Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God, part 2

Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God

God calls man and woman to be "joined together and become one flesh". But to achieve oneness in our marital relationships, we must avoid pitfalls which damage our union. This message explains how a competing or condoning wife, and dominating or deserting husband thwart God's plan for unity in our marriage. And it examines the traits which define a "completing" spouse.

Todd WagnerNov 16, 2003Genesis 2
Genesis 2

In This Series (5)
Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God, part 5
Todd WagnerDec 7, 2003
Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God, part 4
Todd WagnerNov 30, 2003Malachi 2:10-16
Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God, part 3
Todd WagnerNov 23, 2003Ephesians 5:21-33
Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God, part 2
Todd WagnerNov 16, 2003Genesis 2
Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God, part 1
Todd WagnerNov 9, 2003Genesis 1


The Impressive Clergyman (from The Princess Bride** ): Marriage is what brings us together today.

Lucina Thompson: I think I very much had a fairy tale perspective of what marriage was going to be. We were going to live happily ever after.

Alex Wagner: I would say that expectations were very high for me.

Lucina: The time spent cooking, cleaning, while my husband sat on the couch reading the paper…

The Impressive Clergyman: That dream within a dream…

Alex: I am so amazed at the times when he seems completely oblivious to what has happened.

Lucina: It wasn't pretty. I can remember the first year of marriage throwing a brush as hard as I could at him, hoping I'd just knock him flat out.

Prince Humperdinck (from The Princess Bride** ):** Man and wife. Say, "Man and wife." Say, "Man and wife."

The Impressive Clergyman: Man and wife.

[End of video]

Todd Wagner: Who in the world would have a woman who they want to invest with who would ever get to the place where she'd just throw a brush? Most of us understand we create that with one another. There are times in our marriage where you kind of go, "You want to know how I feel right now? I feel like throwing a brush. That's how I feel."

What do you do in the midst of that, and what does that mean in the context of marriage relationships? What does that have to do with what we want to talk about anyway? This blessed arrangement, marriage. This dream within a dream. Why is it such a big deal to God? Here's what we want to do today.

Last week we looked at three specific things we elevated and talked about which explain why marriage is a big deal to God: because it mirrors his image like nothing else in history, because it's the method and means through which he wants to multiply a godly heritage through which one day evil would be defeated, and because it's his way to reveal and reflect his sovereign rule over all creation in the way husband and wife together manage their world and don't let their world manage them.

As God reigns sovereignly over creation, we're to reign collectively together in unity, oneness, and mutual submission over our world and not let our world run amuck over us. In that, God says, "Boy, these are three pretty big deals. This is why marriage matters so much to me." We're going to get to fourth today and a fifth next week.

The M we're going to look at today is an M which is called mutually complete. Marriage is God's means to mirror his image, to multiply godly heritage, to manage the world in a way that will reflect his rule and glory, and to mutually complete his most precious creation. What do I mean by that?

Let me say, as I said last week, this is a message that's relevant for those of us who are in marriages right now who are struggling. It is a great message for those of us who are in marriages that are working hard to have our marriage have the aroma to it we dreamt of and that God intended. It's a fantastic message for those of us who one day hope we will share that relationship with another person.

Frankly, there's tremendous application just in the way we relate to one another as friends who sit together inside an environment like this, who work with others, or who have neighbors. In the way we are supposed to, as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another, mutually completes one another.

When we bail out of relationships and, certainly and centrally marriage, there is a fallout which is absolutely destructive to God's ultimate purposes. That's why it's such a big deal to him. When you take what God has intended as a gift to make us more like Christ and run from it, we lose one of the greatest means of grace God gives us to help us be who he wants us to be.

Martin Luther, who you know is famous for this little thing called the Reformation when the Protestant church got launched, is also famous for saying he learned more about what it means to be a follower of Christ in the context of marriage than he did in a monastery. What he meant by that is in a monastery, I can go about my business, do my thing, and go back to my own little room, my own little cot, and get away from other people. In marriage, there's no place to hide.

I can remember when I first got married, I was still in the middle of working a lot in a youth ministry, working with a lot of kids and a lot of people all the time. I would go hard in public a lot, sometimes long days. When it was time for me to retreat and I was away from people, I could go back home with my dog, put my dog on the bed. I could have chicken ramen noodles if I wanted them. I could watch SportsCenter three times if I wanted to. I could rejuvenate and refresh. I could go to sleep with the radio on, wake up with the radio on, put my favorite music in, isolate myself, and kind of get replenished and refreshed by being alone.

Then all of a sudden, I got married. I was still doing what I was doing. I'd get away from everybody only to go hide in my own little corner of the world, and something would be there. I'd go, "Ow! What's that?" I'd look, and there was somebody else hiding in that same little corner of the world in a way that made me not as comfortable, who didn't want to listen to the same music, who didn't want to have ramen noodles or upgrade to macaroni and cheese every night.

I go, "What are you doing here? This is when I kinda get away. This is when I hide. This is me time. This is when I don't have to be on. It's when I don't have to serve. It's when I don't have to be kind." She was saying, "Oh, buddy, look. This is the first place you need to be kind, and your elbow is in my back." We had to begin to work through the, "Well, something has to change." Where I was supposed to decompress and unload is now where I have to, more than any other place, cultivate, cherish, and honor. It took a reorganizing in my life.

God said, "You know what, Wagner? The key to your being faithful and successful out there is the same key as your being successful and faithful in here. In fact, if you thought it was tough to be others-centered out there, welcome to marriage. Even with your friends, Todd, you can tell them you're not available this weekend. Even with your friends you can say, 'I don't want to go to dinner tonight. I don't want to talk to you.'

You can avoid them for a couple or three days, and everything is fine. Try that with the one you said, 'Till death do us part,' and you'll find out you can't just show back up right where you left off, because there's an expectation that's appropriate there. You're going to need me like you've never needed me before in order to be the man you want to be."

Let me show you biblically where this idea comes from. I mentioned last week that Genesis 1 is when God is… That's really where we focused a lot last week to find those three first things I talked about. Genesis 1 is where God is unveiling his plan in creation and specifically how he created things chronologically.

Genesis 2 starts by saying, "This is the account…" He doesn't say, "This is yet another chronological account." He couldn't because it would contradict what he has in chapter 1. We know God is not confused about the order he went about doing things. He said, "This is the account…" What kind of account?

"It's an account starring the central part of my creation, that which I am most enamored with, most glorified and revealed in through, which reflects my image and glory, which will reproduce on this earth a godly heritage through which one day evil will be defeated, which will reflect my reign, and which will enable them to be more of what I want them to be and show my love and purposes for the world." All this, God says, is what he wants us to understand is going to happen through this marriage relationship.

In chapter 2 he says, "I'm going to tell you my creation story again," and the chronology is going to be different from chapter 1. Why? "Because I want to focus on how I brought about humankind in the midst of my creation." Let me say it to you this way. If you read Genesis 1:26 and 28 and wanted God to take some time to really explain those verses to you, the ones that say that God said, "Let Us make man in Our image…in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." We talked about that last week.

You say, "God, tell me more about that. How did you go about this male-female thing?" He'd go, "Jump to chapter 2 with me, and I'll spend an entire chapter talking about these three verses." Here's what he did. He talks about how he made male and female. In effect, what comes out in Genesis, chapter, 2, is he made male first. Then he introduced male to all of creation.

He paraded all the animals in front of male. He let male name those animals. One of the things male noticed in the midst of this is for every Mr. Hippo there was a Mrs. Hippo. For every Mr. Giraffe, there was a Mrs. Giraffe, and so on. So then, when he got done, man went, "You know what? There's not a Mrs. Me. You must not be done yet, as you created hippos, as you created giraffes, as you created lions and tigers. You just made me, and then you must not be done yet."

God said, "That's exactly right, man. The reason I did this…" And God is a master teacher. "…is I wanted to show you that this isn't just some late edition. This is a part of me creating humankind. Now I'm going to put you to sleep, and when you wake up, there will be that which completes you."

Let me show you this in the Scriptures. If you want to jump down with me to verse 15 of Genesis, chapter 2, this is what it says. "Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…'" I don't want you to mess with that. "…for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

Just a side note right here. What God is doing is he's showing man right away, "Look. This is really all about me and all about your relationship with me. I'm going to put you in a place of great blessedness." We call it Paradise. Edenic. "In this Edenic place, I want you to know something. You will live in a dream world as long as you live in relationship with me by faith and you believe I've given you everything you need.

You love me, you walk with me, and you trust me. You don't need this one thing. You need me. I'm telling you, that thing over there will mess you up. In fact, it will cost you life as I've created you to experience it. It costs you your very existence, period, because it will separate you from me. Stay away from it. I'm going to tell you what's good and what's evil. You can trust me and have a faith relationship with me."

God called man right away into a faith relationship with him, where he would be glorified in the trust, worship, adoration, and submission man would give to the sovereign God who loved him and put him in a perfect place. Now, you know the story. You know we didn't trust God, worship God, honor God. We thought if we knew good and evil, we could appropriate it in our lives better than he could, and all the repercussions of that came out.

The point in this story is God put man in a perfect place, gave him provision, gave him a relationship and a law through which he could have faith and honor him and, if you will, be preserved by his faith relationship with God, saved by his faith relationship with God. Then he showed him, by showing him all of creation, that, "You, man, are not done being made yet as a species. You, male, are done, but we need to introduce female."

Then it comes to verse 18. Watch this. "Then the LORD God said, 'Look, if you haven't noticed, it is not good for you to be alone, so I'm going to make a helpmate suitable for you.'" Whenever I marry couples, this is one of the places I always take them. What I did last week, what I'm doing this week, and what I'm going to do next week is something I always spend time doing with couples.

I let them know, "Look. This is a bigger deal than your feelings for one another. This is about what God intends to happen in the context of a marriage relationship. Whenever you go someplace God says you shouldn't go, breaking that blessed thing God gives you, there's going to be consequences you don't want to mess with that hurt you, that hurt him, but that really have tremendous fallout on your life and on the created earth he called you to serve and live in. It's not about how this feels for you. It's about you, by faith, believing what God has called you to."

I take them to this little section, and this is where I tell them about what it means to mutually complete. That little idea right there which says, "…I will make him a helper suitable for him," what that literally means is "I will make a servant, or a masseuse, or a chef for him." No. No. No, it doesn't. That's not what it means at all. All right?

I always love to say that, because couples sometimes are just getting to know me a little bit, and they don't know I like to laugh every now and then. I love to watch them. They're taking diligent notes, writing along, and she goes, "Okay, masseuse, chef…" I go, "No. It doesn't say that." She goes, "Oh, okay," and starts erasing.

The guy goes, "What are you doing? Don't tell her! Don't tell her!" Then I usually come back and say, "What it really means is, 'I will give him brains and a conscience.' That's what it means." She goes, "Oh. I see he needs that." I go, "No, that's not what it means either. That's not what it means either." The guy goes, "Good."

What it means is, "I will give him that which he lacks that will enable him to be what I've created him to be. Without this, someone to share life with him in an intimate way, in a loving way, in a sharpening way, a prodding way, who will push him more toward what I created him to be, among other things, who he can celebrate life with…"

In Genesis 2 specifically, you have to understand, man was walking with God. There was no break in his relationship with God, so there was no cause of friction in his relationship with woman. The two of them together could only mirror God's image as they lived in oneness. Now when sin entered into the picture, this idea of being a completer went to a whole other level.

Not only now do we have to come together in oneness still in order to reflect the image of God in the context of our relationship, but in the context of being believers who by grace of God are brought back into a relationship with God through the provision he gave, he then calls us to stay there and to work with each other where grace and acceptance and commitment prevail in order to help us be what God wants us to be.

When you take apart what God has given you as a primary sanctifying influence and tool… Let me say that in a different way. When you run from a means of grace, a place God has offered to you to make you what he wants you to be and say, "I don't need that tool. In fact, that tool is painful, and so I'm going to run from it. I'm going to isolate myself from it," when you take what God says is a great gift and treat it as if it's your greatest problem, you're going to bring problems into your life.

This is again is starting to set up how we understand why God hates divorce. When you separate yourself geographically, physically, and emotionally from a means through which he gives you to complete you, you are separating yourself from one of God's greatest gifts. He hates it because he loves you. He wants you and I to have what we need to be and to experience life as he intended us to have it. Mutually complete.

Let me say it to you one more way, then I'm going to show you how we typically run away from this in different sin expressions and teach you and share with you what a mutually completing spouse really does. Then those two wives who were willing to have some fun talking about how that "dream within a dream" became a bit of a struggle and how they labor with their husbands, their husbands are willing to come up here with them and talk about how they work through this. We'll do that in just a minute.

Let me show it to you this way. God, in his love and efforting with us, when he comes into a relationship with us, doesn't leave us. Even when his grace of the sacrifice of his Son is accepted as a means through which we are covenanted together, God knows we still hurt him by leaving him. As a follower of Christ, I make decisions that hurt God, that, to use Scriptural reference, quench his Spirit and, therefore, grieve the Spirit.

God wants to complete me. He convicts me. He woos me back. He uses the Scripture. He uses his Word. He uses the community of faith I'm in and his Spirit which is inside of me to say, "Todd, you can't continue to live like this and experience intimacy with the Father who loves you." God will keep the heat on me until he brings me back because he is there, not to mutually complete me because he's already complete, but to be a perfect helper to me, to draw me to Christlikeness. He will do that even to where he finishes the job at my physical death.

For now, he's given us one another to be in each other's lives in a way that helps us work through the shortcomings and shortfalls in our lives. He doesn't want us to isolate ourselves. In Ephesians 4, he gives this command to all of us, not just married couples. First Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers…" Those who stay together, who don't run and isolate from each other.

He says in Ephesians 4, "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity…" Which God has created by the inflowing of his Spirit to preserve that unity. "…of the Spirit in the bond of peace." That's all of us.

Don't isolate. Don't run from the pain that conflict brings. Work through it in a loving way where God will be glorified, others will be helped and served, and you'll grow yourself. It's a good thing, but too many of us get in the habit of, when we come against somebody and there begins to be problems, we just go somewhere else where there are no problems and try and start anew.

We never stay there in relationships and let that relationship change us, expose to us the edges in our lives that are not like Christ, that would make it hard for folks to come up and stay near us. God says, "Don't run from each other. Don't forsake your assembling together," and especially in marriage.

Here's what I want to show you. This is what God wants man to do. In fact, he calls man to stay and, "…dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness." He said, "You can choose this day who you're going to yoke yourself with, but if you want to yoke yourself with another person, then I expect you to take that little piece of land I give you, and I want you to cultivate it, dwell there, love it, fertilize it, and nourish it.

You build walls of protection around it. You be a person who lovingly stewards your life to make that piece of land [in this analogy] prosperous; fruitful; free from disease, weeds, and predators; and a blessed place to dwell. It's going to take work, man. I don't want you just to move on once the low-hanging fruit is gone. I don't want you to leave it after the rich, dark soil is gone.

That land, typically when it's 18 to 28 years of age, looks really good. I don't want you to like it just then, and then move on about 40 years into this land's existence, find someplace else that looks a little cleaner and fresher with more low-hanging fruit you really like, and go, 'I can walk over here without any effort. This looks nice. This feels nice.' No. I want you to live there in that land, cultivate it, and steward the rest of your days to that land." That's what God wants man to do.

For woman, he said, "I want you, woman, to help that man who is going to dwell here, to complete him, to help him be the man I created him to be. I want you to love him, to let him know where the weeds are that sometimes, maybe, in his will he ignores or in his ignorance he can't see. I want you to tell him how he can be effective in running, if you will, stewardship over this life he has committed to dwell with.

I want you to help him know where you're insecure, where you need to be protected, what it means to value you, how he can fertilize and nourish and cherish you so you produce the fruit I created you, woman, to produce. You help him be that man. Don't resent him when it's not happening naturally. He's not all there all the time. You love him and call him and help him see what only you can see."

Marriage, if you will, is not God's greatest gift to make us happy. Marriage, he's going to show us, is God's greatest gift to help us be holy. It takes somebody who will dwell with us and make us more than we are alone, and somebody who will complete us, push us toward Christlikeness, and not just make us happy all the time.

This is where, primarily, men sin. I'm going to give you two different expressions. Every time men abandon their calling, they go one way or the other. For a woman, I'm going to show you two sin expressions in women. Though all of us probably bounce back and forth, most of us probably lean more toward one of these than the other. Let me show them to you first.

Instead of dwelling in the land and cultivating faithfulness, a lot of guys will dominate the woman. In other words, what they do is they share with the woman, "Look. This is the deal. I am in charge of this land, and this is the way this land is going to work. You produce fruit. You make me glad to be here. You keep this land nice. When I show up, I expect it to look nice. I expect it to treat me nice. I expect you to give me what I want when I want it.

It's my job to lead us here, and I'm telling you this land will act this way. This land will be good for me. I'm not sure how much I'm going to be here, but when I'm here, you make me glad to be here. If you're not, you're going to regret it, because I will burn certain portions of this land, start all over. I will intimidate you. I will tell you this is the way it's going to be. You make me glad to be here, land, or I might just leave it. Do you understand me?"

This is what you do. That is not a guy who dwells in the land who takes responsibility for it, who protects it, who cultivates it, who nourishes it, who loves it, who pulls weeds, who is attentive to it. That's a guy who says, "Look. This is the deal. I happen to be sovereign, and so let's make it happen."

Women sometimes respond to a guy who is not dwelling well, maybe a guy who is dominating, but it could be a guy who is doing something else as well… One of the sin expressions of a woman is to come alongside that guy and to compete with him. She'll say, "Okay, look. You're not dwelling in this land the way I want you to dwell in this land. Instead of helping you see that in a loving way, spurring you on to be what Christ wants you to be, I'm going to go about this a little different way.

I'm going to teach you that you don't jack with me like that. I don't have landlords who treat me like that. If you come in here and you're not paying attention to me, you're not loving me, you want to leave me alone, leave me cold in the morning, and leave me cold in relationship, then I'm going to tell you something. Don't you show up wanting to mess with my fruit, because you'll find I'm going to be pretty cold there as well.

I'll tell you something else, old man. I can't wait for other people to see what kind of landlord you really are. Right now, the little ones who dwell here with me, they can't see that you speak to me in an inappropriate tone. They can't see you're an inattentive father, but I can't wait till they're old enough to where they can. I can't wait until you see the pain that you're going to cause your family.

I can't wait until other people see the weeds that grow in my life. I'm going to tell you, guy, you're not going to like it around there. You're not going to be attentive to me? Well, I'll tell you something. I'm not going to be attentive to you, or I'm going to start running this household without you. We're going to show you we don't need you." A competing wife says, "This is the way it's going to be!"

What's interesting about most guys is they accept that. They kind of go, "This is the way. I live my life on my own terms, in my own timing, but just I know that every now and then she gets fed up with it. Sometimes it might go in a 26-day cycle. Sometimes it might go in 6-month cycles, but look. It's worth it, because I still get to play golf on Saturdays. I still get to come home late. I still have my time with my buddies. All I know is every now and then I have to just let her get it out."

You kind of stand in a corner, and you go, "Are you done yet? Are you done yet?" Then you kind of walk to the other side of the cage, and you go, "Whew." You go, and you laugh with your buddies. You go, "I paid for that one," but you don't really change. The woman is more committed to roaring, getting it off her chest, and intimidating a guy, or saying, "Don't you come over here and lay your paws on me, big boy, because this cage is not going to be so cuddly for a while."

That's a competing wife. That's not a wife who says, "Look. We have to share this life together. I want to be intimate with you. I want to share all of my hopes, joys, fear, insecurities, and celebrations with you. I'm going to prevail with you to help you be the kind of man I look forward to that with."

Let me show you another sin expression in guys. It's the guy who says, "You know what? I'm not really sure I'm going to keep investing here. It's a lot of work. It's not like the early years when I got into this thing. I was so happy. She made me happy. She made me happier than anybody. She looked good. The fruit was there readily available. I didn't have to work for it very much. Everything about it was wonderful, but lately there are some weeds that have sprung up. She wants some more time.

You know what? It's a lot easier for me to get value over here. It's a lot easier for me to find significance over here. In fact, my secretary is warmer and kinder and more respectful to me than my wife is. I'm just going to go and have my needs met over here. I'm going to go and make myself significant in the way I work. I'm going to go make myself significant in the way I win the club championship. I'm going to make myself significant and have fun in the way I have people respond to me in this relationship over here."

They're going to move away. They don't dwell in that land and cultivate intimacy. What they do is they find life somewhere else. God says, "You know what, man? I want you to find your provision here at home. I want you to delight yourself here in this land you covenanted to. I don't want you to find your meaning and significance somewhere else."

Guys in my profession are sometimes the worst at this. I go places, and I speak. I go places, and I share. I go places, and I counsel. I have folks who tell me, "Todd, we know you're so busy. We are so grateful you're here. For you to come… I want you to know we've been praying for you the last couple of years, that you'd come. This was great. We're going to benefit from this for weeks ahead." Or I meet with a couple somewhere, and they'll say, "Man, thank you for being here for me," or "Thank you for giving us the leadership here. Thank you for coming to console us right here."

You know, it's really interesting. When I go to my house, and I show up, my wife doesn't typically say, "Oh, kids! Look who is here with us this evening. It's amazing that he would come, and he would take time and do your homework with you. He's going to bathe you tonight and change your diapers. He's going to share a meal. Sometimes three, five times a week, this man is here to share a meal with us. Isn't this incredible?

What I'd like to do is pool our allowance together. I've taken some of the grocery money, and we're going to give him an honorarium for showing up and being here with us. Todd, we just want to tell you, it's such a blessing that you've been here." There are a lot of guys who go, "You know what? I love that. I love when I get other places…" and, in the name of advancing the gospel, they're away from that home all the time.

The people who have a mom or a dad, a dad specifically in this instance, who say they're there to dwell with them, love them, raise them up, and to be stewards over them go, "You know what? You know what God means to me? What God means to me is that he pulls my daddy away. You know what my dad's real god is? It's not serving God. My dad's real God is being needed by other people, wanted by other people, and available to other people so they can tell him all the time how valuable he is."

They are what is commonly called PKs, preacher kids, who grew up resenting their daddy and resenting the church and resenting God because their daddy is not there in the way God intended for daddies to be there for them. The wife is bitter at the church and bitter at the husband and bitter at God and says, "I don't care what kind of godly man you are; you certainly are not the godly man for me." That's a deserting husband. It sometimes happens professionally. It sometimes happens with hobbies. It sometimes happens relationally. It's sin.

Now how is a woman….? This is the one, by the way, I think women most often sin in. It is a woman who says, "Oh, I know he's not perfect, but as men go, he's a pretty good one. I mean, he travels a lot, but he does that, he works hard, because he loves us so much, wants to provide for the kids, wants to give them a good education. I know he speaks in a short tone sometimes, but he's under so much stress. I don't want to wear him out. I don't want to be a woman who doesn't make his home welcoming. I think I'm supposed to be here and make him happy to be here."

What you do is you start overlooking things in your husband's life that, the truth is, are really bothering you, really affecting you in a negative way. You start to make excuses for the fact that he's not a loving, completing husband. Instead of dealing with it because it's painful, because sometimes he'll roar back at you and say, "Woman, you don't know how lucky you've got it. You don't know what other men are like. You should take this. I'll tell you what your alternative is. It's to have less of me. If you make it this hard for me, I'll tell you what. I'm not sure I'll come home at all."

A lot of women go, "Oh. I'm not really sure I want that," and so they back off, back off, back off, begin to make excuses for their husband. What they don't know is each time they do that, there's another layer of separation between them and their husband. It's a sedimentary thing where all of a sudden after years of this, you have a woman who has this layer of junk that's turned into rock and then turned into what's called a hard-hearted person, to where they finally, then, want to tell their husband they're sick of it.

They come into my office or some other office, and they're not there to work on their marriage. They're there to tell you how bad their marriage has been, what abuse they've lived under for 15 or 20 years. They want out, and anybody who has any sense would agree they need to get out. Typically, what happens is the guy, for the first time, goes, "What? You mean it's not been good for you? It's been okay with me. Why didn't you say something before?"

She goes, "Say something before? I've been trying to tell you. Can't you tell my flowers haven't been blooming? Can't you tell I haven't been producing the fruit you want me to produce? Can't you tell we don't have the kind of marriage… You're so stupid you don't even know this is not what land is supposed to look like."

They guy goes, "What can I do?" Like most guys, what we do when we see a plant that's dead and we finally notice it, what do you do? You go get a big pitcher of water. You go, "Well, I'm here now. I know you must have been thirsty for a long time. I do see now that I look at you that you're not the blossoming beauty of my youth." We dump all the water in the world on them and say, "Come on! Come on! Come back to life. Come back to life."

All that happens there is you just overwhelm that plant, and they're repulsing it. They kick it back. It turns muddy. It gets on the carpet and spills out. They resent the fact that all of a sudden you're attentive to it. This whole time the woman thought she was being this loving wife who overlooked the things that were really making her heart harder and harder and harder. What does God want us to do then in the midst of this?

Here's where the Lord calls us, again, in the context of every human relationship, but specifically in marriage. There's something about marriage that God sovereignly uses like nothing else. I will tell you the greatest discipleship course I have ever been in has been the one I've been in with Alex Wagner, because I have no place to hide. She is there with me day in and day out, in every kind of situation. She knows how I speak, but she also knows how I live. She knows how I talk about what a man should be, and she knows how sometimes I make a woman feel, as a man.

She's saying, "Mr. Wagner…" I've told you before. She said some things to me in a moment. She said, "Why don't you just go tell somebody else how to live their marriage? Why don't you go speak somewhere right now, because frankly, I'd rather you were out there speaking than in here messing this one up?" Hello. Okay. That's that little competing right there after she's condoned for too long, and we move and center back from where I have deserted her or dominated her. I start to dwell, she starts to complete, and we work through it.

What does a completing spouse look like? Let me give them to you very quickly, and we're going to try and flesh this out for you in, hopefully, a way that will bless you. What does a completing spouse do?

1._ A completing spouse is consistent._ They are somebody who is there. They don't wait, if you will, until they get so frustrated, they finally just erupt. They don't go through huge mood swings where they accept a certain behavior for a certain amount of time, and then all of a sudden they go, "This is unacceptable." Then the husband stands up to attention for a while, but he slowly drifts. Then whenever he drifts to a certain point, you jerk him back.

A completing spouse, husband or wife, doesn't have a leash that is hundreds of feet long. They have a love relationship that wants to make sure that, if you will, in a man-dog analogy, that dog is always at heel. When it runs off, they say, "Come on back here. Let's have the kind of relationship God intended us to have. Let's be close with one another." It's not like you just wait, wait, and wait. Then all of a sudden it jerks you, and then you erupt.

Here's a word picture for you. It's like if you have a dog, and every now and then you invite that dog to come up on your bed with you and to sit on the couch with you when you're eating popcorn and watching a movie because it's fun. You really don't want the dog on the couch, you don't want the dog in the bed, because there will be hair there or they make scratches on the leather or whatever it might be.

What will happen is sometimes you'll come home, and that dog will be up there on the couch. You'll go, "You know, I had a good day at work. My emotional bank account is pretty full." You go, "Get off that. Get off that couch. Come on, get down." Then there are certain days you walk in there, and you yell, "Get off that couch! What are you doing on my bed? Get off! You're slobbering on my bed. Get off."

That dog will think the problem is not that it's on the bed or on the couch. The dog will think, not that they mismanaged their life in terms of what they did. They will think they misjudged your mood. That dog will live in a constant state of insecurity with, "What I have to really figure out is, is this unacceptable behavior going to be acceptable in this moment or is this really unacceptable behavior?" The way you train a dog is you are consistent with an animal.

You don't kick it every fourth time it eats the trash. Every time it gets into something it shouldn't, you say, "We have to deal with this. I still love you, but this is not what we do. This makes a mess. It'll make you sick. It's going to hurt our relationship." Every time. In a marriage what you have is a lot of guys… And guys are like that. If you'll let them get in the trash every now and then without getting on them, they'll do it. We kind of start to move toward the lowest common denominator of stability and acceptance in the home.

What we start to think is the problem is not our ongoing behavior and inattentiveness, it's that you're in some cycle that makes you more sensitive, or that I just have to let you kind of have your moment where I go to the corner and let you bark, but then I'm going to go right back to my offense. That's not a completing spouse. A completing spouse is loving, attentive, continually prodding and pushing, calling to oneness and intimacy.

Now, let me address this. What is the difference between a completing spouse and a completely nagging woman? Or even a husband who is a nagging person? The Scripture says, "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression." Here's a picture I can give you for this. An offense is too small to overlook in a relationship when it does any one of these four things:

First, if it's dishonoring to God. If there's anything that spouse, that friend, is doing which is dishonoring to the Lord and what the Lord would call them to be, then you have to address it. It's not about you at that moment. It's about what God would have me do.

Secondly, if it damages your relationship. Why? Because this is a person who has committed to be close to you, to be diligent in preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, to share oneness with you. If what they're doing is damaging your relationship, you have to address it right away.

Thirdly, if it's hurting or might hurt other people. The kids, folks who are living around you or who are in the house, or other people who are looking to you as a leader and expect you to live differently, and your model, your tone, your behavior, your inattentiveness is starting to hurt other folks.

Lastly (it kind of relates to this), if you are an individual or somebody who is living with an offender, and that offender's behavior is diminishing that person's usefulness to God. What I want to tell you is male or a female, when any one of those four is happening, you have to consistently address it. It's not a minor offense at that moment.

A loving completer would say, "I need to talk to you about this." I need to do it every single time in a loving way. The Scriptures tell us how to do that. It says , "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable…" You don't do it with a burst of frustration. You do it with tenderness. "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable…"

You pick your moment, you pick your time, and you share with them how what they did made you feel, because you honor them, love them, and want to be close to them. You're consistent. Not moody. Not cyclical. Not when they get a hundred yards away. When they get a step away. That's a loving friend and a loving wife or a loving husband.

2._ A completing spouse, male or female, celebrates._ In other words, you don't wait until they mess up to let them know. What you do, is you share with them, "Look. I want to tell you something. What you just did was fantastic." In sports, when you watch film in football, for instance, what coaches don't do is go, "Well, look. We have huge breakdown in the left side of the line here. Look at how they didn't pick up that blitz. Look at how they didn't do that."

The coaches will say, "This is why we're flat on our backs. This is why we're losing yardage in our relationship right now." They will expose things that are inappropriate, but a great coach will go, "I want you guys to pay attention over here, though. I want you to see how this wide receiver over here holds this block even though the play is entirely away from him."

"Stop the film. Do you see how the ball is on the left side, but he's doing his job? Now watch this," and he rolls the film some more. He shows how all of a sudden that play moves to the other side of the field, and they got a touchdown because of that. Why? Because this guy over here was doing his job. A good coach will celebrate what is right and not just wait for things that are wrong.

As a husband, as a wife, one of the ways you are to complete your spouse is when you see them love you well, when you see them making sacrifices to dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness, when you see them come at you when it was hard for them to come at you in a loving way and show you the junk that's coming up in your life, you stop and go, "Can I tell you how wonderful what you just did was? The way you admonished me, the way you came to me and didn't let this small thing grow into a big thing, that blesses me so much. I am so privileged to have you as a spouse."

You look for things to celebrate. A completing husband or a wife finds things that are good in that other person. They go, "Can I tell you something? You know what? I know this has been a tough year for us financially, but I have seen you work so diligently. We don't have all the cars. We're not doing as well as our neighbors across the street are right now, but do you know something? I have a husband I'm so proud of, because I see you, every day, take a shot at it. I want you to know I love you. I'm so grateful to have a hard-working man in my home."

That's what a completer does and just doesn't nag him about mounting bills, although there might be a time to say, "Let's talk about our lifestyle in the context of what we're able to make right now, because it's hurting us and causing us stress." Not only do they celebrate, not only are they consistent, but…

3._ A completing spouse_ is courageous. In other words, a completing spouse doesn't worry about how they might be perceived. A completing spouse is going to say, "You know what? You might call me a nag, you might intimidate me and tell me if I don't like it this way, it's going to get worse, but I'm going to keep coming at you because that's my job. I'm going to love you enough to not let you intimidate me off from telling you about you're hurting me.

I'm not going to let you push me away with names. I'm not going to let you push me away with threats. I'm not going to let you not have me go to somebody in our community who loves us enough to come into our marriage and get messy with us, even though they're going to be shocked my marriage isn't perfect. It's not about my marriage being perceived as perfect. It's about me being who God wants me to be as a husband or a wife."

4._ A completing spouse is committed._ In other words, they are there. They're not looking to get out. They're not there threatening with divorce words. They know grace and acceptance and commitment are the building blocks which make a great marriage, and so they don't introduce possibilities.

They say, "Look. I am here. I am committed to you. I'm committed to working through this process. We might have a bunch of layers of junk between us, but I'm going to drill through them with you. I am here. I will not accept more layers piled up on top of more layers, but I'm doing this because I love you and I love what God wants for us. I want you to know this is not me wearing you out. This is me loving you because I want to be near. I am committed to you, but I will not let what's going on continue because it's going to hurt us." That's a completing spouse.

5._ A completing spouse is Christ-dependent._ All I mean by that is they realize they cannot love well if they don't let God love through them. They realize part of what Christ has called them to in the midst of marriage is a refining process, and so they don't resent their spouse. They accept it for what it's worth, and they realize if they persevere through this testing of their faith, it will produce endurance in their life.

Their job is not to rejoice in unrighteousness, but to see that spouse through the greater faithfulness. They know God is making them holy in the midst of this not-so-happy time. They love God's will for their life, and they won't run away from it. They say something, folks, not because it will make the heat get off them with their spouse.

They say, "You know what? I have to talk to my spouse, not because he's driving me crazy but because what he's doing is dishonoring to God. What he's doing is hurting his relationship with me. What he's doing is hurting his usefulness to the Creator. What he's doing is hurting other people. Not out of my selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, for him or for her, I'm going to go to them right now and say, 'Jesus wants more for you than what you're doing right now and the way you're not loving me.'"

6._ A completing spouse is contrite._ What I mean by that is they don't go to the other person and say, "I have to tell you what's wrong with you." A completing spouse goes to somebody and says, "You know, I've been thinking a lot about our marriage. I have to tell you I have not been the kind of man I need to be. I have not been leading us well. I have not been really loving you well. You've been distant from me. Our physical life is not what it should be right now. You don't make this a home I want to come home to, but I want to tell you why it hasn't been.

I wouldn't want to be close to me right now either. I understand why your heart is a little hard toward me right now. I need to ask your forgiveness. I want to tell you these are some things I think I've done that have hurt you. I've asked God to show me those things. I'm trying to get the log out of my own eye. I want you to tell me some other things you see that are hurting our relationship. I want to also share with you, after I get the log out of my own eye, some things you're doing that are hurting me." That's a completing spouse. They're contrite.

7._ A completing spouse is somebody who is connected._ They know there are others who love them enough that if their marriage is not what God wants it to be, their relationship isn't working… We had a beautiful picture this week, not in the context of marriage but in the context of ministry at this church, where two godly people were really struggling with each other. Members of this church who were really ready to separate, frankly, in terms of their being yoked together.

What they did is they said, "We have to invite somebody else into this with us because we can't hear each other. We are in a community where we don't care that we look like we can't work this thing out. We want to work toward oneness again, and we're hurting each other." They called somebody else in.

That's what a loving spouse does. They go to others they're connected with and say, "Look, I'm not here to tell on my husband. I'm here to get help for my husband and me." "I'm not here to tell on my wife. I'm here to ask you, 'Would you show me what I'm doing that's not loving my wife well? Would you come in and get messy with us?'"

I'll share one story with this. I have a friend who worked on a farm when he was little. His daddy asked him to go out one particular day and do some work on one side of the field. On this other side of the field, it was a little soft. He knew he shouldn't get out there. In fact, the dad said, "Don't go to that side of the field because it's a little soft out there. I want you to work over here." But he loved to drive the tractor, so he got the tractor out there.

Sure enough, he buried that little tractor to its axles. Lucky for him, the tractor his dad had given him was one of several on the farm, and he knew there was a bigger tractor on the other side. So, what did he do? Instead of realizing he had buried himself up to his axles, he went and got a bigger tractor, hooked it up to the smaller tractor, and got that other one stuck up to its axles. Then he went and did that one more time.

Sure enough, here comes his daddy. He has the third tractor hooked up to the second tractor, hooked up to the first tractor, all buried up to their axles in the mud. Then he saw his dad's pickup riding out to him. He was sitting there, and he didn't know what his dad was going to say. He pulled up alongside of him, and he yelled out, "Hey, Bill, are you going to get help or a bigger tractor?" A completing spouse goes to get help, not a bigger tractor. They are connected.

Let me let you see from these friends again who have made themselves available to talk about what their lives as completing spouses looks like. I want you to hear from them.


Lucina: I think I very much had a fairy tale perspective of what marriage was going to be. We were going to live happily ever after.

Alex: I would say expectations were very high for me, and I spent a lot of time in tears because those expectations were not met.

Lucina: It didn't take very long at all for me to realize that was a bubble. It burst quickly.

Alex: A lot of that, I think, was because I placed a lot of my significance in my husband. Before I realized I was doing that, I needed to realize my significance needed to be in Christ.

Lucina: When my expectations weren't met, I did a very poor job for many years of bringing that to my husband's attention. It wasn't pretty. I would allow things to build to a crescendo and then, instead of going calmly to him, it would explode in anger and yelling. My husband had many unmet needs as well, and I contributed greatly in trying to nail the lid of the coffin to our marriage closed.

Alex: We are committed to loving each other. We are committed to sharpening each other. We are really, ultimately, committed to helping each other be more like Christ.

Lucina: If we had not forgiven much, if we had not worked through the conflict that existed between us and the complete set of needs that were not met for each of us, we would not have made it.

Alex: When my husband is not loving me the way the Scriptures call him to, he needs me to and wants me to talk to him and to tell him that. God wants me to be that person in his life who helps sharpen him to be the man God wants him to be.

[End of Audio]

I mentioned to you that these couples have been willing to do this and come up and share with us about how they worked on their marriages. Thank you, Thompsons. And your spouse is right here. For those of you who don't know, this is my wife. This is Alex Wagner. This is one of her worst nightmares, to stand up here with me, not because we're about to talk about how we worked through, but this is just not her favorite thing to do, to stand in public.

She understood the value in us bursting the illusion that because I love Christ and serve in the role I get to serve in, we don't have to work really, really hard at our marriage, and the value in saying the reason we're going to make it and be a blessing to our kids is because we're going to work at our marriage. We don't want you to think this is easier for us than it is for you. Is it?

Alex: No.

Todd: No. Kyle and Lucina, talk about this. We've heard from you before, but very quickly talk about how… Lucina, you mentioned in the first one and then again that you almost nailed the coffin shut on your marriage. Talk about that. What happened four to five years into your marriage? One of you two.

Kyle: Okay. When Lucina threw the hairbrush at me, it was obvious I was not going to be able to dominate her, so I moved into a process of, really, withdrawal. We lived two separate lives, and that worked well for me. Until six years down the road, she came in one evening and…

Lucina: And, basically, told him, "I don't love you anymore. As a matter of fact, I don't even like you. What I really want to do is not be with you anymore at all, but I will choose, because we made a commitment, to live in this house, but you'd better bank on it: I'm not going to be fun to live with."

Kyle: Yeah. When Lucina finally did that, I was clueless. I thought we had a good marriage. I thought it was working real well, but I realized when she told me that she was just repulsed by even being in the same house with me, I either had to engage and get in the game or acknowledge I'd lost my marriage.

Todd: If you guys would, this is a major event that happened. How long ago was that? How many years?

Kyle: It was 15 years ago.

Todd: Fifteen years ago. Those of you who don't know Kyle and Lucina, they are leaders of our church. Kyle is an elder. Lucina teaches our women's ministry. The reason they are at a place where they can be examples to the body is not because, Lucina, you gave Kyle a good introduction to reality 15 years ago. What happened, and what have you done? First of all, what didn't you do that got you six years into your marriage like that?

Lucina: When I look back, it's very clear to me now I was that female cat that had the lion against the wall. I was competing. I would let things go. I thought I said a lot of things. Obviously, he didn't hear it. Days would go by, weeks would go by, which would turn into months gone by. When I finally would get to him, it would be in a rush of emotion, anger, and frustration, and the bitterness had set it. When I finally made him hear me, it was not good. I just didn't know how to go to him on a daily basis and keep short accounts with him. I had no idea how to do that.

Todd: So, the reason your marriage got to that hard place is because you were not a completing spouse during those first five to six years.

Lucina: Right.

Todd: Now was that a willful decision, or were you just not aware? You thought you were sending him verbal and nonverbal messages most average people could have clued into, correct?

Lucina: Absolutely.

Todd: Kyle, why weren't you clued into her?

Kyle: That's a great question. I think I had just gotten to a point where I was coping in a way that worked for me. I felt like it must be working for her. It was great that we had folks, particularly one couple in our life, I was able to sheepishly go to and overcome my pride and the picture I was trying to present to folks in our life that we had a good marriage and that we loved each other, and just basically tell them what happened.

Then he spent not only months but years, along with others, building into me, just really reprogramming what God intended for me as a husband, what my role was, what it meant to love her, to honor her, and to understand her.

Todd: Okay. So, this now put you at a place, not where for the last 15 years your marriage has been easy, but really where for the last 15 years, we've lived.

Alex, where have we lived the last 15 years? Have we ever gotten to one of those places where…? Have you ever told me you didn't like me?

Alex: Absolutely.

Todd: Yeah. So, tell me about how we work and what happens. How would you define our marriage in terms of our purposefulness to it?

Alex: Okay. We have a great marriage, but we work very hard at it. In the first service, Todd asked me how many days a year we probably work on our marriage. I said, "Every day." Two of our kids are in here today, and they can testify that we work very hard at our marriage. We spend a lot of time talking and praying.

When we have a situation that we do not want to be with each other at that moment (this is what you were just asking, I think), that we have come apart, we don't go do other things. We don't go watch television or whatever. We take time to pray and to be alone and let the Spirit really work on our hearts, so we can come back together and keep that situation from escalating.

Todd: What she's talking about is when Alex and I get to this place when she's annoyed everybody in the family to the point there's clearly tension… You guys understand what I'm talking about? I'm talking to my kids. No. They're saying no. Does dad ever do that? Sometimes. Right. Yes, he does.

When we get to the place where we're missing each other, and we realize that, even in becoming aware of that, what we don't do is just keep working on it while our flesh is kind of at a high level. What we do is go, "You know, this is not being constructive toward oneness right now. In fact, I'm more of in a prosecuting mode than a listening mode. Right now, I don't want to see the contriteness in my life. I want you to know why you don't make me happy and why this is tough for me."

If Alex is equally as willing to share that sense, what we do is we usually go, "Okay, what we need to do right now is both of us get our lives in order, take care of the kids, do the things we need to do to get our life to a place of stability where we can then both be alone." It doesn't mean she goes and returns emails or talks to a friend on the phone. It doesn't mean I get to watch some TV or read a book or study.

It means we both go listen to the Lord and say, "God, right now we're at a place where we're not willing to work together. You have to change my heart first." What we do is then we come back, and when one of us is ready, we say, "I'm ready when you are." Sometimes the other person isn't ready right away, and it takes them another hour or so sometimes. Before we bury today, we work through that conflict.

Kyle and Lucina, this is what I want to get to with you. You're not up here because 15 years ago you had this big conversation. You're up here because that put you at a place where you could begin to be a completing spouse and a completing husband. Do you guys still have, in your lives, the need to work on your relationship?

Kyle: We do. God took us through a journey where now we have a great relationship. We talk a lot. We work through issues, but we also fall back into old patterns. Very recently we had a situation where Lucina's folks were visiting us. I did something she perceived was hurtful to them, and she didn't say anything.

We were with my family a week later, and she watched how I was bending over backwards to serve my parents. I mean, it was an explosion. By not addressing the issue and letting it be buried and become embittered, then it exploded in an ugly way, but it was great for us to have the opportunity to unpack and rework through all of that and have the reminder of how important it is for us not to leave those issues unaddressed but to continually work through them.

Todd: Right. What would you all say to people who look at us and go, "Well, you guys have great marriages"? What would you say? That we're lucky to have the marriages we have? What would be your response, guys, to that?

Alex: I'd say we do have a great marriage, just like I said a few minutes ago, but we work very hard at it.

Todd: I think the heart we're trying to communicate here, and then I have one more question before we end, is we're lucky that by the grace of God, we have been brought to a place where we realize marriage is a big deal and that we're willing to keep short accounts and wrestle through that.

One of the things and practices Alex and I put into place is a list of words that, over the years, we've slowly accumulated that we know in the midst of completing one another we're not to use with one another. The word nag, for instance, is one you've asked me not to maybe bring up. Correct?

Alex: Anything that might rhyme with that.

Todd: Yeah. That's right. Nag, hag. That's really been my game all along. I've never called my wife the B-word in our marriage, but I look at her and go, "You are such a…witch." Like that. She goes, "You know, I know what you're trying to say, and that is not…"

Alex: That word goes on the list.

Todd: It's on the list. Once we've got through all the rhyming words now, and I have to control tongue, we realize… Words like jerk or arrogant or things like that are on the list for me. That doesn't help me when you say, "You're a jerk," or "These last 20 years have been miserable every day." I go, "Every day? All the time? Really?" She goes, "It feels like that right now." I go, "I know it feels like that right now, but come on. Wasn't there one moment? Wasn't that good?"

Alex: Always is not a good word.

Todd: Yeah. Always and never. You guys know that, but we have to work at that. Our feelings get hurt. Our pride kicks in. We're committed to having a marriage that blesses our kids and models for them working through that.

Kyle, Lucina, and Alex, let me ask you this. What would you say to somebody who is out there saying, "That's all well and good, but I don't have a husband who cares, or a wife who cares. There's a lot of sediment built up in my life. There are years. We have the Grand Canyon of pain in our life. I don't think it's worth it to start to work back through that toward saving our marriage. I don't like him. I don't want to like him. I don't think it matters that I do like him." What do you say to that person?

Kyle: I think you start with, again, just going back to getting the log out of your eye and acknowledging the ways I've not been a husband, or she has not been the wife, God calls. Owning what my role is. Processing with them. Then to the extent there is no response or there is… You know, the great thing about community and about having a church body is you're in a position to pull others in to help process this with you.

That's not going and telling them, "Let me tell you how bad of a wife I have." It's, "Here is where we are. Would you help us?" and having guys, for a man, or having women who are in her life who want to come, gather around her, encourage her, and allow us to process with them as a couple. Then just continuing to widen the community, widen the folks who are in their lives to influence, encourage, and love them.

A lot of times what happens is it motivates, encourages, and spurs those other marriages of friends who are watching in the midst of that. They say, "You know, I see that, but there's an area where God is needing to deal with me in the way I treat my wife."

Todd: Lucina and Alex, both of you have been in a place where at times you didn't like your husband, and it felt like the easiest thing to do was get away from him. Lucina, you specifically told him, "I'm done. I'm out." Can you specifically speak to women who might be likeminded or men who might feel that way? What would you have lost these last 15 years if your wish would have been granted?

Lucina: Well, I wouldn't have a son sitting on the front row, nor would I have a daughter, because we had no children at that time. As well, my life now, looking back, is full. I know I am cherished. I know I'm valued to this man. I know my life is full and it is blessed, because we went through that, because we continue to go through that on a daily basis, because we work with our children to have a family that honors God.

Todd: Would you say that you too, had you just started over with another guy, the same issues that were in your life would have been there with him? You're more of a beautiful woman, shaped in the image of God, because of that.

Alex: Hopefully some of the rough edges have been knocked off in my life.

Todd: Right. Great. Last thing, and then we're going to finish on this, is the issue of how sometimes God calls us to live together. There are times when maybe Alex isn't even willing yet to say, "My marriage isn't what it should be." Part of the blessing in our lives is not that we are just committed to this together. We have asked other people to share life with us, and you happen to be a couple that is doing that. Talk about the benefit of that toward the completing side. You can do that, Alex.

Alex: As I was sitting here, I was looking out and noticing there are probably about eight couples in here we've allowed, or are blessed to have, in our lives. A lot of you, probably about four couples in here, have actually vacationed with us where Todd and I have worked through some issues in your very presence. It was difficult, and there were tears, but it drew us together closer, not only in our marriage, but in our relationships with each other.

Probably in the last couple of years, that circle has widened for us, and the conversations sometimes haven't been us working through issues but them calling me saying, "Do you think there's maybe something you need to talk to Todd about or maybe you guys need to work on?" That's been so helpful and so encouraging.

Todd: I have a good friend… Alex just had a birthday. Fortieth birthday. The older they get and they're still beautiful, you start bragging about your age, not hiding it. Alex just had her fortieth birthday, and one of the things I did is I had a lot of friends write her notes and talk about what she has meant in their lives.

One of the good guy friends I have who has been one of those guys, one of the things he wrote is, "I've always admired the way you 'Todd-lerate' things in your life." He invented a new word now we use. That's some 'Todd-leration' right there. We're 'Todd-lerating' that. But they don't really tolerate it. They love me enough to say, "Todd, we believe you want to be this man, and we're not going to let you be less than that man. We're going to address it in that particular moment."

I think what we'll say in closing, because unfortunately it's time we need to do this, is there are lots of times we'll say to Kyle and Lucina, or they'll say to us, or others will, "Hey, why don't we let you guys spend some time alone before we come back together? You all really need to address this. If you need help, pull us in."

Being a mutually completing spouse means you have people who are committed to you being a mutually completing spouse and not letting the tension build around you without saying, "You guys, we love you enough, we're not going to let that live. Your shortness with each other, your lack of desire to be together…. You're hiding things. How can we help you?"

Father, I thank you for this day and for what we've learned about why marriage is such a big deal to you, because it's one of your greatest gifts to move us toward who you want us to be. When we run away from that, when we leave a relationship that's awkward, thinking life is over there, what we leave is one of your refining tools.

Father, we know you don't want us to stay in a relationship where there's mutual toleration. You want us to lovingly dwell, complete, and push each other toward Christlikeness. I pray we would do that as friends, men on men, women on women, couple on couple, and certainly husband on wife, that we would begin today to say, "You know what? Let's work on this thing because there's a lot at stake here."

This is one of God's great gifts to us. To leave it is going to hurt us, and it's also going to hurt him, because we've taken his name. For us to run away and say we can't love each other says a lot about his inability to change our hearts. Lord, we see why marriage is such a big deal to you, because it's your greatest testimony of your love for us, and it's your greatest testimony of how you can take selfish people and make them mutually dwell in submission and love where completion and companionship mark the day.

As we make our way through this battle hymn of love, Lord, we know we can't do it without you. I pray for marriages that are here today that need help, that they would start with their circle of community. If that doesn't work, widen it. That they would know this is a church that doesn't ask them to pretend their life is good, but to work toward the good life you've called us to. May your renown increase here, Father, because marriages here honestly work on oneness. In Christ's name, amen.

About 'Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God'

So why is marriage such a big deal to God? Because we are such a big deal to God and He hates things that hurt us and confuse others about Him. In these five messages by Todd Wagner, learn how God has chosen to use our relationships - marriage specifically - to understand the Trinity, defeat evil, reflect His sovereignty, transform us, and ultimately, model His love to a world He is desperate to reach. Learn what it means to be a completing spouse, how it is possible to be a complete single, and how to be completely on track when it comes to choosing a marriage partner. Whether you're single, divorced, married happily or married miserably, these messages will be a source of encouragement, healing, hope and guidance. Note: This message series is a sub-series from the longer message series entitled "<link http://www.watermarkradio.com/index.php?id=153&series=13&message=0 - external-link-new-window>God Is From Mars, We Are From Venus</link>".