If God and His creation is the real match made in Heaven, then marriage is an astonishing composite designed to depict and apprehend that very substance. It is the soil at ground zero where the seeds of life, love and intimacy take root on earth in preparation for eternity. Yet simmering just beneath is the potential to painfully miscalculate God’s intention and head off in the opposite direction – let’s take a closer look.
The Invisible Distinction
After 18 years of matrimonial refinement and reflection, I’m certain about one thing: A Christ-centered marriage is an original and priceless work of God. A Christian-centered marriage is not. But it’s only through a spirit surrendered to God’s Spirit that our eyes can detect the difference. Just as the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, we need constant exposure to it to discern this division and recalibrate the navigation of our steps, accordingly.
How many of us have been under the impression that a successful marriage begins with godly self-improvement – you know the whole “removing the beam to see the speck” thing? I’d have to raise my hand at this point. But a closer look reveals something different. Jesus wasn’t saying fix yourself or your marriage, before you come to me. His focus, in context, was on avoiding hypocrisy, and we’d probably all agree (the world included) that we can’t fix anyone else.
Still the idea that we must fix ourselves is self-deprecating and sacrificially sweet enough that any sincere believer who is led by the soul (logic, desires, and emotions) rather than the Spirit of God (who dwells in our spirit), will be inclined to fix himself in the name of taking responsibility.
But if success doesn’t come from self-help, how then do we explain the oodles of books, seminars and programs, and the godly people who create them? The tools are more abundant than ever! Yet, as we continue to busy ourselves learning that men and women are different – maybe even from different planets – and they speak different languages which have to be learned to discern the truth about their thoughts, the statistics are worse than ever!
Perhaps we should be asking a simpler question: Is this approach working? I mean on a grand scale, is it really working?
Or, better still: does God really help those who first help themselves? Where did that come from anyway? Most would agree that the notion is legalistic and not at all how the Word teaches us to live. Yet, without the lead of God’s Spirit, through our spirit, we inadvertently default to being led by the soul – the place of our own understanding – where faith takes a back seat to walking by sight.
If this is the case, is it possible that many of us have been nudged a fraction of an inch by practical thinking toward embracing a new form of legalism – a Christian-centered, matrimonial form of legalism? In my experience – years spent buying it and trying it – I’m left with nothing but a bookshelf full of evidence that continues to confirm this suspicion.
Be that as it may, I must unequivocally and ultimately default to the answer that stands on the shoulders of all the others: The very Word that divides the soul and spirit teaches us that by faith “all things” (including a good marriage) will be added to those who literally seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness (His will on earth and His Son). Matthew 6:33.
Anytime we focus on us instead of Him, no matter how self-deprecating and humble it may appear to be, the enemy gains a subtle foot hold and then advances his agenda at a pace we’ll never notice by logic, desires, or emotions. One moment our marriage is parallel with God, a few years later we’re moving in the opposite direction, and it only took a nudge in the direction of Christian-centered, self-help wisdom.
The Real Match Made In Heaven – A Fresh Perspective
Men and women are uniquely created for one another, but marriage is not our definitive purpose. God created mankind to be loved by Him, to love Him first in return, and to bear fruit by expressing His will on earth, and loving others. To that end, and only in that context is the gift of marriage capable of defying the world’s gravity.
A Christ-centered marriage is not initiated by putting your spouse first (as it would seem), or by fixing one’s self (in the name of responsibility), but by seeking God first, above, and literally instead of all else. A Christian-centered marriage is stealthily but hopelessly, just the opposite.
The Christian marriage industry is a good thing because in most cases it intends to point us toward God as the ultimate answer, and it does indeed provide us with very good, practical ideas that remind us of our responsibilities as godly spouses. Nevertheless, all the good ideas combined with our best practices cannot save a marriage any more than our good deeds can save a soul, which leaves us with one simple conclusion: A Christ-centered marriage is a priceless original, and a Christian-centered marriage is only a cheap knock-off.
His strength is perfected in our weakness not our completeness – or the ability to become a better spouse. Let us therefore seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, so that all these things will be lovingly added by His gentle hand.
Craving more of Kevin’s faith-building articles? If Abba’s Not Happy … Nobody’s Happy