In a recent conversation with a friend regarding her rapidly failing marriage, the subject of faith came up. As my friend and her husband are not Christians, this was an unusual topic for us to broach. However, in the depths of of her misery, my friend seemed to realize there was less and less hope in life without God somewhere in the equation. Regardless, not ready to "go there", she gently disregarded the thought that God could save her marriage. Talking things out with her, I said, "[Friend], I know as a believer that within my marriage, when my husband and I have conflict, we always have the Gospel to rely on as our guide. My question for you is, who or what is your guide? If you are going off of something, perhaps, a counselor has said, are you not using that particular person's own opinions of what your marriage should be as the guidelines for your marriage?"
Unfortunately, even for Christians, submitting to the gospel within our marriage can be a difficult struggle. As newlyweds, my husband and I are still getting to know one another as a spouse. Because we didn't live together before marriage (a seemingly "old fashioned" concept these days), we are still adjusting to meshing our lives, our space, our bank accounts and our sock drawer. Recently, I was having a pretty down day. Actually, a down few days. I was having trouble picking my battles with my new husband and figuring out which things were quirky husband-type things and which things, in my self-focused mind, could be potential issues later and should be addressed immediately! Conveniently forgetting, in my selfishness, that I am nowhere near perfect myself, I forged ahead, picking apart every flaw in my sweet husband and throwing it into his face. "Did you not see the stack of dishes sitting here?" "Is there a reason you insist on leaving the TV on when you leave the room?" After a few days of this, we were at a bit of a stand-off. My husband had just given up on thinking he could do something right, and I was just waiting for him to mess up yet again so I could point it out ever so helpfully. Had I been spending time reading my Bible or praying for guidance about my frustrations, instead of listing them out for my husband to correct at my command, I might have been able to approach these things with humility and grace instead of self-righteousness. I'm betting that within this humility, I might have recognized some of my own faults that my husband lovingly overlooks in lieu of a pointless argument. I might also have then identified the love of God within the words of the Bible, and have felt renewed...able to approach my marriage with a fresh perspective and a lighter heart. Instead, my husband and I drove silently to church last Sunday morning. We darted sideways looks at one another, waiting for the other to break the loud silence. We missed worship because we were late, and so we slid into our chairs as the service began. As the message was spoken, my heart lightened some, but I still wasn't ready to let go. At the end of the service, our pastor asked if any married couples wanted to come up and get prayer, almost as a renewing of vows. My husband took my hand and squeezed it, and unspoken plea to go with him to the front. I swallowed my pride for once, and we walked up to the front together. Someone we passed gave us a smile and said, "you two are newlyweds, you don't need to be up here!" If only she knew, I thought, how much I've already swayed from my vows to honor and respect my husband. What has happened to me in such a short time?!
After a few moments, a friend approached us and prayed deeply, quietly, intimately over us...for God's blessing upon our new marriage.... and in the quiet drone of this friend's voice, the tears finally spilled over from my eyes. I felt myself let go of the anger and submit to the will of God, which is to honor my husband, and love my husband, and give grace to my husband. After all, isn't that the way God loves me?