“Few people attain great lives. That is in large part because it’s just so easy to settle for a good life.” (Jim Collins)
I (Steve) read a best-selling book, “Good to Great.” It has motivated and changed a lot of business leaders over the years. It didn’t take long to see that the same principles the author Jim Collins was revealing to move companies from good to great are the same principles that can move marriages from good to great.
Let me rephrase what Collins said above, applying it to our marriages. “Few couples attain great marriages. In large part that is because it’s just so easy to settle for a good marriage.” I sincerely believe this because that’s exactly where I was in the past. I was content to say that my marriage was “good.” This was partly because I didn’t have a clue as to what a “great” marriage looked like. And it is partly because it was easier to settle for good.
Moving Your Marriage From Good to Great
I want to be careful here. You may define a “good” marriage differently from how I define it. A definition of what I used to think made a marriage “good” comes from Scott Engleman’s study called, “The Genesis of Marriage.” Many say “it is two people seeking a peaceful co-existence together with the hope of obtaining a measure of personal happiness.” On the surface there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with that, right? Certainly it’s better than being in a marriage where there is constant conflict.
What Cindy and I have come to realize is that God never intended for any of us to just settle for anything less than His best.
If you’re satisfied with a marriage because it is “absent of conflict”, you’re settling for less. If you have obtained a “measure of personal happiness” in your marriage and you think that’s as good enough, you’re settling. As Collins said in his book, “Good is the enemy of that which is great.”
Now, you may need to stop and think about this for a few minutes like I did. Let the truth of that statement sink in. After you’ve thought about it, below you will find a few ways to move your marriage from “Good to Great.”
1. Great Marriages are built on the solid foundation of God’s Word.
We all know couples with good marriages that don’t have a belief in God. Cindy and I believe that while it’s possible for a couple, that doesn’t build their marriage on God’s Word, to have a good marriage, they still miss God’s design for a GREAT marriage if it is truly lived out as God intends.
Then it is important to understand what God intends for the ultimate purpose of marriage.
“It is a man and a woman on a life-long journey together towards God. It has little to do with obtaining a measure of comfort and happiness. “Marriage is about change. It’s about changing YOU.” (Scott Engleman)
What does that change look like? The Apostle Paul gave us a good snapshot of what a marriage moving towards God should embody: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.“ (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
2. Great Marriages are ones that have a shared and clear mission/vision.
It’s important that every married couple have a shared vision (written down for easy reference) for their marriage. Without one, it’s easy to falter in your commitments to each other. You can drift from the things that are most important for your growth as a couple. Vision/Mission Statements can change over the years as you pass through the stages of marriage. You can find several examples in the Communication Tools topic of this web site.
If you are newlyweds, your Vision Statement may have something to do with how you are both going to be committed to God and each other, to learn and grow. When you begin having a family your Vision Statement should reflect how you as a couple are going to work together to instill godly values in your children. It should also contain a commitment to working on your own relationship. This is important so you don’t neglect meeting each other’s needs. After your children are grown and out of the house you would probably want to revise the vision you have for your marriage.
The Importance of Vision
We’re told in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no revelation (also translated ‘vision’) the people cast off restraint.” When you have a shared vision, no matter what conflicts or problems come your way (and they definitely will), God can remind you that you are a couple who has a shared vision. It’s a vision that challenges you to resolve that problem. Why should you do this? Jeremiah 32:39: “I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them.”
3. Great marriages consist of a couple who is “in it” for the long haul.
They stay in their marriage no matter what comes their way. As Jim Collins says in his book (talking to business leaders) if they want to move their company from, “good to great” it will take an “unwavering resolve —to do what must be done.”
We admit this will at times be very difficult to fulfill. It is one thing to have an “unwavering resolve” when you’re arguing over whose turn it is to clean the bathroom. It’s a lot more difficult to “do what must be done” when one of you has been diagnosed with a debilitating disease. But God tells us in Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in …Love. Honor one another above yourselves.” And then 1 Corinthians 4:2, we’re told, “It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”
We realize we have barely begun to explore the depths of this topic. But we hope you have been challenged to take a hard look at yourselves. It’s important to ask yourselves three questions:
(1) Is our marriage built on God’s Word?
(2) Do we have a clear, shared vision for our marriage?
(3) Do we have that unwavering resolve to do what must be done?
If you answer “no” to any of those questions it’s time to make the necessary changes. Do this so that when you look back on your lives, you’ll be able to say, “We have had a GREAT marriage!”
Steve and Cindy Wright
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