“What marriage has done for me is hold up a spiritual mirror to my sin. It forces me to face myself honestly and consider my character flaws, selfishness, and anti-Christian attitudes. It encourages me to be sanctified [set apart for God’s use] and cleansed, and to grow in godliness.” (Gary Thomas)
Does that statement catch your attention? It sure caught ours! And it’s true. (Sometimes it’s painfully true; but it’s a truth that is important to embrace.) And when it’s relevant, this causes us to readjust our attitudes and actions. And that’s a good thing! We need that type of “honesty” speaking into our lives.
So, to clarify this a bit more, below are a few thoughts written by Gary Thomas on this subject. They come from his great book titled, Sacred Marriage. Gary gives us a lot to think and pray about:
Our Spiritual Mirror
“Being so close to someone —which marriage necessitates —may be the greatest spiritual challenge in the world. There is no ‘resting,” because I am under virtual 24-hour surveillance. Not that my wife Lisa makes it seem like that —it’s just that I’m aware of it.
“Every movie I rent is rented with the understanding that I will watch it with Lisa next to me. Every hour I take off for recreation is an hour that Lisa will know about. Where I eat lunch—my appetites and lusts and desires are all in full view of Lisa.
“This presupposes, of course, that I’m willing to be confronted with my sin —that I’m willing to ask Lisa, ‘Where do you see unholiness in my life? I want to know about it. I want to change it.’
This takes tremendous courage —courage I am the first to admit I often lack. It means I’m willing to hear what displeases Lisa about me, as well as to refuse to become paralyzed by the fear that she will love me less or leave me because the sin in me is being exposed. I don’t naturally gravitate toward the honesty and openness that leads to change. My natural sin-bent is to hide and erect a glittering image.”
Our Spouse Can Be Our Spiritual Mirror
Do you see this in yourself? I do; Steve and I both do. I don’t want to look at my sin. I want to ignore it, excuse it, and yet I expect unconditional grace and forgiveness. (And yet I don’t want to give Steve that same benefit.) But that’s not God’s posture concerning sin. God wants to root it out, cleanse us from it, and transform us.
And one of the vehicles He uses to accomplish this mission is our marriage. When you live so close to another person, as you do with your spouse, you can’t help but bump into each other. And some of those “bumps” will bring our sinful nature to the surface.
We often hear the statement, “My spouse pushes my buttons. I was never like this before him (or her).” Sure; that’s no doubt true! However, you were never emotionally pushed in quite that way before. So, as a result, some issues came to the surface that were buried deep inside. (Perhaps it’s a matter of buried selfishness, anger issues, and so much more.) So, don’t excuse these hot spots because they make you feel angry or uncomfortable. Take them to God, asking Jesus to help you clean up the mess buried deep inside.
Gary Thomas explains more about this spiritual mirror concept:
“All of us enter marriage with sinful attitudes. When these attitudes surface, the temptation will be to hide them or even run to another relationship where the attitudes won’t be so well known. But Christian marriage presumes a certain degree of self-disclosure. When I married, I committed to allow myself to be known by Lisa —and that means she’ll see me as I am—with my faults, my prejudices, my fears, and my weaknesses.
“This reality can be terrifying to think about. Dating is largely a situation in which you always try to put the best face forward —hardly a good preparation for the eventual self-disclosure implied in marriage. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running form something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.
“View marriage as a relationship that will reveal your sinful behaviors and attitudes. And give you the opportunity to address them before the Lord. But here’s the challenge: Don’t give in to the temptation to resent your partner as your own weaknesses are revealed. Give them the freedom and acceptance they need in order to face their own weaknesses as well. In this way, we can use marriage as a spiritual mirror, designed for our growth in holiness.”
But we can’t close this Marriage Insight without giving you other insights into this matter. That is because there are other twists to this mirror concept. Here’s an important “twist” that Ellyn Sanna points out:
“God wants marriage to be a mirror that reflects the love, security, and trust He offers us. Adultery shatters that mirror.” (Ellyn Sanna)
That’s so true, isn’t it? May we never forget that fact!
And here’s another twist. Sometimes our spouse can be a mirror that reminds us of the good they see in us that we don’t.
Pam Farrell talks about a time when she was complaining about her body. She went on several minutes about what she didn’t like. What really surprised her though, was her husband Bill’s reaction.
“I was not only tearing myself down but undermining Bill’s taste. But instead of saying something in anger, he prayed, ‘God, I could do a better job than that mirror!’ He stood up, wrapped his arms around me and told me to look straight into his eyes. He very seriously and very lovingly said, ‘I will be your mirror. My eyes will reflect your beauty.
“‘You are beautiful, Pamela. You are perfect, and if you ever doubt it, come stand before me. The mirror of my eyes will tell you the true story. You are perfect for me. If I have to throw away every mirror in the house to get you to believe me, I will! From now on, let me be your mirror!'” (Pam and Bill Farrel, from the article, “Mirror, Mirror: Reflecting Your Spouse’s Worth”)
I love that. This is the type of reaction I have received from my husband Steve. He has told me so many times, “If you could only see yourself as I see you… you would see yourself as one of the most beautiful women in the world.” What a gem he is! Steve doesn’t focus in on my flaws (as I do); he focuses on the good. And he makes a point of reminding me continually of the beauty he sees in me.
Here’s Another Twist on Being a Mirror
Make sure you are reflecting God’s image so others will “see your good works” and will more readily want to know our God better. If your spouse won’t join you in this mission, you can still do your part.
We totally agree with something that Dennis Rainey wrote:
“God’s first purpose for creating man and woman and joining them in marriage was to mirror His image on earth. Center your attention on those words, mirror His image. The Hebrew word for ‘mirror’ means to reflect God, to magnify, exalt, and glorify Him. Your marriage should reflect God’s image to a world that desperately needs to see who He is. Because we’re created in the image of God, people who wouldn’t otherwise know what God is like should be able to look at us and get a glimpse.” (From the Familylife.com article, “God’s Purposes for Marriage”)
It is a way for others to know God better, and for us to know Him better. As we do this, we will live more authentically and trust and love him as never before.
As Gary Thomas also said:
“Your marriage is more than a sacred covenant with another person. It is a spiritual discipline designed to help you know God better, trust him more fully, and love him more deeply.”
We pray that we’ll all take some time this week to look into the “spiritual mirror” of our marriages and make sure the reflection that comes back is that of God, without us interfering.
Steve and Cindy Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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One response to “Marriage as a Spiritual Mirror – MM #169”
(South Africa) Hi brother and sister, I want to give a short comment. After reading this article I can confess one thing: for sure I am a sinner who needs to repent. All these years I was holding the mirror the wrong way: to see the wrong doings of my husband.
If I hold the mirror the way I should: oh no, I don’t belief I am able to see myself. The mirror is grey to black. I need to pray and repent. Blessings!