“Knowing how close I came to throwing away my marriage scares me…”
Recently we received this note from a couple who attended a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember about 20 years ago, desperate to find some measure of resolve or tools to rekindle the flame that once burned strong in their marriage.
Twenty years later, with a full life behind them, filled with joys and struggles, raising kids and grandchildren, they reflect on the day they almost decided to give it all up. How did they get there? How does any couple signing those divorce documents end up there when only a few years ago they were standing in front of the altar with sparkles in their eyes?
Drift. That’s how. A marriage can never be stagnant. It is always going somewhere. You are either growing on your journey towards oneness, or you’re drifting apart. Every marriage finds itself somewhere on this spectrum between isolation and oneness.
There’s a bigger picture
Marriage isn’t something we invented, it’s God’s idea. He designed man and woman and he had a blueprint in mind for what marriage is. Marriage is not only about the “for-life” commitment a man and a woman make to one another, it’s also the institution God chose to illustrate the gospel. Our story, His story, and this journey of becoming one, all intertwined on our walk with the Lord.
If you haven’t realised it by now, marriage is a big deal for God. So big that the Bible starts with a marriage, it ends with a marriage, and then there’s a marriage ceremony right in the middle too. The writer of Ephesians says: “This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” [Eph 5:32 NLT]
If you’ve been married for more than 2 minutes, then I’m sure you can relate to the idea that marriage isn’t always smooth sailing. We have our ups and our downs, at times we have to brave the stormy seas, but ultimately we are being shaped throughout the process.
Your marriage will shape you
We are being shaped as husband and wife, whilst also being shaped into the character of Christ as we learn how to walk in forgiveness, grace, and selfless service to one another. This isn’t always easy but like Ruth Graham Bell famously said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers”. Ain’t that the truth?
If we can survive marriage we are telling God’s story. Marriage is central to the gospel theme and we have an opportunity to not only survive, but thrive as we intentionally move towards oneness. It’s a journey of surrendering our own selfish nature and submitting to each other in love.
God’s story, the gospel is all about how God had a dream for the world, man fell, He introduced the hope of restoration and then He sent us on mission; the great co-”mission”. Yes, it’s a mission we all get to do together. We are co-labouring with God to live a hope-filled life that impacts our corner of the world.
You’re not alone on your journey
We all have a dream for marriage. This dream comes crashing down (the fall of marriage) when our disillusionments settle in and we realise that we probably believed many of the myths about marriage. The good news is that there’s a hope for marriage and that is achieved when we realise that our union is “in Christ”. When our marriage is built on this foundation we realise that there is also a mission for our marriage; to impact our corner of the world.
The problem with most marriages is that we tend to oscillate between isolation and oneness, when in fact there’s a much bigger purpose at play here. We are called to impact our corner of the world, but when our marriage is suffering, that is a really difficult thing to consider.
Family is one of the most untapped resources to bring good to this world, but before we can bring good to the world, we need to step into God’s master plan for our marriages.
In this series about the Dream, Fall, Hope, and Mission of marriage we’ll unpack these concepts in a bit more detail and show you how your marriage story is also God’s story and how flourishing in your marriage is a high calling we are all called to.
So if you’re in a space right now like the couple above who were thinking about putting their marriage in the “too hard” basket, may I encourage you that there is hope. There is something far more significant at play and your spouse is NOT your enemy. You can start today and move forward on your oneness journey.
From Isolation to Impact
I’m glad they didn’t throw in the towel because today their marriage is impacting not only their children and grandchildren in a positive way, but also those many relationships in their lives. All because they decided to stick together and allow God to tell His story through their marriage.
Nobody said it would be easy, but it’s certainly a journey worth taking.
If your marriage is in a great place, may I encourage you to keep growing together on your oneness journey and think about a couple in your world who needs to be impacted by your marriage. Your marriage has a mission and you don’t need to be perfect to infuse hope into other couples’ lives, you simply need to show up authentic, caring, and carrying the hope that you hold to. This hope is contagious and the world needs more of it.
No matter where you are on this journey, remember that your story isn’t over yet. Allow the author of life to tell His story through your life and your marriage. In your story from Isolation to Oneness to Impact, would you allow Jesus to co-author your story so that you too can look back on a life well lived and a legacy left for your family?
In the upcoming articles we’ll unpack each of the following movements in God’s story and your marriage story some more:
This article was originally written for Manna Christian Stores’ community site.