is beautiful.
Marriage is hard.
You will have struggles. It's not a matter of if, but when.
5 step programs won't get you through.
Knowing Christ and his love and forgiveness provides all the security and comfort and acceptance you long for.
Christ came to set you free from striving for what he's already given you.
You are free to love, free to make mistakes.
You are forgiven when you fail and shown mercy when you're angry.
You have received grace upon grace.
When you mess up (and you will over and over in marriage) you fall on Jesus. His love is infinite, his mercy knows no depths, his forgiveness is as far as the east is from the west.

Jesus is the answer to all our struggling and all our striving. It's true.  He really has set us free!

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