A Christian marriage is a total commitment of a man and a woman to the person of Jesus Christ and to one another.
It's an easy equation to say that when two objects are close to a third object, they are of necessity close to each other. Now, think about your marriage. As you and your mate grow closer to God, you naturally grow closer to one another. But how? We asked several of our Insight for Living family members, married from five to 45 years, to discuss: "How to grow closer to God in your marriage." We thought you would enjoy their responses. Keep in mind, this isn't a list of dos and don'ts that will make your marriage work, it's a practical look at the ways you can develop a marriage of faith and intimacy. Success can only come when you apply God's word.
"Sandpaper can be good for a marriage if we let God use it to rub off some of the rough edges in our lives. It's humbling. We either learn the lessons and allow God to humble us, or we become bitter and resentful." Martin, married 26 years
"It is so easy to confuse awareness with intimacy. Being aware of what each of you have going day-to-day often feels like enough, but it isn't intimacy. Intimacy happens when you choose to give yourself some calm space and enough time to feel what the other is feeling. The great thing about building intimacy is you find yourself married to a richer, deeper, more complex person than you ever thought on your wedding day." Patricia, married 12 years
"It's been a strength for us to know that you must ask for forgiveness and you must forgive when asked. There have been sometimes when we've said, 'I'm not ready to forgive you.' But even in saying that, there's been an obligation to get to that point. We need to get there eventually." Jason, married five years
"It was important to both of us to find a place to worship where we would both be comfortable despite our different denominational backgrounds. We both felt that it's not spiritually healthy for married couples to go their own separate ways when it comes to a home church and worship. We kept up our 'church shopping' until we found one that we both liked. It took a long time, but it was worth it." Delinda, married five years
On Praying for Each Other
"She has seen her prayers have an effect in me very quickly." Bob, married 43 years
"My wife and I tried for many years to have a baby. During the times when we were going through the fertility treatments, when my wife was taking all the shots and it wasn't working, we really needed to cling to each other and to God's greater purpose for our lives. Some nights, we just held each other and cried. There wasn't a lot to say, other than we knew we have a God who loves us." Peter, married 13 years
"Mistakes made before we knew each other will affect our entire married life. There will always be scars that we have to deal with. All we do is look back to see how faithful God has been in redeeming our lives. It's amazing to us." Martha, married six years
On Sex and Romance
"Romance can be really fun, but sometimes we have to schedule it. When we do, it's a blast, it's sexy, and it's just plain fun. We have to make specific times for that. Sometimes we forget that whole part of the marriage for which we got together in the first place. We sometimes read through the Song of Solomon - it's really a fun and sexual thing to do." Bobbie, married 10 years
On Working through Conflict
"We usually need a cooling-off period. Perspective comes back when the heat subsides. We recognize our responsibilities during our time apart. At that point, it's a toss-up about who approaches the other. We both want it. Sometimes during a fight, we lock eyes and almost crack up, knowing how futile our intensity is when we know we're committed to resolving it." Lori, married eight years
On Praying Together
"We pray silently for a few minutes while holding hands before praying out loud. This makes it harder to lecture your spouse or justify yourself in prayer." Jeff, married 11 years
"No surprises. If you need to tell your spouse something difficult, trust her with her response. When I felt extremely defeated over a bad business decision, my wife gave me the gift of trust. 'Do what you think is best,' she said. She could have destroyed me with a negative comment, but she chose to believe in me. That's because we had built a foundation of trust." Mark, married 13 years
On the Basics
"Stick to the basics: love, perseverance, commitment. Be true to each other in everything you do and say." Ellen, married 43 years
As you and your mate draw closer to God, individually and through your marriage as "joint heirs of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7 RSV), may you experience a rich and full relationship in practical and personal ways. You don't need to wait for an anniversary to renew your vows to your spouse. Daily, you might want to consider these personal commitments as you build a marriage team.
Commitment 1: I commit to personally grow in Christ for the rest of my life.
Drawing closer to God in your marriage begins with your personal relationship with Him alone.
Commitment 2: I commit to our marriage for life and to work to solve all problems that arise.
Problems come, but when you face them with the goal and confidence of resolution, you can grow closer together in the process.
Commitment 3: I commit to be faithful to my spouse in both mind and action.
Trust develops and problems are avoided when you decide, "My spouse is the only one I will allow myself to think about in this way."
Commitment 4: I commit to communicate—no matter what.
Even when you'd rather do anything else, decide when and how you will talk through difficult issues.
Commitment 5: I commit to be a servant to my spouse.
Be willing to serve each other in thoughts and actions that promote mutual dependence and appreciation.
Excerpted from Growing Closer to God, Insight for Living Press, 2001. To purchase this book, call your local Insight for Living office or visit insight.org.
From Insights Newsletter Vol. 10, No. 2. February 2000.
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