Any good relationship takes effort, but it also takes prioritizing the right things and avoiding things that will only tear down what you are trying to build up. I’ve put together the top three things needed in building a solid foundation. Your marriage may not currently be built upon these foundational truths, but it’s never too late to get started rebuilding and restrengthening! God loves marriage as it’s symbolism is that of him and his bride. We have been gifted an incredible chance to reflect him and here are three really important ways to do that:
It’s so refreshing when you meet someone who knows what they’ve been saved from. There are so many dark paths that can be walked in life and there have been so many times that my own faith has been strengthened through the testimony of people who walked one of those dark, dirty paths only to be saved by Jesus Christ and totally liberated from whatever chains previously held them back. It’s amazing what Jesus can do. He can take the most horrible of people and make him/her be Warriors in the Army of God.
Paul was one of those ‘horrible people’. A career killer who thrived on executing Christians, when Christ got a hold of him, his life was so transformed that he became one of the strongest forces for salvation of his day. In Romans 6, he writes, “You were made free from sin, and now you are slaves to goodness.” No doubt thinking back to his own conversion when writing those words.
As we approach marriage, the number one thing we can be doing for our spouse is daily surrendering ourselves on the ‘altar’ and being made free from sin (Romans 12). God calls us each to his throne for sanctification and renewal on a daily basis, but it is up to us whether or not we are going to intentionally do that. Before we can even begin to expect our spouse to change (and I am sure you have a list of things you’d like him/her to do differently), we must humble ourselves and be willing to let the Lord change us. It sounds contrary to what would be important, but the closer we get to God individually, the closer he will bring us to one another. In the words of Elisabeth Elliot, “One does not surrender a life in an instant. That which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime.” Equally, our pursuit of God must be the only thing that takes precedence over the pursuit of our spouse. Faithfully pursuing both comes with a lifetime of surrender and renewal through Jesus Christ.
The next most valuable thing in a marriage is an ability to communicate through thick and thin. This isn’t an opportunity to scream, be demanding, or obstinate. No, Christ calls us to be patient, kind, forgiving, keep no record of wrongs, and extend grace even when we don’t feel like he/she deserves it (1 Corinthians 13). Our call as Christians is to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is not set aside for an exclusive list of people, but for our spouses as well. Would we like to be yelled at in conflict? Would be like to be talked over? Would we like information withheld from us? Would we like important decisions made without us?
Communication is a struggle found in a lot of marriages and solving the problem does not come by demeaning our spouses or ignoring them. In fact, fixing the problem doesn’t even starts with them! It starts with ourselves, our willingness to let the Lord shape us, and our willingness to be self sacrificing day in and day out. There’s no magic pill or counselor that can permanently solve communication issues. A few sessions or a book may help for a while, but until we are willing to allow the Lord to change how we approach our spouses in conflict and difficulty, things will continue to fall back on being tense when trying situations arise.
One of the most infamous elements of being married is intimacy, but the truth is, this goes way beyond being sexual with our spouses. In fact, the deeper we are willing to dive in to a relationship with Jesus, the better we will become at communication. The better we become at communication, the more deep and fulfilling will be the intimacy in our marriages. New England Poet, Marnie Reed Crowell, shares this important truth about marriage:
To keep the fire burning brightly there’s one easy rule: Keep the two logs together, near enough to keep each other warm and far enough apart – about a finger’s breadth – for breathing room. Good fire, good marriage, same rule. (via fiercemarriage.com)
If we have a desire for greater intimacy, then we must start here – being close. That entails all of us; our emotions, dreams, thoughts, desires, hopes, and (you guessed it) bodies. Just as Scripture reminds us, marriage is a picture of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5). Christ’s desire is to be intimate with the church, know his bride, and be known by her. When we were instructed that marriage causes a man and a woman to become one flesh (Mark 10:8), we were being called to take the idea of intimacy to a new level. Intimacy compels us to know our spouse inside and out, study our spouse, and pursue him/her endlessly. It even calls us to be so selfless that in times of danger we’d lay down our lives for one another.
If you think intimacy goes only as far as great sex, then you are missing out on so much more that is wrapped up in that powerful word. As we are reminded, “But these three remain, faith hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Love enables us to look beyond any offenses that might have been done or will be done in the future. It compels us to forgive and projects us deeper into the arms of Jesus. By grace we have been saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8), but it doesn’t stop there. Thanks to God’s unending love for us, he made a way so that we might be forgiven. Intimacy is build on this same model for love. That through our deepening faith in Christ, we would be compelled to change in order to better our communication and interactions in marriage. By strengthening such, we lay a solid foundation to be safe in each other’s company and find joy together. It propels us to a deeper level of knowing one another, further binding us together as one body.
Freedom, Communication and Intimacy are the three most important things in a marriage and out of these flow honesty, forgiveness, grace, joy, and so many other wonderful things. Just as a dead tree cannot produce fruit, a dead marriage cannot produce beautiful ‘fruit.’ It’s never too late to rebuild the foundation, though. Christ never gave up on us, even when we turned from him to sin. In the same way, we can still have flourishing marriages, but we must be willing to start out by asking the Lord to change us and not blaming it all on the other person.