Don't get me wrong, this is not a desperate cry for help to save a struggling marriage. On the contrary, this idea comes from the eternal thinking I've been doing lately, as well as from the great book that I finished recently.
For quite some time, I've been anxiously awaiting reading Francis and Lisa Chan's new book, You and Me Forever. I'm a big fan of Chan, and his words always seem to cut straight to my brain and make me think about things in a new way. His firm Biblical grounding is always appreciated, and he never ceases to spill every ounce of his emotion into his sermons. I've seen him live several times at conferences, and it is clear that the Lord is at work within him. Check him out at http://www.desiringgod.org/authors/francis-chan. Needless to say, You and Me Forever did not disappoint. I really enjoyed getting the perspectives of both Chan and his wife, and I found myself sticky-noting page after page as their words struck me.
Here are a few of the main points that Christians (married or not) need to hear:
1. Marriage isn't most important. Stare at God more than your spouse.
"Marriage is important, but it's not most important. When we focus on what is most important, our marriages will thrive because they will be functioning according to their design. But if we focus too intently on our families, we will actually fail at life, and therefore at our marriage." (Chan & Chan 96)
Don't focus on marriage, focus on Jesus. Like we tell our YoungLife kids all the time, even good things can become idols and lead us to sin when we place them before God. Coming from newlywed-land and the perspective that comes with it, I see far too many couples my age who are focusing everything on their marriage (with good intentions), but are failing to focus on the Lord. When two people are right with God, they will be right with each other. This was definitely a great reminder for me. There's nothing wrong with loving the person that God gave you to marry, but you hurt your marriage by neglecting your relationship with God. Chan writes that "Marriage is great, but it's not forever. It's until death do us part." Once we reach heaven, marriage won't look the same. We've got to get our eternity right, and we should want our spouse to do the same.
"If we don't stare at God, we'll spend our time staring at lesser things. Namely, ourselves. This is the mistake a lot of couples make. They spend a lot of time looking at themselves....but very little time staring at God." (25)
2. Want to be like Christ more than you want to be right.
Man....this one is hard for me. Very convicting. I've definitely learned in the last two years that I'm a lot more stubborn than I thought. And I like to be right. I'm also an English teacher, so I'm pretty good with words, and sometimes I use them to win an argument in a way that may be hurtful. Marriage is teaching me more and more every day about my selfish tendancies and what it looks like to be humble. I'm a work in progress, but if I can focus on being more like Christ, I'll be on the right track.
"Humility is the key to a healthy marriage. If two people make it their goal to imitate the humility of Christ, everything else will take care of itself....Arguments escalate when we want to be right more than we want to be Christ... Soon, all we want is to win, even if victory requires sin. The one who ins the argument is usually the one who acts less like Christ." (68)
Even when we are upset, or truly feel like our spouse is at fault, it's still not a time to demonstrate just how right we are. Jesus showed grace to us all, shouldn't we extend the same to those we love most?
"It doesn't matter what he said or what he did. The question is whether you want to experience God's opposition or His grace. Is it more important for you to be right? Or to do what's right? (86)
3. Display Christ to the world through your marriage.
What does the world see when they look at your marriage? It's crazy to think that for the large majority of people who never step foot in a church, your Christian marriage could be the most visible picture of Christ that they ever see. I remember being overwhelmed by this idea right before our wedding. I wanted our ceremony, and our lives, to be a reflection of love that demonstrated the way that the Lord loves.
"Displaying God to the world is the purpose of the church, and it's also the purpose of marriage. People should see the way I serve my wife and get a glimpse of the humility that Christ showed. Anyone who sees Lisa joyfully following my lead should understand more deeply what it means for the church to follow Christ out of their respect and trust for him. God created marriage to be a picture that displays Christ to the world." (56)
This is also so convicting. The way that I respect and follow my husband's lead should be a picture of the way that the Church follows Christ. Wow. I'll admit, I fail at this sometimes. I'll never be perfect, but if I can keep this image in my mind as I walk through my marriage, hopefully I can start to help others understand God's bit picture. People are watching.
4. Let God be God, and let your husband be your husband.
Ladies, we are designed to help our husbands and to accomplish so much more for the Lord WITH them than we could without them. Remember, in the Bible it was not good for Adam to be without a helper. BUT, we have to be careful with this. The Lord is the one who gives us worth. He is the one who meets our needs. We can never place this unnecessary burden on our husband by expecting them to fulfill us fully and holding them to unrealistic, godly expectations. That's not fair to either of us.
I struggled with this early on with Aaron. I didn't realize it, but I had some pre-formed expectations that he just wasn't meeting. He couldn't read my mind to know what they were, and he felt defeated by knowing he couldn't meet them because they were unrealistic. While desires to be with our spouses and delight in them aren't bad things, I was placing too much on him, simultaneously hurting Aaron and forgetting that God is my first love. When something feels off, it's always good to check our walk with God first.
Bring your prayers, struggles, and desires to God first. Not to hide them, but to ensure that we don't expect our husbands to be God. This will free them up to be who they were designed to be- our husbands.
Are you staring at each other more than God? Are you painting a picture of Christ through your marriage? Do you always have to be right? Are you letting your husband be your husband? View your marriage in the light of eternity, and things look different. Check out http://www.youandmeforever.org for videos, discussion guides, and more!
I'm linking back to this post on What Joy is Mine, 3D Lessons for Life , Missional Women, The Diary of a Real Housewife, Busy Being Blessed, Spiritual Sundays, and the Faith and Fellowship Blog Hop.