What God has Joined, Let No One Divide (Thoughts From our 21st Anniversary)
“The grass is greener where you water it.” I heard this on a podcast recently and it cracks me up. How many areas of my life have I gotten bored, frustrated, or fed up, and decided to switch gears, jump-ship, change roles to something more exciting or faster paced, only to realize all the same problems came along with me!
There has been one aspect though, that I have never wanted to change. Our marriage. From our days of dating, we talked about staying together and avoiding getting divorced. Yet, like so many couples, there have been seasons of disconnectedness, when we’ve been two ships passing in the hallway. One going to sleep and rising earlier than the other. One exhausted from their career, the other from life’s stress. We were both trying our best to succeed, but on a path without true north road signs. During these seasons, we would often get tripped up by a normal, avoidable pothole, enflaming anger and prompting the desire to withdraw.
My approach to our disagreements is to talk it out, avoiding going to bed angry. “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26 As I read more of what apostle Paul was saying and the Psalm he was quoting, “Tremble (or in your anger) do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” Psalm 4:4. I begin to understand there is tremendous benefit of not sharing every emotion in the heat of the moment. By sitting in silence and searching my heart, I am more apt to reflect: Why am I angry? What is the root of the issue? What old baggage did I carry here? More times than not, it’s not the small pothole that is blown out of proportion, it’s the past fights that never got resolved, the ones that are swept under the rug, yet remain the elephants in the room.
Apostle Paul is teaching us to use our words to build each other up according to the other’s needs, (not my needs) and not to give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:29 and 27 respectively).
If I sit in silence, how do I assess our situation:
- Am I watering the roots of our love?
- Am I putting stakes in the ground and running strings to allow our relationship to grow upward?
- Am I pulling the weeds of distrust, control and negotiation that are hindering us?
- Am I nourishing our souls, in the Word and community soil God desires for us?
- Can I say Jesus is the center of our marriage?
If we cannot answer that last question affirmatively, there is a large chasm spreading between our marriage covenant. We can both be striving for a great marriage, even holding tightly to the idea of loving each other well, but without the help of God and the Holy Spirit, it’s just us against the world (and each other). Just a contract signed in front of a judge or priest, for as long as we can fight it out, but not binding our hearts unconditionally, as in a covenant marriage.
I bet we all can agree that life provides enough distractions. There is very little encouragement to make time for each other. When did it become far easier to spend weekend time with other couples than one-on-one with your spouse? When did kid activities overrun the calendar, splitting families late into the evening and many weekends, causing many to parent on the fly? Responses to this are “we are doing fine, getting by, we are dividing and conquering”. Friends with older kids say the separate living won’t get better once you’re an empty nester. In fact, I feel like I’m hearing more and more stories of the divide and conquer and the division of labor scenarios leading to dividing up of assets and family holidays.
This is not what God desires for us or our marriages.
God wants to bridge the divide. He desires our relationships to be of unity, togetherness and oneness.
“Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:22-24
The Bible refers to one flesh or oneness, as being one before God. As Marcus’ wife, I don’t lose any part of myself or my joie de vivre in marrying him, instead I become more fully who God designed me to be (and vice versa). Wow! The scriptures go on to say once God has joined us together as one flesh, let no one separate. (Mark 10:6-9) Not kids. Not friends. Not activities.
Maybe it’s time for each of us to come to God in humility and tell Him what a mess we are, that we want Him and the guidance of His Holy Spirit in our life. Here is a radical question: Do you act as though your marriage is the most important asset you possess? Do you invest time and energy in it like you might in your business, stock market and/or retirement assets? Do you consider how your marriage has the ability to impact hundreds of generations?
As my husband and I celebrate 21 years of marriage today, we talked about some of the preconceptions we had back in our twenties. I recall being shocked when I realized we didn’t like the same toothpaste. My parents always used the same tube of toothpaste, I assumed once the Priest said “I now pronounce you husband and wife” that poof our preferences would become aligned. My husband wasn’t having any of that magical wand theory. He stated he preferred cinnamon Crest to my mint Colgate and it was perfectly fine to have two tubes in the same drawer. As ridiculous as our naïveté sounds, it makes us laugh to think of all we were not prepared as we entered into married life. It is also a sweet reminder to be grateful for all that God surrounded us with: a great church that feeds us, and friends who teach us truth and about living Biblically, especially tithing. A cheering section advocating for us to work less, and take a Sabbath rest. Encouragement to live on one salary and have a parent home with our children. Invitations for mission trips, father-daughter trips, mother-son trips, not just to travel but to build into friendships and the next generation (ours and theirs). These are the hands pulling us back up as we stumble along rough paths. These are the hands pulling us closer together and closer to God.
Even with 21-years under our belt, we know our hard work and good fortune doesn’t mean we are in the clear. The enemy lurks. I feel him distract, disrupt good habits, and whisper lies in ears all too often. He is predictable. Anytime he sees any good steps taken towards God (the Kingdom advancing) he wants to stop it. He will divide. And he will continue to nip at our ankles until we yell at him to leave!
This spring we enrolled in a marriage class though our church. We invited some of our closest couple friends to join us. The homework is challenging. We have arguments. Yet we are grabbing hold of the tools, we are asking Jesus to expose light into our conflict. We are tackling the elephants in the room, bringing the arguments into focus, hopefully sweeping them straight out the door, once and for good! We appreciate these classes as an opportunity and an investment. There is no shame in improving what you love so dearly. So, mom, dad, mothers-in-law, and friends who are reading this, ask us how our marriage class is going. By seeking guidance and not keeping it a secret, we are also sharing these topics with our teenagers. It is so sweet to hear them praying for us and the other couples who are attending the class. We are giving them a front row seat to witness the intentionality and spiritual protection needed for an amazing marriage. They will get to watch the transformation in ours and the friends’ families who are participating too.
Heavenly Father – Thank you for this vision of Marcus and I walking in oneness, standing as a united front here on earth and as we stand in judgement before you, our Lord. We desire a thriving marriage with Jesus in the center. Please continue to deepen our level of intimacy and trust, and not holding onto records of our wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). Please help us communicate when distraction takes hold. Alert us to the enemy lurking near our home, we won’t let him divide what you have brought together. In Your Son’s amazing name, Amen.