Is Your Marriage Living, Changing, Growing? A Christian Counselor’s Questions
By Barney Armstrong, MA, LMHC, Bellevue Christian CounselingHave you ever asked yourself: “Is my marriage a place of growth?” Your marriage was not meant to be static. Nothing that God makes just sits. Indeed, nothing that is alive just sits. Something that does not change or grow but remains sedentary is just an object. It is not alive.
Christian Life is a Life of Constant Change
Some good questions to ask yourself are:
- “How am I growing because of my marriage?”
- “How does my marriage challenge me to grow?”
For a Christian, growth almost always involves change. We will be changing right up until the last trumpet sounds. When God calls us out of death into life and out of darkness into light, we are still accustomed to the ways and habits of death and darkness. And we are especially used to the thought patterns that have accommodated death and darkness. The Christian life will bring continuous renewal of our thoughts. It will therefore involve constant change.
Marriage is a Place of Repentance
You may have heard the word “change” in sermons on repentance. Repentance means to change your mind. It doesn’t always involve regret, or bowing and scraping, and it should never make you feel less valuable. A really good question would be: “Is my marriage a place of repentance?” Is your marriage conducive to repentance? Does it allow for it, expect it and welcome it, or are there emotional barriers to repentance?
Apology is Not the Same as Repentance
A lot of Christian marriages major on apologies. Yet apologies are not repentance, and can in fact often be a substitute for the real change of repentance. Instead of leading to genuine repentance, apologies in marriage can be a breeding ground for co-dependence.
Ask yourself before you apologize:
- “Is this about change between me and God, or is this about my feelings?”
- “Am I prodding my mate to change feelings I don’t like, feelings that should prompt me to struggle with a change of my heart and my thinking before God?”
- “Am I apologizing as a mere reflex and out of habit?”
- “Am I apologizing out of fear? Am I trying to show that I am not adequate/capable/admirable so that I won’t have to be responsible for my actions/words/attitudes?”
Before pressing your mate for an apology, ask yourself:
- “Is this for their good or for mine?”
- “Do I need an apology? Why?”
- “Do I want to ‘win’ an argument, gain turf, or set a precedent?”
- “Am I asking my spouse to change my own feelings?”
- “What would it look like to just go forward relationally?”
Then ask yourself:
- “Am I holding my dear spouse hostage?”
- “What am I withholding something until I “get an apology?””
- “Am I withholding affection, communication, physical contact, pleasure, frolic and fun, my vision or high regard of them, or warmth?”
Your Marriage Has a Redemptive PurposeThe simple natural attrition of everyday life will use up the resources your marriage naturally had at the outset. Even at best your marriage will simply fade unless it is going somewhere. Ask yourself: “Do I think of my marriage as an entity in itself that exists for its own sake?” If this is what it is, it is a Godless marriage, a safe haven in which idolatry can grow. Instead, ask yourself: “Can my marriage be propelled by a greater purpose?” And: “What are God’s purposes in this marriage and how do we foster them?”
The New Covenant changes everything on all fronts. It makes “the old deal” new in every way. In addition to creating a disaster for individuals, the Fall also fractured the marriage relationship. This means that a central purpose of marriage is redemptive ̶ it is intended to bring relational glory that will repeal the evil of the world. Generally, the male in the relationship is a warrior for truth who is out to expose, disarm, and rout the lies and darkness. The female brings beauty and relational warmth that fills the voids of the ugliness of evil and the darkness of hatred. (1 John 2:9, 11) Ask yourself:
- “Is God and His benevolence toward us central to our relationship?”
- “How do I (he) war against lies and fight for truth?”
- “How do I (she) show forth beauty and love against the evil and darkness?”
Christian Counseling Can Put Your Marriage on a Path to Growth
Christian counseling can provide a safe space in which you can ask some of the questions raised in this article. A trained Christian counselor can help you to find answers for your questions and to develop the patterns of thought that promote growth and life in your marriage.
“Checking on Early Growth,” by United Soybean Board, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0), “leaves-tree-spring-growth.jpg,” by r. nial bradshaw, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0), “SORRY over Sydney Opera House,” by butupa, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)