This past weekend I spoke at Westside on how our relationships can be made new by plugging into the power of the work Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. I made a statement about my marriage to Steve and I’ve received so much feedback on it. The gist of what I said was that while our marriage was good, I regret that I didn’t have higher expectations for it. I believed the millions of messages I received from people and movies and statistics that implied every marriage is going to grow older, boring and frayed around the edges. Steve and I settled into some unhealthy relational patterns simply because changing them seemed pretty hard, perhaps even impossible. We never would have considered calling it quits, but there were definitely seasons in which we mostly phoned it in. In 2011, when the clock started ticking on Steve’s time here on earth, we worked more diligently to find health and wholeness. I’m grateful for that time, but I wish we would have believed for it sooner. There’s a difference in the way you resolve issues when you’ve got twenty years ahead of you versus the way you do it when one spouse is dying.
So many people contacted me after the weekend messages to tell me how much that idea challenged them. “I need to believe for more for my marriage,” was the most common idea expressed, often followed by a very sad, “but I’m not sure how.”
I’ve been a pastor for about twenty years and I’m not sure I’ve ever known so many couples struggling to keep their love alive. Many of them are longing for answers that work, but are coming up empty in finding them. I know some would disagree, but: I’m not sure pastoral counseling alone is the right answer for most marriage problems. I can tell you what the Bible says about marriage and relating to one another, but I cannot tell you exactly how to do that inside of your relationship which is loaded with history, brokenness, poor habit patterns, unique stresses, personality differences, etc. Even if I had the training and knew all the answers, I don’t have the time to dedicate to indefinite, weekly meetings with all the couples who need it. That’s why we have marriage counselors. They know the science of emotions and how to apply good practices to hard situations. So, if your marriage is in trouble, I will almost always tell you a couple of things:
- It’s worth fighting for.
- Get thee to a good counselor.
- If you can’t afford a counselor or don’t feel ready to take that step, read this book like your life depended on it. Commit to taking every test and doing every single exercise together. The book isn’t faith-based, but – fear not – you can bring your faith right on into it! Have a date every week to meet and go over your work, or set up a time each day to connect and discuss what you’re reading, learning and feeling. Even if you decide to go to a counselor when you’re done with the book, you will have done enough work to know why you need one. Creating awareness about your trouble spots ahead of time can help save time and money moving forward.
- Raise your expectations about what your marriage could look like if you invited heaven in. Sit together for a bit and dare to ask God: “Your will be done in our marriage as it is in heaven…”
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. But in my heart of hearts, I think it might be enough for a couple that is truly devoted to the idea of an All Things New kind of relationship. I’m praying for the marriages in my family, church and community like never before and believing that they will experience and reflect the beauty of heaven right here on earth.
P.S: You can see my message in its entirety here.