Everything that happens in Genesis is an overflow of the goodness of God, and the creation of marriage is no exception. Timothy “TA” Ateek walks us through the story of how God made marriage in Genesis 2:18-25 and how God embeds in the story five ways we can experience His goodness in marriage.
Made for a New World | Isaiah 11:1-16
Made to Be Saved | Genesis 3:15, 21-24
Made to Work | Genesis 3:17-19
Made to Gospel Our Relationships | Genesis 3:12-13
Made for a World Without Shame | Genesis 3:7-11
Made for a Different World | Genesis 3:1-7
Made for Relationships: Marriage | Genesis 2:18-25
Made for Relationship | Genesis 2:18-20
Made to Rest | Genesis 2:1-3
Made to Flourish | Genesis 2:4-25
God’s Heart for The Nations | Revelation 7:9-17
Made in the Image of God | Genesis 1:26-27
Great Questions Q&A Panel + MADE: to Teach | Genesis 1-3, 2 Timothy 2:24-26
How to Hear From God | Genesis 1:1-31
The Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit | Genesis 1:1-5
To Know God is to Worship God | Genesis 1:3-25
Is Your God Too Small? | Genesis 1:1-2
If you’re feeling stuck in your marriage, you don’t need a different marriage. You need a different way of marriage that God outlines for us in Genesis 2:18-25. To taste the goodness of God in His creation of marriage, there are five keys to getting on the right path in marriage:
Well, good morning, Watermark! It's so good to see you. My name is Timothy Ateek. I'm one of the teaching pastors here, and if we've never been in the same room together, if you're new around Watermark, I'm just so glad you made it, and I am excited to jump into the topic of marriage with you today.
I want to start just by sharing with you when I was back in high school I decided to take a college visit to Texas A&M University, which is where I ended up going to college, and that was the third best decision I ever made in my life behind trusting Christ and marrying my wife. Third is still pretty good.
On this college visit, I was living in Dallas and was going to go to College Station, and I convinced my parents to let me just make the trip by myself. I didn't need them. I could do it by myself. They agreed to it, but at the time, smartphones didn't exist. That kind of dates me. Google Maps wasn't a thing, so the way I got directions back then was, "Dad, how do I get to College Station?"
He was like, "You're going to go on this road for a really long time. Then, you're going to hang a left and go on that road for a really long time." I was like, "Great! I'm headed to College Station." I began to make my way down I-35. When I got to Waco, I got on Highway 6 and began to head to College Station.
After I had been on Highway 6 for about an hour, I was honestly surprised that I had yet to see a sign for Bryan/College Station, so I just decided I'd wait a little bit longer, because surely at some point Bryan/College Station is going to show up. I waited a little bit longer. After I waited a little bit longer, I decided to wait a little bit longer. After I waited a little bit longer, I just figured I'd wait a little bit longer. After I waited a little bit longer, I saw a sign that said Eastland, TX 30 miles.
The reason that sign was meaningful to me was because Eastland was a home away from home for me growing up because I have an aunt and uncle there who are like second parents for me. I found that shocking because my parents knew that I wanted to go to Texas A&M, and at no point did they mention, "That's amazing! If you go to A&M, your aunt and uncle who are like second parents to you actually live very close to the college you're going to." We never had that conversation.
I decided to pull over to a gas station to purchase a map of the state of Texas just so I could make sure Bryan/College Station was coming up soon. I just want to share with you what I found out. Here's the map. You can make all of the Aggie jokes you want, but to just get us all on the same page, I started in Dallas. I got to Waco. I ended up close to Eastland.
At that point, I was actually further from College Station than I was when I left Dallas three hours earlier, and that trip (my first trip driving to College Station) was a six- to seven-hour trip, which was amazing. That moment standing at that gas station looking at that map was two things. It was sobering, and it was defining.
It was sobering, because I realized that because of my bad thinking that surely, surely Bryan/College Station will just magically appear at some point if I just keep going and it will all work out got me into a lot of trouble, and I found myself in a place I never thought I would be on that day. It was defining, because I was finally able to start heading in the direction I actually wanted to go, and I was finally able to get to the place I wanted to be.
The reason I share that with you is that my hope for some of us today is that it feels like we're opening a map when it comes to marriage. The reality is that if many of us were honest in this room about where you are in your marriage you would say your marriage is mediocre. I would imagine there are people in this room who would say, "It's just not what I thought it was. I never thought we would be in this place. When we said, 'I do,' this is really not what I envisioned."
I wouldn't be surprised if some of you when you interact with other couples something in you begins to just wonder, "I wonder what it would be like to be married to that person. I wonder how my life would be different if I had married her or I had married him." I would imagine for some the idea of divorce has become more of a viable idea and option in your mind than it ever has over the course of your marriage. Here's what I want you to hear this morning, and I hope you don't miss it.
You don't need a different marriage; you need a different way of marriage. You don't need a different marriage, but you might need a different way of marriage, so my hope is that this morning feels like we are pulling off into a gas station, purchasing a map of marriage, opening it up, and for some of us, it's going to be sobering, because we're going to realize that we have bought into a mentality of, "Surely it will get better someday. Surely I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. We'll just keep going the way we're going, and magically it's going to get better at some point."
It's going to be sobering for some to just say, "We're in a place we never thought we'd be when we said, 'I do,'" but my hope is that it's going to be defining and there would be many marriages that begin to head in the direction that God would have you go and you're going to get to a place where you begin to experience the goodness of God in your marriage.
If you have a Bible, turn with me this morning to Genesis, chapter 2. Genesis, chapter 2, is where we're going to be. As Blake said, we've been in this series called Made. If you're new around Watermark just visiting and checking things out, we are walking through Genesis, chapters 1 through 3, very slowly, because these three chapters inform us what we have been made for and what we have been made to do.
Last week and this week we've been talking about the fact we've been made for relationships, and marriage is one of those relationships God has made for many of us here. Now, Blake talked to the single people in the room. I want to do the same, so if you are here and you are single, let me just encourage you. Don't take the posture that this morning isn't for you, because it is.
I'll give you a couple of reasons why it is for you. First, if you plan to get married one day or you hope to get married one day, my hope is that God might use this talk to save your marriage before it even begins, and my hope is this talk might in some way inform who you even look for in a spouse.
Secondly, though, if you're single, the reason I want to encourage you to dial in is because you're a part of the body of Christ. You belong to the family of God, and you have brothers and sisters who are married, and one of the best things you can do and I believe you have a responsibility to do is to pray for the marriages in the body of Christ you attend just as married people have a responsibility to pray for the single people who are in the family of God here, so you might even find this talk helpful when you consider how you encourage your married friends.
The last thing I want to say to the single people in the room is sometimes when marriage is talked about in the church in general, it's possible for single people to walk away feeling like they are in some way JV or second-class Christians. Let's just be clear. Marriage is not the pinnacle of following Jesus Christ. Following Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of following Jesus Christ. You can be a wholehearted, passionate follower of Jesus Christ as a single person. Jesus was single, Paul was single, and they seemed pretty complete.
I just want you to hear me say, even as we look at Adam when it says it was not good for him to be alone and that means Adam was incomplete, I just want you to know a lot has changed since then, and you as a single person are not JV, and you are not incomplete without a spouse, because everything you need for life and godliness is found in Jesus Christ.
Here we go. Genesis, chapter 2. This is the account of God creating marriage. This is the map. This is what we need. You can read all of the marriage books you want, but let me just encourage you. If you read these eight verses and you take them to heart, it has everything you need to get on the right path for a marriage where you begin to taste the goodness of God. Here's what it says starting in verse 18.
"Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.' Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.' Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."
Here's what I want to do. There are going to be two sections to this talk. The first section is just appreciation. What I want to do is walk you through the verses that we just read just so you can appreciate God's invention of marriage. Then, we're going to turn from appreciation to application, and it's going to feel like we're standing at a gas station looking at a map of marriage, so let's just walk through the text and appreciate God's goodness in giving marriage to humanity.
Verse 18 starts out and says, "Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone…'" Now, you have to remember the context. You can't read Genesis 2 and Genesis 1 in chronological order. Genesis 2 zooms in on one specific aspect of Genesis 1. It zooms in on the creation of the first human beings.
In Genesis, chapter 1, there are six different times where God creates and then steps back, looks at what he has created, and declares that it is good. Then, there is a seventh time at the very end of Genesis, chapter 1, where God looks at what he has made and declares that it is very good. The verses we just read fall in between the sixth declaration that it was good and the seventh declaration where God declares it is very good.
The reason that context is important is sandwiched right in between the sixth and seventh declaration of goodness we find God saying, "It is not good." This is the only time in the creation story where God identifies something that is not good. John established last week that when God says it is not good for man to be alone, he's not talking about something evil. He's indicating something is incomplete. The reason it's not good for man to be alone is because in the state Adam was in, in isolation, he was incomplete. Let's get more specific.
Why is not good that Adam was alone? Why was it bad that he was isolated? Well, you have to remember the point and purpose of the first humans. Remember what we learned in Genesis, chapter 1, verse 27. What does it say? It says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
Adam has been created in the image of God. What does that mean? It means God created Adam to image him on the earth. Adam's job was to reflect and represent God so that the earth would know what God is like. What do we know to be true about God? He's a triune God. He's a relational God.
God himself is a community (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). They are three co-equal, co-eternal persons who exist in one essence. At the core of who God is are deep, meaningful, intimate relationships between the persons of the Godhead, so God looks at Adam in isolation, and there is a great reason now why he says it is not good that he is alone. Why?
Because the image of God in Adam was being distorted. If God is a relational God and Adam's responsibility is to reflect that relational God, Adam was incomplete. He was incapable of doing what he was made to do which was to fully reflect God, so God says, "It is not good for man to be alone." Watch God's response. What does he do?
Verse 19: "Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name." Now, why does God do this? Well, he does it because of what mission he gave Adam and Eve back in Genesis 1.
In verse 28, God tells him, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens…" so what does this mean? When God brings all of the animals to Adam to name them, that's what he's doing. He's saying, "Exercise dominion over them. Do what I told you to do."
By naming them, Adam was establishing authority over them. Now, I just love thinking what this was like. Just try and put yourself in the story. God just starts parading the animals in front of Adam, and he's like, "Hey, man! You do you. You call them whatever you want." That sounds so stressful.
Our firstborn for the first two hours of his life was Baby Boy Ateek because we couldn't decide if he was going to be Jacob or Noah. Yet, God is like, "You just name all of them." There is no go to Barnes and Noble and get the book of names. You can't Google the most popular names in 2022. It's a blank slate. I just wonder what it was like, if Adam was like, "Lion." God is like, "Solid!"
"I like it."
"Okay, dude. All right. Pump the brakes."
I just wonder. I would have loved to be there. It's just fascinating that God brings all of the animals, but he doesn't just bring the animals for Adam to name them. Look at what we find out in verse 20. "The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But…"
That's a contrast word. "But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him." God brought the animals to see if there would be a suitable helper found for Adam, and we are meant to feel the tension. We are meant to feel his isolation. One commentator just explained it like Adam seeing all of the animals marching by two by two and Adam exclaiming, "Everyone has its partner, but I have no partner."
Isn't that interesting? Everyone has a date to the party but Adam. Everyone gets the college date party tee shirt except Adam. We are meant to feel the tension of him sitting in his isolation, so watch what God does in verse 21. This is every anesthesiologist's favorite verse. This is their life verse. This is why they do what they do.
"So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh." I love that. The reason God puts Adam to sleep is because in the creation of the woman and the creation of marriage God gets all the credit for it. God takes the initiative.
He knows what Adam needs more than Adam knows what he needs, and what we see is a proactive, good God seeing the needs of the one person alive and meeting them. That's how good God is. He puts Adam to sleep so that there is no credit that anyone else can take. It is all an overflow of the creative goodness of God.
Verse 22: "And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man." I love this verse, because it says that God took a rib and then he made it into a woman. The Hebrew word that has been translated to made is the Hebrew word bānâ. It literally means built. God built Eve.
Just think about it. Everything else in all of creation that captivates us with its beauty, God simply spoke it into existence, but when it came to the creation of the woman, God built. It's just a little nod that nothing else in creation got God's creative energy and activity more than the creation of the woman, but not just that.
The thing I love most about the verse is when it says, "…he made into a woman and brought her to the man." Who introduced Adam to Eve? God did. What a great story! Here's what you need to know. If you're a newlywed, there is a question you're going to get asked a lot. What's the question?
How did you guys meet? People want to know your story. You'll still get asked that question later in life, but the older you get the more used to answering the question you get, but here's the way things go. When you're a newlywed and someone asks you, "How did you guys meet?" this is what every newlywed couple does.
The man and the woman turn and give each other a look. It's the look of, "We're about to bless them. They don't know what they don't know, but they're about to know." Every couple thinks they have the best story, so the guy and girl will give each other a look like, "Are you going to tell it or do you want me to tell it?"
"I like how you tell it."
"Okay. We'll just kind of tag team it."
Let me just lovingly and gently tell you if you can't tell your story in three minutes or less people regret asking. When you think about a marriage story, no one has a better story than Adam and Eve. "Hey, Adam! How did you guys meet?" "Well, it's really interesting. I was the only human being on the planet. God put me to sleep. He took one of my ribs. He custom made a woman. He brought her to me. We were both naked, and the rest is history." That's a great story! There is no better story than that. That is just the goodness of God at work.
Watch the man's response in verse 23. What does the man say? "Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.'" Do you know what that is? That's poetry. This is the first time a human being speaks in the Bible.
Shockingly, it is a guy speaking first, and the thing he says is poetry. Now, if you're dating someone, and guys, if you're writing poetry for her, you might as well put a ring on it, because you're in love. That's just it. Still go through marriage and still make sure it's a good thing, but if you're at the point of writing poetry, you're done. That's the way it goes. That's it. It's poetry.
Verse 24: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." That was God's intention, that one man and one woman would come together, and they would become one flesh. Do you know why that specific wording that they would become one flesh is cool?
Because marriage just became the clearest picture we have of God on the planet. If God is a triune God, he is three persons yet one in essence. We try to come up with cute illustrations of the apple or water to try and illustrate the Trinity, but they all fall short. Marriage is the clearest thing we have as two become one.
Verse 25: "And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." That sounds pretty good. That's the creation of marriage. Can we just appreciate that? When God creates marriage, there is no brokenness. There is no insecurity. There is no bitterness. There is flourishing. There is a man and a woman who have come together, and there is joy, so why is it that so many of us read something like this and it feels so foreign to us?
Well, this is the point in the message where it's going to feel like we're pulling over to a gas station to purchase a map, and we're unfolding the map, and my hope is that from here on out, as we move from appreciation to application, this moment might be sobering but also defining in that some of you might begin to move in the direction God would have you move so that you can begin to experience the goodness of God again in your marriage.
Remember, you don't need a different marriage. You might just need a different way of marriage, so what I want to do is roll back through the eight verses we've looked at here in Genesis, chapter 2, and I just want to highlight some keys to you experiencing the goodness of God in your marriage. If you want to get on the correct path toward marriage or in your marriage…
Do you treat them as important, impressive, valuable, and respectable? Where do I get that from in the passage? Well, if you look back at verse 18, it says, "It is not good that the man should be alone…" Do you know how we see God dignifying Adam? Because God is most attentive to Adam's needs. God is making Adam more important than anything else in creation.
God is zeroing in giving all of his attention to the man. He's dignifying Adam, but then we see God dignifying Eve. It says, "…I will make him a helper…" That word in the Hebrew that has been translated to helper is used 19 times in the Old Testament. Sixteen of those times they are referring to God himself, so think about how God is dignifying the woman.
He's saying, "I will give her a label that I myself have as a helper." He says, "…I will make him a helper fit for him." That phrase, fit for him, in the Hebrew can be translated equal and adequate. She's equal. She's equal to the man. She has great value, but she's also adequate. She's not a clone of Adam. She's a complement to him.
God had a choice. He could have just put a bunch of dudes in the garden with Adam for them to bro out together, but instead, he custom designed a woman to complement him. He is dignifying the woman. Then, we talked about the fact that when God made Eve he built her, so here's the reality.
As God creates marriage, what we see God doing to the man and the woman as he creates marriage is what we must do to one another in marriage. We must dignify one another. Just as God gave importance and value to Adam and Eve, we must do that to one another. I think about it this way.
My wife, Kat, and I got married on October 14, 2006. When we stood on that altar at First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas, I did something with Kat that I've never done with anyone else. What did I do? I made a covenant in front of God and a couple hundred witnesses. When I stood on that altar, I promised and committed to do certain things with and for Kat, and God was a part of that commitment.
I have not done that with anyone else. Kat is the only person on the planet who I have a covenant with. I don't have a covenant with my kids. I don't have a covenant with Watermark. I definitely don't have a covenant with any of you guys. Here's what that means. If Kat is the only person in the world who I have made a covenant with before God, that automatically means there is no one more important on the planet than Kathryn Ateek. No one.
Next to Jesus, no one is more important. No one should be more important. Nothing should be more important to me than Kathryn Ateek, and the same should be true for you and your spouse, so here are some good questions for me to ask and for you to ask as well. Does your spouse feel most valued by you? Does your spouse feel most important to you? Does your spouse feel most respected by you? Who or what is your spouse having to compete with?
What about this? Let me put it this way. Who or what gets your best? Who or what in this world gets your best? Who gets your greatest encouragement? Is it your employees? Is it your kids? Who gets your greatest encouragement? Who gets your best apologies? Who or what gets the best of your creativity or the best of your thoughtfulness?
Who gets the best of your strategic thinking or your excitement or your sense of humor? Who is it? Is it your friend group? Is it your co-workers? Is it your assistant? Is it your boss? Who gets your best? Who gets the kindest of your speech? It should be your spouse, but often, we are too comfortable with our spouses, so if we want to get on God's path for marriage, we have to begin to dignify one another.
Here's what you have to understand. If you leave your spouse to wonder if they are important to you, if they are valued by you, if they are impressive to you… If you leave your spouse to wonder, your Enemy will tempt them to wander to find it somewhere else. We have to begin to dignify one another. Secondly, if you want to experience the goodness of God in your marriage… It's a mouthful.
Walter Brueggemann, who is one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of the last few decades, makes this observation. He finds a double meaning in both the Hebrew word we have translated to flesh and the Hebrew word that we have translated bone. He finds a double meaning, so Walter Brueggemann translates those words bone power and flesh weakness or flesh frailty. He believes these words can express two extreme possibilities and include everything between them. Listen to his conclusion. This is fascinating.
"…the poles of 'flesh-frailty' and 'bone-power' mean to express the entire range of intermediate possibilities from the extreme of frailty to power. Thus the relationship affirmed is one of which is affirmed for every possible contingency in the relationship, as we affirm in the marriage formula, 'in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want.' Here the text says, 'in every circumstance from the extreme of frailty to the extreme of power.' A relation is affirmed which is unaffected by changing circumstances."
It's possible that when Adam says, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh," embedded in there is a commitment that will not waver no matter the circumstance. That's why I say that I encourage you to revisit your original commitment. Revisit it. I'm talking specifically about the vows you gave on your wedding day. Revisit your original commitment and don't renegotiate it.
Kat and I just celebrated our sixteenth wedding anniversary a few weeks ago. Let me show you a picture of us on our wedding day. This is us right here on October 14, 2006. Then, this was us just a few weeks ago celebrating our anniversary. You say, "Ah," but Kat and I actually came to the conclusion that we have aged out of selfies. It's just too close. It's too high definition. We need some distance from the camera.
We came upon our anniversary, and as I was preparing for this message, I just went back and looked at the vows we shared with one another on our wedding day. Now, you need to know I'm an Enneagram 4, which means I need everything I do to be unique, so we wrote our own vows. I'm going to just share with you what we shared. This is what we shared with one another on the stage. Watch the commitments we made to each other.
"I, Timothy, receive you, Kathryn, as God's gracious provision of a wife. Today, I enter into this covenant…" Remember, she's the only one I made a covenant with. "…with you and God…" I'm acknowledging this agreement is in the presence of God. God isn't just witnessing it; he is a part of it.
"…with you and God knowing it is never to be broken. With Christ as our sole foundation, I commit…" There's the wording. "…I commit to walk intimately with our Savior so that I may love you with the love of Christ. I pledge…" That's another commitment word. "I pledge to journey through life with you…"
Watch the wording. "…regardless of the circumstances and to be faithful to love you all of my days knowing that you are God's will for me. I proclaim before our friends and family that my sole desire is that Christ would be glorified in us and through us until death do us part." Now, I go back and read that, and I'm like, "Okay! That's a major commitment."
The reality is that when Kat and I shared those vows we weren't just doing a cute little tradition. Vows aren't just this ritual where everyone does them so you just Google it and cut and paste, and it doesn't matter what you say. You just have to have them. No. Vows at a wedding… You have to understand they are not a formality. They're not just a cute little tradition.
When you stand on that altar, you are standing before God with witnesses making a commitment of what you will do, so it is important that Kat and I stand on the fact that we made a commitment to one another until death. Now, have there been times in our marriage where not being together seemed easier? Yes.
Have there been times when we have been in the marriage counselor's office? Absolutely. Is it possible that we might be back in a marriage counselor's office at some point? We're open to it if we need it, but the reality is we made a commitment to one another until death, and we didn't just make a commitment to stay together; we made a commitment to love one another.
That's what we have to remember. Love isn't something you fall in and out of. Love is something you sometimes feel but always must choose. A song that has been meaningful to me, and I have quoted it here before, is a song Ben Rector wrote called, "Note to Self," and in it he says, "Note to self. Keep choosing her. She's yours and wonderful. Forever is a long time to be sad."
It's just a good reminder. Kat and I had a 10-minute fight last night. I just wanted to make sure I was getting ready to talk about marriage. I was like, "Let's do this." Here's the reality. My responsibility is to keep choosing her, because she is wonderful, and forever is a long time to be sad.
I want to answer a couple of questions for you right now that I hope you hear, because I'm encouraging you to go back and revisit what you said in your vows. Here's the first question I want to answer for you. Is there someone else in this world you could probably have an easier marriage with? Probably so. The answer is probably, "Yes." Is there someone in this world you could probably have an easier marriage with? Yeah.
Here's the second question. Is there someone else in this world who you could have a more God-glorifying marriage with? That's 100 percent, "No," because just because a marriage is easier doesn't make it more glorifying to God. God is actually glorified when married couples fight with one another and then pursue reconciliation together.
Because our message of the gospel is a message of reconciliation, and when we are faithful to one another and when we fight for the marriage and when we love one another unconditionally, all we are doing is pointing to the love we have experienced from Jesus Christ. You need to know the person you are married to now… I can tell you there is no one you could be married to who you could glorify God more with right now.
Let me encourage you. Revisit your vows. Go back and look. What did you commit to do? What did you promise before God? How long did you promise to do it? Don't renegotiate it. Now, if you're sitting there saying, "This message is a little too late," because you're divorced right now, let me just say this.
If you are divorced and if neither you nor your spouse has gotten remarried yet, then here is what I want to ask you to consider doing. I want to ask you to consider going back and looking at your original commitment. I want to ask you to go back and look at the vows you made on your wedding day, sit with those vows, read them, and then get on your knees and open up your hands and just say, "God, have your way with my life." That's all I'm asking you to do. I'm just asking you to consider that. The next key truth to experiencing God's goodness in your marriage is…
Because in God's eyes, when you said, "I do," you're no longer two separate people from different families. You are now one, and you are one family, so in God's eyes you are one. When I say to practice oneness, I'm just saying be who you already are. Oneness refers to spiritual intimacy and emotional intimacy and physical intimacy. Practice oneness.
Here's the problem. Too many couples operate solely as roommates. You live in the same place. You get up at different times. You go to work in different places, and you come home at different times, and you eat dinner together sometimes and separate other times. At night, you find your place on the couch, and she finds her place in a different chair, and you all do your thing. You live in the same place, so you're technically married, but you're not acting like you really are one.
Then, too many couples function solely as teammates. You're like, "Wait! I thought we were supposed to be teammates." You are, but too many people are functioning solely as teammates where you have your team of kids, and it's like, "Tag. You're it. You're going to take the kids, and you're going to drop them off there, and I'm going to be over here. Then, I'll pick them up. Then, we have 10 soccer practices we need to get to tonight, so we're going to divide and conquer. You're going to go there."
You're just like ships in the night, and you have your whole family calendar, and everything is color-coded for each kid. Y'all are teammates taking care of the team getting it done. That's good. That's important, but you are more than teammates. You are spouses, and you're one. You're one.
Let me to encourage you to take a step, first, with spiritual intimacy. I want to challenge every husband in the room. This week, you pick the time, either in the morning or the evening, and I want to encourage you to invite your wife to pray with you and for you to ask your wife, "What's one thing I can pray for you?" Wife, you ask your husband, "What is one thing I can pray for you?" Husband, you take the lead. Y'all get on your knees, hold hands, and pray for one another. Do that as many days this week as possible.
In terms of pursuing emotional intimacy, my encouragement is to establish reoccurring and non-negotiable date nights. Kat and I have really benefited just from Googling great date night questions that will keep you talking for hours. Then, with physical oneness, begin to move toward sex regularly.
Regularly is different for every couple. We talked about it months ago but with a discussion guide for this talk. I will repost some of the questions you can sit with your spouse and ask. One of the best things you can do, guys, is just evaluate your rhythms as a couple, because you have to remember that rhythms and routines can sometimes lead to ruts.
For Kat and me right now, one of the routines we've identified is that right now my teenage son and I on a lot of nights are watching Stranger Things together, which is kind of fun, but my wife is going and falling asleep to Friends in the bedroom. She's more of a Friends listener than a Friends watcher, because she just sets it up and turns the other way and falls asleep. That's great, but even the other night I was like, "This isn't the best thing." I'm having fun with my son, and I know Kat is enjoying the extra rest, but if we're not careful, that routine will lead to a rut. Evaluate. Move toward oneness. Practice it.
They were fully known and fully loved. That's what you want in marriage. That is the greatest gift Kat has given to me in our marriage. She has allowed me to be fully known and fully loved. I remember we had a conversation before we got married when I just shared honestly with her about different unhealthy decisions I made prior to marriage, and she did not flinch. Instead, she extended the grace of God to me.
Then, in our marriage… My personality is one that has battled anxiety for a long time, so there have been different times in our marriage when I have dealt with deep fears, and when I have shared those fears with Kat, she hasn't flinched, but instead she has spoken truth to me. She had a choice. She could either conclude that she married a crazy person (the verdict is still out), or, secondly, she could extend the love and the grace of Jesus Christ. That's the sweetest thing to be fully known and fully loved.
Let me ask you. Is there anything in your life that is hidden from your spouse? If there is, let me just encourage you at some point in the next 24 hours to share it with them not as a punishment but for your joy and for the health of your marriage. I remember this couple asked me to officiate their wedding.
A couple of weeks before their wedding, I just asked them, "Have y'all had a conversation where you have shared everything about your past?" and the guy said, "No." He refused to share about his past. I just said, "Then, I won't do your wedding." It wasn't because I was trying to put them in the hurt locker because they were going to have a find a new officiant. It was more like, "I would hate that for you to enter into marriage hiding from the person with whom you should feel most safe."
Model vulnerability for one another and then reward it. When your spouse is vulnerable with you, you meet them with Jesus. Don't ever weaponize what they have shared with you against them. Finally…
It is telling us marriage between a man and a woman is meant to reflect a greater marriage, the marriage between Christ and the church. There is a reason in Revelation why the church (the people of God) is referred to as the bride of Christ. Our marital stories exist to point to a greater story, and it's the story of Christ's love for his church, that he has come for us, that he has laid his life down for us, that he has conquered Satan, sin, and death on our behalf, and he has made a way for you and me to experience a real, enjoyable, intimate, eternal relationship with him.
Here's what you need to know. Your marriage exists to put the goodness and the glory and the love of Jesus Christ on display. I still remember a friend of mine, Reese Graves, saying, "Your marriage will be your greatest ministry." Isn't that crazy to think about? I'm standing in front of thousands of people right now, and I still believe my greater ministry will be my marriage, because marriage is the clearest picture of the triune God, three in one. It's the clearest picture Scripture gives us of Christ's love for the church.
My encouragement if you want to see your petty arguments just kind of dissipate is to live on mission together. Begin to pray for unbelievers together. Start inviting unbelievers into your home and sharing Christ with them. Start serving together in the children's ministry or at Merge together. Lead a Foundation Group together. Get on mission together.
You will feel alive because you are doing what your marriage was created to do, which was to put the glory of God on display. Your marriage doesn't exist first and foremost for your companionship, it doesn't exist first and foremost so that you won't be lonely, and it definitely doesn't exist first and foremost so that you can have sex without guilt. No. Marriage exists to put the beauty of Jesus Christ on display. Live on mission together.
Let's just circle back to that drive I made to College Station that landed me 30 miles outside of Eastland. I just want you to imagine if I never pulled over to that gas station and looked at that map. What if I just told myself, "Surely it will happen"? "Surely I will get there. I'm just going to keep going. Surely it's bound to happen."
Well, eventually, there would be one of two options I would choose. First, I'd just bail on the trip altogether, or secondly, I'd settle being somewhere I never wanted to be in the first place. You have a choice in your marriage. You can just keep going. You can say, "I'm busy. I have a lot going on. I'm just going to keep on. Surely, hopefully, it will get better one day."
You're going to find yourself either bailing altogether or just settling for a place you never wanted to be in the first place, or this can be a defining moment where you just say, "It's time to make a turn. We have a map. God loves us. He cares deeply about our marriages, and he has given us a path forward."
Would you take it? I want you to know there is hope for your marriage, and there is help for your marriage if you want it. We have ministries here. Re|engage is here. We would love to help you. For some of you here this morning, I'll close by saying this. For some of you, this isn't about the map of marriage; this is a map of your eternity.
The reality is maybe you've been on a path that you thought was headed toward eternity with God because you're doing the good thing. You're coming to church some, and you're trying to live a good life, and you give money to different people, and you're trying not to be a bad person. You view yourself as a good person.
My hope this morning is that you might be standing at a gas station holding a map realizing the path you're headed on is not going to take you where you want to go. Jesus Christ in John 14:6 says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus Christ left heaven and came to earth. He died on the cross. He rose from the dead. Why? To invite us into a real, enjoyable, intimate, eternal relationship with him. Do you know him? Do you know him? If not, would you come to him this morning? Let's pray together.
Lord Jesus, I pray for every marriage in this room today. I pray hearts would be soft and that we would hear your voice, God, and we would respond to you. We need you, God. Wherever healing is needed, I pray you would grant it. Wherever it feels like hope is lost, Lord, I pray you would reignite conviction that there is hope and there is help.
We thank you, Jesus, for your love for us, that you are the greater love story, that you gave your life to save us. If there is anyone in this room right now who does not know you in a real way, may they put their trust in you today! We love you. In Jesus' name, amen.