By Barney Armstrong, MA, LMHC, Bellevue Christian Counseling
Does your husband have any faults? Is your wife inadequate in any way – does she have weaknesses? Does your mate irritate you? I’m sure that the answer is “no,” but just in case … I want to assure you that there are good reasons to not ignore these faults. Don’t waste them. They are important.
If that sounds counter intuitive, you’ve got the right idea. Christian marriage introduces an entirely new dynamic, really a counter-dynamic, to the way of the world – the usual, expected way things have always gone.
Christian Marriage is About Vibrant New Life
Why is that? Well, this is what Christianity does on every front. It introduces life into a world where the norm is for everything to run downhill, go awry, get old, fragment, and fall apart, leading finally to entropy – that is, to death. We are used to that. It’s integrated into all of our habits of thinking. Problems get worse, resources get depleted, ruts get deeper – and we become more and more accommodating in our habits of thinking and interacting with each other.
Most studies of human beings are static, providing snapshots of something that is actually in motion. But observations of a plant cut off at its base will provide erroneous conclusions about the function of systems that are actually shutting down, conserving declining resources, and on their way to decay. This is true of observations of a human specimen and it is also true of observations about marriage.
Marriage is full of systems which are intended to be alive and to grow. The introduction of such vibrant life for the individual Christian also offers a new dynamic to their marriage, for it introduces life into the marriage relationship.
A New Dynamic in Your Marriage
As a Christian counselor involved in marital and pre-marital counseling, I have observed that most people participate in marriage from the worldly stance of some form of “What do I get out of this?” Instead of this, consider asking, “What can I be to this person?”
She could ask: “How can I be maximally enjoyed by him?”
“How can I be beautiful (glorious according to Ephesians 5:27) toward him?”
He could ask: “How can I nurture her into all the wonderful things she is supposed to be?”
“What beautiful things does God have in mind for her to be?”
OK, for starters that’s a good example. So what new dynamic can we find for dealing with faults, lacks, irritations, and weaknesses?
God’s Vision for Your Mate
No one can pray for your mate like you can, with better insight or more desire. No one can have more vision for what they are to become. Remember that God is not out to fix something or simply put a band-aid on. He is the God who makes all things new and who calls into being that which does not exist. In His masterpiece, your mate, there are features that do not exist yet. But how will you be tipped off to the features God wants to create in your spouse?
Irritations, or an awareness that something is conspicuously missing in your mate, are God’s way of flagging you and tapping you on the shoulder so you can partner with Him in His work.
Think about how we approach things that are missing. I bought a beard trimmer the other day, which has about five attachments that come all nestled in a plastic tray. When you look at the tray you can see exactly which attachment goes in each spot because it is the exact shape of the part that fits there. In the same way, we know what goes where by what we see is missing.
Your Pathway to Unselfishness
Seeing what is missing in your mate is like a clue that can suggest your own task. In the Old Dynamic, you gripe about it, accuse them or argue with them, and then shut down. But that doesn’t work so well. By contrast, in the New Dynamic you send genuine desire toward God, praying that He will fulfill His lofty vision for your mate, not for your sake, but for his or her joy and fulfillment.
The nice thing about the New Dynamic is that it is also your pathway to unselfishness. If you are not finding it hard to pray this way, then you are not doing it right. Your heart has got to change in the process so that you genuinely desire God to do something for your mate that is purely for their joy and fulfillment – rather than simply to “fix” him or her.
Once you have made the journey from blame to unselfish giving, you will find that your spouse will sense your authentic good will. If you really have your act together you can even voice the vision and good that you desire for them. And … if you do it right, without blame or griping (“As if it wasn’t unfair enough already…”), you also need to be prepared for them to not immediately agree with you. They probably won’t, but if your heart is really right you will be on solid ground and they will have heard how you value them and the vision you have for them.
Getting to this New Dynamic is the challenge faced in Christian marriage. If you find that you have become a bit entangled in the world’s dynamics, you may want to consider speaking to a Christian counselor. A Christian marriage counselor can help you to gain clarity on your situation and to sort things out.
“Red Leather Box,” courtesy of nuttakit, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, ID# 10021159<
“Argue,” courtesy of Michal Marcol, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, ID# 100138624
“A Withered Rose,” courtesy of Grant Cochrane, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, ID# 100223306
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