Loving Jesus in my Husband's Direction
I lost track of the number of cards Paul and I opened at our wedding that said something to the effect of “Keep God in your marriage, and you’ll be just fine!” Like Jesus was a magic balm we could rub on our relationship to keep it well oiled and running smoothly. And in those blissful “just married” moments, it seemed like a no-brainer. Of course we would keep God in our marriage! We were Christians. We went to church. We prayed together on occasion. We kept Christ in Christmas, of course we would keep Him in our marriage.
But within a few weeks, I realized we had hopped out of the honeymoon phase and were riding the struggle bus. And not the short one, either. A big, fat bus of struggle. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in my marriage, and I really had no clue where God was in all of that.
And – soap box moment here – I think we do young couples the worst disservice by saying things like this. It’s a true statement, but it’s not helpful. I wasn’t about to go to any of those well meaning people and ask for help. What would I say if they asked me if I had kept God in my marriage? (As though I had the power to bring Him in or out of an institution He designed in the first place.) I still prayed. I still went to church. And I had no freaking idea where God was or was supposed to be with regards to my relationship.
The thing is, God created marriage and it is His intention that each marriage showcase His gospel in all its glory. He has a plan for marriage, and He calls us to nearly impossible feats of love that He will supply the raw material for if we do marriage His way. He wove Himself intrinsically into the fabric of marriage. So when people say, “Keep God in your marriage,” what they really mean is, “Remember that God designed this, do it His way, follow His leading – that’s your best shot at success.”
But what does that look like? In the midst of holidays with in-laws, and frozen pipes bursting, and working that dead end job while your spouse finishes school, what does it really look like to practically turn your attention to God’s design for your marriage, much less live it out?
Next week we are going to spend a few days discussing practical ways you can do just that. But before we get there, I think we need to take a moment to shift our focus up, away from our relationship, to the One who created LOVE itself. Let’s do a little vision casting before we get down into the muddy details.
In Ephesians 5, we are told to love each other like Christ loves the church, by giving Himself up for her. (Yeah, I know that’s the command to husbands, but when you parce apart the phrase “submit as unto the Lord” it means more or less the same thing.) We are to show love through our sacrifice. That’s the impossible part of marriage. Because when the sex isn’t working, when we are in pain or not sleeping well, when work is stressful, we don’t have a lot of emotional margin to sacrifice.
But check out that first sentence: let us love one another FOR LOVE COMES FROM GOD. We don’t have to create the love, or find the love, or rekindle the love. God provides it and He supplies it. But in typical God-fashion, He makes us come to Him to get it. Because if we had it all ourselves, we would forget the source and wander away.
So, because my emotions take up all of the room inside me, leaving little emotional margin for others (on a good day), I’m making it my practice to start my day by going and getting some love from Jesus. I spend time with Him, adoring Him, spilling my heart in all it’s messiness to Him, trusting Him, thanking Him. I let His love wash over me and I love Him back.
And then, I just love Jesus in Paul’s general direction. I choose to recognize the image of God in my husband, and I respond in love to Jesus (who is living) inside Paul. As Jesus’ love comes alive inside me through my adoration and worship, I find I’m equipped to pick up those dirty socks left on the floor without grumbling. I am able to listen without judgment, and forgive more readily. Then as I love Jesus, His love is made complete in me and some of it splashes on to my husband.
It’s as uncomplicated and unnatural as turning my heart to Jesus before I turn my heart towards Paul. Next week we will be discussing more practical ways to turn our hearts towards our Savior, to recognize His hand in our relationships. But for now, before you dive into a task or conversation that is meant to show love to your spouse, take a moment to stop and think about loving Jesus first. And see what grows in your heart as you do.