The refining pot of marriage

There’s a book I’ve been wanting to read ever since I first heard about it: Sacred Marriage by Gary L. Thomas. The tagline for the book is ‘What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy’.

Wow.

After writing about Dating, marriage and lists last month, a friend of mine made a great comment,

“I strongly support the idea of having a list; you’re certainly right that it keeps us focused on what’s most important. But I also have recently learned the value in having a list also for myself if I have a list for my potential spouse. Who do I want to be to my future wife? Can you write one sometime on who you’ve striven to become before and in marriage?”

These ideas about marriage being an opportunity to refine our own character, and not simply a selfish ‘get what I want out of it’ union, is, I think, exactly what God intended.

Wedding

Young, in love and ready to be refined!

If we look right back at the beginning of time in Genesis we see that Eve was created not simply as a companion but as a helper for Adam. And so that the men reading this don’t get to full of pride and power, God clears up any confusion in Ephesians 5:35 where he says: ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her’. The love referred to here is 100% sacrificial, guys – to the point of humiliation, torture and death.

One of Satan’s biggest, most successful lies is that being selfish (i.e. focusing on what I want before what I can offer others) is the way to happiness. Now there are many opportunities in life to find out that this is total rubbish, but perhaps none so effective as marriage. When you live with someone every day for the REST OF YOUR LIFE; when you are confronted with all their ugly character traits which you never saw during dating life (because don’t we all put on our best behaviour on a date?); when you are so vulnerable that you expose all your own ugly character traits – this is when true love kicks in.

Proverbs 117:3 says, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts.” God is reminding us of the extreme value he places in making our hearts right before Him  And 1 Peter 1 tells us why. In verses 24-5 he says “All flesh is as grass,and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (Emphasis mine.) We need to go through the refining pot because the spiritual is foreverThe physical – marriage – is ultimately temporal but it’s value in refining our hearts is eternal.

Eleven years older, wiser, and more in love.

Eleven years older, wiser, and more in love.

Perhaps the most famous love passage in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. I once was told to read through this passage, replacing the word ‘love’ with my own name. Yikes! It was sobering. We are free with the words “I love you” to our spouse. But do we really know what love is? What if we measured our love against this description? We say, “I love you so much I would die for you.” But do we love our spouse enough to live for them? In the everyday frustrations of opposing opinions, of different priorities, of conflicting personalities? That is where we really learn to lay down our life.

Marriage is not there to ‘make us happy’, but when we let it make us holy, happiness happens. Take it from me – in my eleven years of marriage I have always been happiest when I have lived closest to God’s definition of servanthood. When (if!) we can conquer selfishness, there we find true joy.

Go read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 with your own name. Pray for true love. Live it out.

Dating, marriage and lists

Recently I’ve had some conversations with single friends about how to choose someone to marry. Of course, it’s not so simple as ‘choosing’, as we all know. But even so, we agreed that within one’s own mind, there should be some set ideas about what qualities we feel are important when thinking about who to date and, eventually, marry.

I am so blessed to have been married for over eleven years to my very best friend. Before we dated, though, I had written out a list of things I believed were important in a man. I knew from experience it was all too easy to get caught up in the dating trap (going on dates without the goal of potential marriage) with just anyone I felt attracted to. Being single can be lonely, and it’s tempting to let go of ideals in the desire for intimate companionship. But after reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris, I decided to write out a list to help me keep my focus when tempted by pointless dates with people who I knew, ultimately, I would never want to marry. (By the way, I definitely recommend this book to all teens. I disdainful of it when my Mom gave it to me, but after reading it I completely changed my mind! The next boy I dated after reading it was my husband 🙂 )

So what was on my list? Well, here it is:

Qualities of My Perfect Man

He shall…

  •   Be worthy of respectTitus 2:2
  •   Have a strong faith in God1st Corinthians 16:13
  •   Be able to rule his house wiselyEphesians 5:23
  •   Have a happy disposition1st Thessalonians 5:16
  •   Be romantic!
  •   Love me as himselfEphesians 5:28
  •   Be willing first to listen, then to talkJames 1:19
  •   Be good at communicating
  •   Commit his heart, life and soul to GodMatthew 22:37
  •   Understand me
  •   Be able to pray with meJames 5:16
  •   Be thoughtfulProverbs 21:29
  •   Be considerate1st Peter 3:37
  •   Love my family as his own
  •   Fear GodProverbs 1:7
  •   Be a zealous Christian – Romans 12:11
So glad I've got this man in my life.

So glad I’ve got this man in my life.

Obviously this is a personal list. But that was the point. I had this printed out and kept in my Bible, where I could be reminded of it often, pray about it, and use it to keep my focus.

One thing I didn’t write on my list was that he should be my best friend. In hindsight, I can see that this is one of the major reasons that our relationship has stood firm through the trials we have gone through in marriage. Our solid foundation of friendship has made commitment, forgiveness and perseverance so much easier when they were called for. And believe me, they are called for in every marriage.

Writing a list may seem picky, idealistic or closed-minded to some. I beg you to think differently. Rather, it is freeing, helpful and keeps you focused on things of importance. If you are single, please consider the value of writing out your own list of qualities you’d like to see in your future spouse.

And yes – I did find someone with all of the qualities on my list.  And yes, I do know how blessed I am.

The ministry of a mother: part 3, her husband

Celebrating nine years of marriage!

When you are a mother, it is sometimes easy to forget that you are also a wife. Sounds silly, I know, but true nonetheless. Taking care of kids is a time-consuming, resource-depleting, emotionally-demanding task, and often by the time your husband gets home from work you have already run into debt in all those areas. But this is not the way it is supposed to be. God wants us to intentionally (do you get the feeling I like this word?!) save time and energy to devote to our husbands. We were created a wife before we were created a mother, and we need to make sure we don’t ignore this role in our lives.

When God created women it was to be a helper for the man (and men to love their wives above themselves! – It’s a two way road). A partner, a friend, a supporter, someone on his team. This is a wonderful calling! The ministry of a wife is to love and help her man through all the joys and trials life brings them. I thought that it might be helpful to get a man’s perspective on this topic, so I asked my husband to tell me five things that he, as a husband, appreciates most. I have listed these below, and under each have put one or two practical suggestions for ways we might carry out our ministry as wives:

  1. Show me admiration and respect both privately and publicly in a visible manner.
    –  Guard your tone of voice and mannerisms.
    –  Look for things to praise your husband for, and make sure you verbalise them.
  2. Encourage me and build me up to achieve better.
    –  Instead of shaming your husband when you think he has failed to do what is right, pray first and then talk to him in a loving and positive manner, showing that you are concerned, but also that you believe in him.
  3. Support me in prayer and encouragement during difficulties.
    –  Set aside time daily to pray for your husband.  The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian is a great book to help you get started on this if you feel at a loss for what to pray for.
  4. Be the kind of mother who has our children’s best interests at heart. Be a mother who feels with them, learns with them, gets excited with them and guides them enthusiastically and intentionally.
    –  Remember that your children are another God-given ministry. Check out the previous post for more ideas on this topic.
  5. Keep the house on a daily basis – cleaning, washing, cooking, making my lunch for work every day.
    –  If your husband takes a packed lunch, offer to make it for him.
    –  Find out what is most important to your husband in terms of housekeeping, and even if you don’t have much time, try to get those done daily. For example, my husband especially appreciates having the laundry up to date, and having food ready to eat.

Hopefully these ideas have sparked off even more of your own ideas. Why not ask your husband what things he appreciates most, and how you can better serve, love and help him?

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