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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.
He said: 'Return to Me.' We say: 'How'
He said: 'You are wearing me out.' We say: 'How'
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 5
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 4
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 3
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 2
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 1
He said: 'You have turned away.' We say: 'How?'
He said: 'You've despised me.' We say: 'How?'
He said: 'I've loved you.' We say: 'How?'
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: And the time spent cooking, cleaning, while my husband sat on the couch reading the paper…
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"!
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 something? Most of us understand we create that with one another. There are times in our marriages where we kind of go, "You want to know how I feel right now? 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, and 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 that 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 and oneness and mutual submission over our world and not let our world run amok over us. In that, God says, "These are three pretty big deals. This is why marriage matters so much to me." We're going to get to a 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 a godly heritage, to manage the world in a way that will reflect his rule and glory, and to mutually complete his most precious creation. Now what do I mean by that?
Let me say, as I said last week, that this is a message that's relevant for those of us who are in marriages right now that 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 that we dreamt of and that God intended, and it's a fantastic message for those of us who one day hope we will share that relationship with another person.
Frankly, it has tremendous application just in the way we relate to one another as friends who sit together inside an environment like this or who work with others or who have neighbors. In the way we are supposed to, as iron sharpens iron, so one man is to sharpen one another, mutually complete one another. When we bail out of relationships, and certainly and centrally marriage, there's a fallout which is absolutely destructive to God's ultimate purposes, and that's why it's such a big deal to him.
When we 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 was, "In a monastery I could 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, and 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, and 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, and just isolate myself and get replenished and refreshed by being alone.
Then all of a sudden I got married. I was still doing what I was doing, and I'd get away from everybody, only to go kind of 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 get away. This is when I hide. This is 'me' time. This is when I don't have to be on. This is when I don't have to serve. This is when I don't have to be kind." She would say, "Buddy, this is the first place you need to be kind, and your elbow is in my back." We had to begin to work through it. "Wow, something has to change, because 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 of my life.
God said, "You know what, Wagner? The key to you being faithful and successful out there is the same key as you being successful and faithful out 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 to whom 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. So 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 like this: "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, and we know God is not confused about the order he went about doing things. He said, "This is an account." What kind of an account?
"It's an account that's starring the central part of my creation, that which I'm most enamored with and most glorified and revealed in and through, which reflects my image in 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, but in chapter 2 he says, "I'm going to tell you my creation story again, and the chronology is going to be different than 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 1:26-28 and wanted God to take some time to really explain those verses to you, the ones that say, "God said, 'Let us make man in our image.' So in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them…" You'd 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 talked about how he made male and female. In effect, what comes out in Genesis 2 is that he made male first, and then he introduced male to all of creation. He paraded all of the animals in front of male, and he let male name those animals. One of the things male noticed in the midst of this was that for every Mr. Hippo there was a Mrs. Hippo, and for every Mr. Giraffe there was a Mrs. Giraffe, and so on.
So 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 you must not be done yet." God says, "Exactly right, man. The reason I did this…" God is a master teacher. "…is I wanted to show you that this isn't just some late addition. This is a part of me creating humankind. Now I'm going to put you asleep, and when you wake up, there will be that which completes you."
Let me show you this in the Scriptures. Jump down with me to verse 15 of Genesis 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 sidenote right here. What God is doing is showing man right away, "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. You believe I've given you everything you need, and you love me and walk with me and 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'll cost you life as I've created you to experience it, and it'll cost 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, and you can trust me. Have a faith relationship with me."
So God called man right away into a faith relationship with him, where he would be glorified in the trust, worship, adoration, and submission that man would give to the Sovereign God who loved him and put him in a perfect place. Now you know the story. You know that we didn't trust God, worship God, and honor God. We thought if we knew good and evil we could appropriate it in our lives better than he could, and all of the repercussions of that that came out.
The point of 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, and 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."
So then it comes to verse 18. Watch this. "Then the Lord God said, 'Look, if you haven't noticed, it's 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'll do next week is something I always spend with couples.
I let them know, "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 are going to be consequences you don't want to mess with that hurt him but that really have tremendous fallout in your life and on the created earth he called you to serve and live in. So 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, where it says, "I will make a helpmate suitable for him…" What that literally means is "I will make a servant, or a masseuse, or a chef for him." No, no, no. That's not what it means at all, but 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. She goes, "Okay." I go, "No, it doesn't say that." She goes, "Oh! Oh, okay." The guy goes, "What are you doing? Don't tell her! Don't tell her!" So then I usually come back and say, "What it really means is 'I will give him brains and a conscience,'" and she goes, "Oh, so he means that." I go, "No, that's not what it means either," and 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; 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, so there was no break in his relationship with God, so there was no cause of friction in his relationship with woman, but the two of them together could only mirror God's image as they lived in oneness. When sin entered into the picture, this idea of being a completer went to a whole other level.
Not only 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 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 a different way. When you run from a means of grace, a place that 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, so I'm going to run from it and 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, again, is starting to set up why we understand God hates divorce. When you separate yourself geographically, physically, emotionally from a means he gives you to complete you, you are separating yourself from one of God's greatest gifts, and he hates it, because he loves you and he wants you and me 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, and 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, and 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 will talk about how they labor with their husbands, and their husbands are willing to come up here with them and talk about how they worked 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 a scriptural reference, quench his Spirit and, therefore, grieve the Spirit.
God wants to complete me, and he convicts me. He woos me back. He uses the Scripture. He uses his Word. He uses the community of faith I'm in, the 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, and he will do that even to where he finishes the job at my physical death.
But for now, he has 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. They don't run and isolate from each other."
He says in Ephesians 4, "I urge you, therefore, brethren, to walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with humility and gentleness and patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity, which God has created by the inflowing of his 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.
Too many of us get in the habit of when we come against somebody and there begin to be problems, we just go somewhere else where there are no problems and try to 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. We 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, especially in marriage."
Now, here's what I want to show you. This is what God wants man to do. In effect, 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 and dwell there and love it and fertilize it and nourish it.
You build walls of protection around it, and 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, and 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, and I don't want you to like it just then and then move on about 40 years into this land's existence and find someplace else that looks a little cleaner and fresher with more low-hanging fruit that you really like and go, 'I can just walk over here without any effort. This looks nice. This feels nice.' I want you to live there in that land and cultivate it and steward the rest of your days to that land." That's what God wants man to do.
For woman, he says, "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 and to let him know where the weeds are that sometimes 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 that 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 and 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, and every time men abandon their calling, they go one way or the other. Then 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, they share with the woman, "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 and you make me glad to be here. You keep this land nice, and when I show up, I expect it to look nice, and I expect it to treat me nice, and I expect it 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, and 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 just burn certain portions of this land, start all over, and I will intimidate you and 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, so let's make it happen." Now women sometimes respond to a guy who's not dwelling well, maybe a guy who's dominating, but it could be a guy who's doing something else as well…
One of the sin expressions of a woman is to come alongside that guy and 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, and 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 you don't jack with me like that. I don't have landlords that treat me like that.
If you come in here and are not paying attention to me and not loving me and you want to leave me alone and leave me cold in the morning and leave me cold in the relationship, then I'll tell you something. Don't you just 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 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 until they're old enough to where they can, and I can't wait until you see the pain you're going to cause your family, and 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 here. 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."
Let me give you a visual for what sometimes a competing wife might look like. "This is the way it's gonna be!" What's interesting about most guys is that they accept that. They kind of go, "This is the way. I live my life on my own terms, in my own timing, but I know that every now and then she gets fed up with it. Sometimes it might go in 26-day cycles, sometimes it might go in six-month cycles, but 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, and all I know is that every now and then I just have to let her just get it out."
You kind of stand in a corner and go, "Are you done yet? Are you done yet?" Then you kind of walk to the other side of the cage and go, "Phew." You go and laugh with your buddies and go, "Man, I paid for that one," but you don't really change. The woman is more committed to roaring and 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. It's not a wife who says, "We have to share this life together. I want to be intimate with you. I want to share all of my hopes, joys, fears, insecurities, celebrations with you, and I'm going to prevail with you to help you be the kind of man that I look forward to that with."
I'm going to 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 and I was so happy. She made me happy. She made me happier than anybody. She looked good. The fruit was very 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, so I'm just going to go over here and go ahead and have my needs met over here. I'm going to go 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, and they don't dwell in that land and cultivate intimacy. What they do do is 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 that 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 speak. I go places and share. I go places and counsel, and I have folks who tell me, "Todd, we know you're so busy. We are so grateful that you're here. For you to come… I want you to know we've been praying the last couple of years that you'd come. This is 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 some leadership here. Thank you for coming to console us right here."
It's interesting. When I go to my house and I show up, my wife doesn't typically say, "Oh, kids, look at who's 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 to 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 just pool our allowance together. I've taken some of the grocery money. We're just 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…" There are a lot of guys who go, "You know what? I love that. I love what I get other places." In the name of advancing the gospel, they're away from that home all the time.
The people who have a dad, in this instance, who says he's there to dwell with them and love them and raise them up and be stewards over them go, "You know what? Do you know what God means to me? What God means to me is that he pulls my daddy away. And do 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, available to other people so they can tell him all the time how valuable he is."
They're what are commonly called PKs (preacher kids) who grow 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, and 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, and it's sin.
Now how does a woman…? This is the one, by the way, that I think women most often sin in. It is a woman who says, "Oh, I know he's not perfect, but, I mean, as men go, he's a pretty good one. I mean, he travels a lot, but he works hard because he loves us so much. He wants to provide for the kids. He wants to give them a good education. I know he speaks to me 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. So 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, because I'll tell you what your alternative is: to have less of me. If you make it this hard, 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," so they back off, back off, and 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 has turned into rock, and they turn 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, and they want out, and anybody who has any sense would agree that they need to get out. Typically, what happens is the guy for the first time goes, "What? You mean it has 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 wanted me to produce? Can't you tell we don't have the kind of…? You're so stupid you don't even know this is not what land is supposed to look like." The guy goes, "What can I do?" Like most guys, what we do when we see a plant that's dead, when we finally notice it…
What do you do? You go get a big pitcher of water, and you go, "Well, I'm here now. 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." So we just dump all the water in the world on them. "Come on! Come on! Come back alive. Come back alive. Come back alive."
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. It 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.
Now what does God want us to do 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 that 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, and 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 just go speak somewhere right now? Because, frankly, I'd rather you be out there speaking than in here messing this one up." Hello.
That's that little competing, after she condoned for too long, and we move and center back to where I have deserted her or dominated her, and I start to dwell and 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 to 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, and 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 go, "This is unacceptable." The husband kind of stands up to attention for a while, but he slowly drifts, and when 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, if you will, in a man/dog analogy, that that dog is always at heel, and when it runs off, they say, "Come on back here. Let's have the kind of relationship God intended us to have, and let's be close with one another." It's not like you just wait, wait, wait and 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 it to come up on your bed with you and sit on the couch with you while you're eating popcorn watching a movie, because it's fun, but you really don't want the dog on the couch, you don't want the dog in the bed, because they leave hair there or they make scratches in the leather, whatever it might be.
What'll happen is sometimes you'll come home, and that dog will be up there on the couch, and you'll just go, "You know, I had a good day at work. My emotional bank account is pretty full," and just go, "Get off that. Get off that, couch. Come on, get down." But then there are certain days you walk in there and go, "Get off that! What are you doing on my bed? You slobbered 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've mismanaged their life in terms of what they did. They will think they misjudged your mood, and that dog will live in a constant state of insecurity. "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're consistent with that 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 a sick. It's going to hurt our relationship." Every time.
In a marriage, what you have is a lot of guys… 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 start to move toward the lowest common denominator of civility 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 just 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 serious to overlook in a relationship when it does any one of these four things.
First, 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 to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, to share oneness with you. So if what they're doing is damaging your relationship, you have to address it right away.
Thirdly, 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 going to hurt other folks. Lastly (it kind of relates to this), it's if you're an individual who's 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 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, and I need to do it every single time in a loving way." The Scriptures tell us how to do that. It says, "The words of the wise make knowledge acceptable." You don't do it with a burst of frustration; you do it with tenderness.
"The words of the wise make 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 100 yards away…when they get a step away. That's a loving friend and a loving wife or loving husband. Let me give you another one. We'll come back to that in a different way in just a moment.
2._ A completing spouse, male or female, celebrates. In other words, you don't just wait until they mess up to let them know. You share with them, "I want to tell you something. What you just did was fantastic." In sports when you watch film… In football, for instance, coaches don't just go, "Look. We had a huge breakdown on 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 this. 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 and shows all of us. "That play moved 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 just admonished me, the way you just came to me and didn't let this small thing grow into a big thing blesses me so much. I am so privileged to have you as a spouse." You look for things to celebrate.
A completing husband or wife finds things that are good in that other person, and they just go, "Can I tell you something? I know this has been a tough year for us financially, but I have seen you work so diligently. You know what? We don't have all of the cars. We're not doing as well as our neighbors across the street are right now, but 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 and I'm so grateful to have a hardworking man in my home."
That's what a completer does. She doesn't just 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."
3._ A completing spouse is somebody who 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 and nag. You might intimidate me and tell me that 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 how 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 that my marriage isn't perfect. You know what? 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 that grace and acceptance and commitment are the building blocks which make a great marriage, so they don't introduce possibilities. They say, "I am here. I am committed to you, and 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 that part of what Christ has called them to in the midst of marriage is a refining process, 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, that their job is to not rejoice in unrighteousness but to see that spouse through to greater faithfulness.
They know God is making them holy in the midst of this not-so-happy time, and they love God's will for their life and won't run away from it. They say something, folks, not because it'll 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, and 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 in 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, "I've been thinking a lot about our marriage, and 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, and 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's connected_. They know there are others who love them enough that if their marriage is not what God wants it to be, if their relationship isn't working… We had a beautiful picture this week, not in the context of marriage but in the context of a ministry at this church where two godly people, members of this church, were really struggling with each other. They were ready to separate, frankly, in terms of them being yoked together.
What they did was they said, "We have to invite somebody else into this with us, because we can't hear each other. We're in a community. 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." So they called somebody else in. That's what a loving spouse does. They go to others they're connected with and say, "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 to 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 had 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 one side of the field it was a little soft, and 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 one day, and sure enough, he buried that little tractor to its axles.
Well, lucky for him, the tractor his dad had given him was just 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, and then he sees his dad's pickup riding out to him. He was sitting there, and he didn't know what his dad was going to say. But he pulled up next to him on the side and 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 these friends again, who have made themselves available, talk about what their life as a completing spouse looks like, and then 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 that was a bubble, and 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 that 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, 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're committed to sharpening each other, and we're 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 tell him that, and 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 video]
Todd: These couples have been willing to do this and come up and share with us about how they work on their marriage. 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. One of her worst nightmares is to stand up here with me, not because we're about to talk about how we work through, but this is just not her favorite thing to do, to stand in public.
But she understood the value in us bursting the illusion that because I love Christ and serve in the role I get to serve in that we don't have to work really, really hard at our marriage. 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?
Todd: Kyle and Lucina, talk about this. We've heard from you before, but very quickly talk about how… Lucina, you mentioned you almost nailed the coffin shut on your marriage. One of you two talk about what happened four to five years in your marriage.
Kyle Thompson: 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 withdrawal. We lived two separate lives, and that worked well for me until six years down the road she came in one evening…
Lucina: And basically told him, "I don't love you anymore. As a matter of fact, I don't even like you, and 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: When Lucina finally did that, I was clueless. I thought we had a good marriage. I thought it was working really well, but I realized when she told me she was repulsed by even being in the same house with me that I either had to engage and get in the game or acknowledge that I'd lost my marriage.
Todd: Now, if you guys would… This is a major event that happened… How many years ago was that?
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 that I was the cat in the picture. I was that female cat that had the lion against the wall. I was competing. When 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, so when I finally would get to him, it would be in this rush of emotion and anger and frustration, and the bitterness had set in. 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 in keeping 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.
Todd: Was that a willful decision or were you just not aware? You thought you were sending him verbal and nonverbal messages that most average people could have clued into. Correct?
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, and I felt like it must be working for her. It was great that we had folks, particularly one couple, in our lives that I was able to sheepishly go to and overcome my pride and the picture I was trying to present to folks in our lives that we had a good marriage and we loved each other and just basically tell them what happened.
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: This now puts 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. 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?
Todd: So tell me about how we work and what happens. How would you define our marriage in terms of our purposefulness to it?
Alex: 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 at our marriage, and 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.
If 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. We take time apart and, like you said earlier, 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 has annoyed everybody in the family to the point there's clearly tension… Guys, do you 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. But when we get to a place where we're missing each other and we realize that even in becoming aware of that, what we don't do is keep working on it while our flesh is at a high level.
What we do is we go, "This is not being constructive toward oneness right now. In fact, I'm more in a prosecuting mode than a listening mode. I don't want to see the contriteness in my life right now. I want you to know why you don't make me happy and why this is tough for me." Alex is equally as willing to share that sense. What we usually do is we 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 lives 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, and you have to change my heart first." 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. Before we bury the day, 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 wife and a completing husband. Do you guys have still in your life 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, and I did something that she perceived was hurtful to them. She didn't say anything. We were with my family a week later, and she watched how I was bending over backward to serve my parents, and 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 just the reminder of how important it is for us not to leave those issues unaddressed but to continually work through them.
Todd: What would you all say to people who look at us and go, "Well, you guys have great marriages," that we're lucky to have the marriages we have? What would be your response to that?
Alex: I've said 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 is that we're lucky that, by the grace of God, we have been brought to a place where we realize that marriage is a big deal and we're willing to keep short accounts and wrestle through that. One of the practices Alex and I put into place is a list of words we've slowly accumulated over the years 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 bring up. Correct?
Alex: Anything that might rhyme with that.
Todd: Yeah, that's right…nag, hag. That has 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, and she goes, "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 gotten through all of the rhyming words and I have to control my tongue, we realize… Words like jerk or arrogant or things like that are on the list for me. I go, "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 and Lucina and Alex, let me ask you this. What would you say to somebody who's going, "That's all well and good, but I don't have a husband who cares, or a wife who cares, and there's a lot of sediment built up in my life. There are years. We have the Grand Canyon of pain in our lives, and 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 you've not been the husband or she has not been the wife that God calls, you know, owning what your role is, processing with them, and then to the extent that there is no response or there is… 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, "Man, 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 around her and encourage her and allow you to process with them as a couple. Then just continuing to widen the community, widen the folks who are in their life to influence and 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 to say, "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 speak specifically to women who might be like-minded, or men who might feel that way, about what you would 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 am 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 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.
Lucina: Hopefully some of the rough edges have been knocked off in my life.
Todd: Great. Last thing is the issue of how sometimes God calls us to live together, and 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, but we have asked other people to share life with us, and you happen to be a couple that's doing that. Talk about the benefit of that toward the completing side. You can do that, Alex.
Alex: As I was sitting here looking out, I was noticing there are probably about eight couples in here that we've allowed or are blessed to have in our lives. 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.
Then probably in the last couple of years that circle has widened for us, and those 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 has been so helpful and so encouraging.
Todd: Alex just had her 40th birthday. (The older women get and they're still beautiful, you start bragging about your age, not hiding it.) One of the things I did was I had a lot of friends write her notes and talk about what she has meant in their life. One of the good guy friends I have who has been one of those guys…
One of the things he wrote was, "I've always admired the way you 'Todd-lerate' things in your life." He invented a new word that now we use. "That's some 'Todd-leration' right there. We're tolerating 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, and we're going to address it in that particular moment."
I'll just say in closing there are a lot of times that 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? Y'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, and 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 that life is over there, what we leave is one of your refining tools, but, Father, we know you don't want us to stay in a relationship where there's mutual toleration. You want us to lovingly dwell and complete and push each other toward Christlikeness.
I pray that 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, and to leave it is going to hurt us, and it's also going to hurt him, because we've taken his name, and 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 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, and if that doesn't work, widen it, and that they would know this is a church that doesn't ask for 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.
When it comes to communication, men and women often struggle to understand one another. Even though we care, at times we just can't make sense of what's being said. In the same way, the nation of Israel misunderstood what a relationship with God should look like, even though He repeatedly revealed His heart to them. And even today, churches and followers of Christ miss what He's trying to say. In "God is from Mars, We are from Venus", you'll see God's effort to clearly communicate what a vital, abundant relationship with Him entails as expressed in the book of Malachi. You can learn volumes from this small book that caps off the Old Testament as you consider who God is, who we are, and what it takes to live in right relationship with Him.This series includes the 5-part sub-series on marriage entitled "Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God".