Before I move on to the second level of spirituality and marriage, I want to share some thoughts from Gary Thomas, author of “Sacred Marriage – What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than happy?” They fit right in with what I’m talking about. (Excellent book – I highly recommend it!)
When asked “why should I get married?” Gary responds as follows:
“If you want to be free to serve Jesus, there’s no question – stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become more like Jesus, I can’t imagine anything better to do than to get married. Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise.”
God meant for marriage to be much more than a joining of two so they could live happily-ever-after. That may be what gets us to the honeymoon stage, but if you desire to venture no further, then you are not living a married life the way God intended for you. Your marriage will probably not survive
Gary Thomas goes on to say, “If the purpose of marriage was simply to enjoy an infatuation and make me “happy”, then I’d have to get a new marriage every two or three years.
This is the perception a lot of couples take when saying their wedding vows. They go into marriage with “divorce” stored in their thoughts as an emergency exit. I’ve actually heard some say, “Well, if this doesn’t work out, we can just get a divorce.” No wonder over half of our marriages never make it through the second stage.
I call the second stage of marriage and spirituality, the survival stage, or the make up or break up stage.
ALL couples go through difficult times in their marriage at one point or another. The honeymoon stage fades, children come along, problems bombard you, and you see your spouse’s true character. Let’s face it; living with ANYONE is not easy, much less someone of the opposite sex whom you promised to love “for better or for worse.” There may be times where "for worse" feels like a prison sentence.
In the second stage we learn how to deal with all of the issues that present themselves. Either that or we divorce. (If you don’t figure it out the first time, you WILL carry it into any future relationships or marriages to deal with.)
Marriages suffer these days because many couples want to give up when the honeymoon feelings begin to wane, not understanding the hard work needed to keep those initial flames burning. These couples never delve into the depths of real love. They run at the first sign of trouble. A healthy marriage endures on a love so much more profound than what we see in the movies or experience in the early stages of a relationship.
As for our relationship with God, it’s the same way. Time passes and reality sets in. We figure it out or we walk away from God. We will go through difficult times in order to grow and to test our relationship with Him. We begin to mature in the word and learn that there comes a time where God has to let us venture out on our own. We have to act on our faith and not expect Him to do it all for us. He’ll always be right with us, but He won’t always allow us to feel His presence. As in our early stages of love with our spouse, we become quickly discouraged when we don’t “feel” that initial, all-consuming love.
Our spirituality and marriage relationship continuously leads us down a path of learning and growing. A healthy, Christian marriage requires a healthy relationship with God. These two relationships have a spiritual connection and affect each other significantly. Their degrees of success usually parallel one another.
I think of the farmer in Matthew 13 who scatters his seed.
Matthew 13:3-7, “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.”
We as humans tend to let our emotions be our guide, especially in the early stages of love and spirituality. When we don’t expand those emotions to deeper levels, root them into solid ground, we are unable to grow and learn and reach maturity. Like the seed that the birds ate or the ones that withered or were choked out, that love and spirituality will cease to exist.
The early part of this second stage is a time of realizing that this relationship may take some work. It’s a time of learning to compromise and learning to put your spouse or God ahead of your own selfish desires. (It always comes back to “self” – the biggest hindrance to both relationships.)
In the unbelievably selfish society in which we live, is it any wonder that the divorce rate is so high? Most marriages experience a crisis at some point which will make or break up their marriage. Only half of us are willing to stick it out and work through the issues (according to current statistics) while the other half walks away. I wonder what the percentage is for Christians who walk away from God when the going gets tough.