The other day I was having a conversation with a friend and we began talking about marriage. I stated I didn’t think marriage has to be as hard as our culture, even our churches make it out to be. His eyes narrowed, he tilted his head, “REALLY! You think marriage doesn’t have to be that hard?”
Why wouldn’t my friend think that way? We hear it all the time. All the clichés; “it’s a 50/50 deal, no it isn’t you gotta give 100%, there’s no way, if you’re not in it 110% the wheels are gonna fall off.” Even in church we hear preachers tell us how difficult marriage is these days. It is an understandably easy conclusion to draw with the common, and highly debatable, stats proclaiming the divorce rate to be around 50%. All of that aside, the fact remains that marriage can be tough. My wife and I have met with hard times, even had bitter words with each other, but the other fact is that it doesn’t have to be that way, choice factors into the equation. Dr. White (dad) has some thoughts on the matter and I would like to share 7 principles behind God’s design for healthy marriage.
We’ll start in Matthew 22:36-40 for our first 3 points. You may think this an odd spot to start, Jesus being interrogated by a lawyer, but Jesus’ answer to a spiteful question is beautiful. Jesus tells the group of religious-lawyers that the greatest command is to love GOD first, then your NEIGHBOR, but as YOURSELF. So we have; loving GOD as number one, and for reasons I’ll get to in a bit, SELF as second, and then NEIGHBOR (read SPOUSE) as third.
The first part thoroughly grounds this in Christianity. Being committed to the teachings of Jesus and a lover of God’s ways is a great place to start. Jesus says so much about love, justice, forgiveness, grace, peace, and a multitude of other good things that we could all apply more of in our lives and marriages. While this is an important point, I don’t have any Christian friends who are going to argue this point with me and loving God is not the main point to this blog, so I’ll cut love of GOD short. One more caveat, I understand that many married couples are not Christian, and while it is in our opinion optimal to fully engage in the first part, the following principles are still valuable for those who have chosen another spiritual or non-spiritual path.
Next, we will move to the SELF and SPOUSE part of the equation. A person has to take care of their SELF in order to fully and appropriately give love away to another. This does not mean that the SELF is allowed to be selfish. Dad uses the analogy of the oxygen masks on an airplane. In the event of a loss of cabin pressure there are precious few seconds to get the mask on before a person passes out. If I am sitting next to my 8 year old son on an airplane, the thing I’m going to want to do is brush my mask aside and get the mask on my son. In this situation, the counterintuitive thing to do is secure the mask on the SELF in order that the SELF have something to give away to the other. Without SELF care and SELF love you will lack the ability to give your SPOUSE the love and attention they were designed to receive from you.
Jesus did not simply mean ‘the guy next door” when he said NEIGHBOR. In this case He simply means another person and in our case here, NEIGHBOR means SPOUSE. This point seems pretty easy to understand, love your SPOUSE in the same manner that you love your SELF. Possibly this is where we get all the flak about difficulty and hardship, because this can be a difficult accomplishment. However, I would recommend that we assume the best in our SPOUSEs and give them the due consideration they deserve as partners in life. The following points will give us insight on how to accomplish this.
The ease comes when both spouses operate under these principals. It is easy to love someone with my whole heart and self when they are loving me with their whole heart and self. The point that marriage does not have to be hard doesn’t mean that there won’t be hard times. The point is that God designed marriage. God’s designs are good, they work. Dad told me the other day that when marriage isn’t easy someone is usually being selfish. That may be an oversimplification to some degree, but my goodness what a point.
I want to encourage my brothers and sisters to go forth and love GOD, love your SELF, and from the deep pool provided to you in that relationship between SELF and GOD, love your SPOUSE in the same manner that you love your SELF.
Hold on for another two weeks and I’ll get the other principles out to you.
Questions? Contact Dr. White and Associates, P.C. for marriage counseling in Lubbock, TX.