Have you ever viewed your marriage as a “work of art” — one that reflects the heart of Christ? I know that for many years Steve and I sure didn’t! We just went about living out our married lives in the ways of “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” We didn’t really think about it’s fallibility and what it might look like to others. That is, until one day, a young man came up and handed us a note in church and then walked away.
Curious, we were surprised to read that he and his wife had been watching us from a distance. No, they weren’t stalkers… just casual observers.
He revealed to us that he and his wife didn’t have good role models, showing them how to treat each other in marriage. And then one day they noticed us, and how Steve and I interacted with each other. They liked what they saw and kept watching (we didn’t have the slightest idea this was happening). He told us that just from observing us (and being in a marriage class we eventually taught), they learned a lot and wanted us to know that we had blessed their lives.
Fallibility in Marriage
After reading this, we cringed to think what they might have observed (after-all, we sure aren’t perfect), but somehow God painted a good picture because he wrote that he and his wife both said they “wanted a marriage just like ours.”
That letter, and similar comments we’ve received through the years, has made us aware that people notice more than we realize they do. How we conduct ourselves day in and day out is a picture we’re helping (or hindering) God paint in their minds as to what a Christian marriage looks like.
Marriage is designed to reflect the love of Christ to a world that needs to see this picture so they’ll reach out for more of what God has for them as a married couple. If we allow our lives to become non-reflective of the love of God, we’re missing the main point of why God designed marriage in the first place. It’s not about what we can get out of marriage, but what can GOD use within our lives to draw others to Himself.
Drawing Others to Christ
It would be good to ask yourself: are others drawn to God as they observe how you interact with your spouse? Do they see Christ reflected in your words and actions? If not, today is a good day to start that journey back to line your heart and actions up with God’s. Our lives are a continual work in progress, that calls us to press on to “take hold” of all that Christ has for us (see Philippians 3:12-16). You may not be perfect, just as we aren’t, but together we can press on.
We came across an article in the November/December 2002 issue of Moody Monthly Magazine (which is no longer being published). It may help you to grab onto this concept further. Within this article,
Elizabeth Cody Newenhuyse wrote the following:
“I applaud the desire for a strong and lasting marriage. But I’m not sure about this soul mate business. I fear [a spouse’s] bright illusions will dissolve into dust the first time they have an argument about money or when she loses her job or he gets sick or either of them decides he or she wants to go to a different church.
“Even we spouses who are united in Christ have evenings when we just don’t have much to say to each other —those times when we think, ‘Why does he/she have to be like this?’ Soul mates always instinctively understand each other. Real marriage partners don’t. But real marriage partners try. And this is where we expect too little of marriage. Because a marriage wholly yielded to Christ can astonish us. Or, more precisely, God’s work in that marriage can astonish.
“A recurrent theme of Scripture shows a person or event displaying the work and power of God (Exodus 9:16, where we read of God’s call to Moses; John 9:3, Jesus’ healing of the man born blind; Romans 9:17, God’s saving mercy). Could it be that one reason God created marriage was because it’s an ideal canvas for Him to display His work through a man and a woman?
“Walter Wangerin has written eloquently about this in his book, ‘As for Me and My House.’ He tells of having grievously offended his wife, Thanne, through a series of hurts that heaped up over time, culminating in an evening game of Risk played with friends: ‘I leaned back and spread myself on my chair, feeling this to be a very good party. I made jokes. But I made them at Thanne’s expense, oblivious to their effect on her. And she saw how much of my very being belittled her. If she was dying, her husband wasn’t altogether blameless. He was killing her by small degrees and scorn.’
“Thanne withdraws emotionally, and Walt resigns himself to living without love in a house of chilly silences. ‘Thanne couldn’t forgive me,’ he writes. ‘This is a plain fact. I had broken her. Could a broken person be whole enough to forgive? No, Thanne was created finite, and couldn’t forgive me. But Jesus could.’
“One day Thanne came into his study, not angry. And she said, ‘Wally, will you hug me?’ ‘Dear Lord Jesus,’ Wangerin reflects, ‘where did this come from, this sudden, unnatural, undeserved willingness to let me touch her, hug her, love her? Not from me! I was her ruination. Not from her, but because I had killed that part of her. From You! This is God’s handiwork written large.’
“So what do we expect from marriage? From ourselves in the marriage? Fallibility. The need to forgive way beyond 70 times 7. Periods when we realize we don’t like the person we’re living with very much. Soul mate? Him? [Or her?] Yet this is the person God has entrusted to us.
“I’ve sometimes looked at Fritz wearing a garage-sale sweatshirt. I’ve thought, well, whether he’s the ‘one right person’ for me or not (a concept more romantic than scriptural), God loves him very much and thought enough of me to put Fritz into my care. Perhaps we need to ask God what He expects. Somehow, I don’t think His answers will surprise us.”
We challenge you to “ask God what He expects” of you in your marriage. He may ask you to exhibit tough love, or “speak the truth in love.” He may ask us to live out sacrificial love, or love without measure. God may ask us to give forgiving love that makes no worldly sense. But it makes sense in the spiritual realm.
“Every husband and wife combination needs the healing touch of forgiveness. Where else could there be more opportunity to annoy, insult, offend, or ruffle another person that in the intimacy of married life when we’re constantly under foot, get in each other’s way, and have to share all things in common (whether we like it or not)? That’s just ordinary living, without taking into account the astonishing hurtful things husbands and wives do, which demands more forgiveness than any of us could work up on our own (Dr Ed Wheat, “The First Years of Forever”).
In our fallibility, may we remember to extend to our spouse, the same grace of God that has extended to us.
Cindy and Steve Wright
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