“What marriage has done for me is hold up a mirror to my sin. It forces me to face myself honestly and consider my character flaws, selfishness, and anti-Christian attitudes, encouraging me to be sanctified [set apart for God’s use] and cleansed, and to grow in godliness.” (Gary Thomas) Marriage can be seen as a spiritual mirror.
Does that statement catch your attention? Below are a few thoughts written by Gary Thomas on this subject from his great book called, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy (published by Zondervan). It should give us a lot to think and pray about:
Marriage: 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, Our Spiritual Mirror
Do you see this in yourself and in others who are married? I do; Steve and I both do. I don’t want to look at my sin. I want to excuse it, expect grace, run from it, and expect grace and forgiveness. But that’s not God’s posture concerning sin. Yes, He is a giver of grace. But that doesn’t mean that He will turn the other way. 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 your spouse, you can’t help but bump into each other. And some of those “bumps” will cause us to resort to sinning.
We often hear the statement, “My spouse pushes my buttons. I was never like this before him (or her).” Sure! That’s understandable! You were never pushed in quite that way before and obviously something that was buried inside was released. And then you gave it permission to use it in a sinful way.”
Gary Thomas also goes on to say:
“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 Message without giving you another insight into this Spiritual Mirror concept of marriage. That is because there are other twists to this mirror concept. Yes, our spouse can point out that, which needs improvement. And yes, prayerfully they do it in a kind way as God would have all of us do. But sometimes our spouse can be a mirror that also reminds us of the good they see in us, which we may not.
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 Crosswalk.com 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! He doesn’t focus in on my flaws (as I do, and others might), he focuses in on the good. And he makes a point of reminding me continually of the beauty he sees in me.
From the examples given above, we can see that marriage can bring out the “good the bad, and the ugly” as Dr. Kim West points out:
“Your spouse is a very accurate marriage mirror. Look closely and you will see. See yourself in their eyes the good, bad and ugly in yourself. You will see where you are warm and tender and where you are selfish and uncompromising. Your marriage will mirror where you look like Christ and where you don’t and if you will just look He will show you where He wants to work on you.
“The problem is that many of us look past what is reflected about us to see the failings of our spouse. If s/he would just change then the marriage would be good, right? It isn’t you; it’s your spouse that has the problem.” (From the Solutions Christian Counseling article, “Marriage Mirror”)
And that’s the point we hope to make here. Work to the best of your ability to be a good marriage partner to your spouse. Give grace where you can. Be kind in pointing out problems that your spouse may need to work on. But make sure that you look at your own “flaws” realistically and do what you can to work on your own issues. Use them as launching points to work with God (and sometimes your spouse) to help you to grow to be the person God created you to be.
Reflecting God’s Image
Make sure you are reflecting His 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
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