Tag: Marriage

What 40 Years of Marriage Can Do for Kids

We piled into the small suv with my brother, Luke, and sister-in-law, Miranda. The “in-law” part feels artificial when you really are family. We pointed the car east, to Aggieland, for a rendezvous with my other brother and sister-in-law, Ben and Megan, and my parents. The Saturday afternoon laid open before us, like an unfurling map, winding our way through conversation, high and low, blind to our surroundings. A few conversational lulls afforded my the opportunity to rehearse my speech. I really wanted these words to count, to land in the heart.

We all converged, from the east and the west, at Madden’s casual gourmet. Open wooden rafters, well-worn wood plank floors, and twenty foot ceilings. Ben, Megan, Mom, and Dad were already there, at the table, waiting for us. After a barrage of hugs and smiles we all sat down to celebrate my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. Conversation zipped along the runway and we were off, traveling the airways of children, parenting, theology, church, and marriage.

We paused in the gaiety to reflect on the grace flowing from my parents’ four decade commitment. Parental marriages carry incalculable influence. I knew it was photoimpossible to estimate the impact of their mutual, spilling over love, but I had to get some of it out. Growing up, you have no idea how much your parent’s relationship affects you. You take it for granted. Occasionally you will compare or contrast it to others, but very often it is simply the water you swim in. You take in the good and the bad and just keep swimming. Upon reflection, I knew there were things I needed to surface with them.

First, thank you for your fidelity and friendship for forty years. We have watched your marital love and commitment strengthen, through thick and thin, and we have benefited. I have carried the example right into my own marriage. My wife is my best friend. My parents love life. They enjoy European culture, love struggling souls through deep brokenness, and give from a place of generous, mutual love. This love has been tested. We watched them fight as we grew. It wasn’t a plastic marriage with flaws hidden, it was real, deep, and always moving towards the Redeemer. Many people can’t look to their parents as an example of fidelity and friendship, but I can, and I am grateful.

Second, thank you for loving the church as a family when the church was hard to love. Growing up we had some weird and good church experiences, but one thing that is fixed in my memory is that church went beyond the walls, walked beyond the Sunday service, and ate leisurely together. Looking back, I realize that I have a foundation for church as a family from my parents pursuit of people outside of programs, events, groups, and services. They loved their friends. We would drive out into the country and enjoy home-cooking, run the rural fields, go fishing, all on a Sunday afternoon, with the church, with people who were utterly changed by Jesus. My parents could have understandably turned their backs on “the church”; they were hurt, snubbed, misunderstood, but deep down they knew that is all part of being an imperfect family, and that the galvanizing element isn’t mutual love but a singular love, the outpouring of the life and grace of Christ.

Third, thank you for praying this for each of your children for years and years: 

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 4)

Man, did I test that prayer request. We all did in our own ways–struggles with greed, skepticism, and sex. The deceitful siren call wooed us more than once, and I walked pretty far from the truth, from enjoying the love and grace of my Savior more than any other love or grace in this world. But they prayed me through. My parents plead with God that their son would leave the pig sty and come home, and they were there, every single time, running to meet me in the street, arms wide open. I dirtied their clothes in my embrace, and they didn’t even care. They were just happy their lost son had come home, that God the Father had answered their prayer, their son, now a very imperfect but committed disciple, is walking the truth, the truth of the gospel of God’s marvelous grace.

Thank you Mom and Dad, for praying us all into the truth, into Christ. We love you. We carry an intuitive inheritance of marital friendship, fidelity, and more than I realized, a model for loving the church as a family. There are more riches here than we will ever know. We stand on a heap of refined gold, may we follow your generous gift, may each of our children walk in the truth, may the graces cascade even more, from the Father, Son, and Spirit, through our marriages, onto our children, through the church, and out into the world.

When Marriage Messes Up

What is marriage for? Is marriage a social or cultural convention? Is it a silly obligation intended to “legalize” sex or short-circuit pleasure? Marriage actually has enduring purpose and and points away to deeper pleasure. God created marriage, male and female he created them, as a reflection of his relationship to us (Gen 1:27; 2:18-25; Eph 5). Marriage is by God and for God. Whenever we turn it around—marriage by us and for us—we mess it all up. It backfires. Inevitably, we all mess marriage up, which is why it’s so important that we know how to turn it around. We need a clear bearing on how we’re to exist as spouses. How does this marriage thing work?!

Marriage is by God and for God.

Marriage is a precious gift from God. When we respond to God about marriage, we bend it around his intention like a potter shapes a piece of wet clay, forming it into something stunning and useful. However, when we refuse to turn our marriages around, and reject what our marriages are made for, they devolve into competitive need-meeting, which eventually hardens, dries, and becomes brittle. When your need—not God—is in the middle of marriage it will crack. However, when our marriages are regularly splashed with the grace of God’s purpose, they can be shaped into something more beautiful and satisfying than any human can account for.

Beliefs About Marriage Matter

I have been married for eleven years. The second year was hell. Screaming matches, threats, curse words, tears, passive-agressive, pain, confusion, anger, withdraw. If we believed that marriage was about us, about getting our needs met, we would have walked away in year two. I’m so deeply grateful we didn’t. What moved us through a difficult year, and into thriving years, and later on through suffering years, and back into thriving years, was our common belief that marriage is not only a precious gift but also profound stewardship. To be more plain, we believed that marriage was penultimately about us and ultimately about God. We knew that we made a commitment to one another second and a commitment to God first.

Marriage is not only a precious gift but also profound stewardship.

Marriage is a profound stewardship before God. Sure, it is a wonderful gift but sometimes it doesn’t feel wonderful. And feelings do not get you through hell or suffering in marriage. What does and can get you through is truth. The truth about husbands and wives, when believed, so reshapes feelings that marriage becomes something molded, not around our expectations but around God’s expectations.

You Don’t Complete Me

God tells me that my marriage is a mysterious display of a greater relationship between Christ and the Church. That the husband sacrificially, humbly leads and the wife respectfully, lovingly follows. But my society tells me that my marriage exists for my happiness, that it is meant to “complete me” in some pipe-dream Jerry Mcguire sense. That we are two identical halves waiting to fit together. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are more like two puzzle pieces, very different, with egdes that need smoothing, but are meant to fit together with each playing its intended role in the overall picture of God’s wise and kind design. We are wonderfully equal but incredibly different.

My feelings tell me that marriage is relationship that should bring me substantial, if not inordinate satisfaction. God tells me that He alone can bring me inordinate satisfaction (Psalm 16:11). Our feelings often lie but God always tells the truth. When marriage messes up. When conflict, hell, or suffering come will God’s truth shape your feelings or will your feelings dictate a new “truth” (“I married the wrong person.” “This won’t work.” “We fell out of love.) These are need-centered, feeling-based cop-outs from God’s marital design.

Grace-shaped Marriage

Will marriage be about you and your needs or about God and his great purpose to shave off your edges and draw you closer into Him? Will marriage be by you and for you or will it be by God and for God? When marriage becomes less about us and more about God, we can settle into appropriate expectations and joy as husbands and wives. And when we return to God as our great Husband or Lover, we can love and respect, lead and follow in harmony. We will have a bearing on what God has made us for. What we believe about marriage matters, and when we believe what’s true we can experience joy in marriage. When we insist on what is false we harden. In God’s design, we can be so splashed by grace that marriage becomes not only a profound stewardship but also a precious gift, useful and stunning.

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Read to grow your marriage in grace:

HT: ACL Blog

The Gospel & Single Loneliness

Loneliness is more pervasive in our society, and in our churches, than we’d like to admit. Cities bustle with activity and coffeeshops are packed, but people work and drink in loneliness. What’s the remedy? How can we work through our loneliness, especially as singles, when everywhere we look we perceive relational connectedness among marrieds, families, and communities?

Jayne Clark offers a very helpful response to the issues that surround loneliness in her booklet Single and Lonely: Finding Intimacy You Desire. She empathizes with loneliness but also exposes the futility of relational strategies, pointing us to the intimacy of union with Christ. She writes:

The real solution to loneliness lies not in marriage, but in our union with Christ, which leads to our union with one another.

If you struggle with loneliness, I encourage you to read this booklet prayerfully and discuss it with some friends, a Fight Club or a City Group. You can read the entire booklet for free online at CCEF. Also, consider sharing some of your struggle in the comments, and how you’ve found strength or joy or encouragement in it.

Resources on Gospel-Shaped Marriage & Dating

Dating

Marriage

  • Sacred Marriage (Gary Thomas) – argues that marriage is for holiness as much as it is for happiness. Love this quote: We dont fall out of love as much as we fall out of repentance.
  • When Sinners Say I Do (Harvey) – heavy on the gospel-centered dynamic between husband and wife
  • God, Marriage, & Family (Kostenberger) – uber-biblical, with a twist of practical. Great for reference and finer concerns.
  • The Momentary Marriage/free ebook (Piper) – God-centered, biblical, and practical. I really enjoyed this new book by Piper that sets your marriage in the larger context of the glory of God and the mission of the church.
  • The Mystery of Marriage (Mason) – more philosophical reflections on marriage. Our copy of this book is legendary. We read it in 2000 and keep bumping into people who have read our copy, and say they love the book. Weird.
  • Love that Lasts Riccucis marital wisdom for a lifetime. The Riccucis are transparent and helpful.

Also see recent sermon: Restoring the Symmetry: Marriage & Singleness