Christ at the Center

“A woman's heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.”
--Maya Angelou.  My friends, I have loved this quote for a long time, but never fully grasped its meaning quite as deeply prior to our first years of marriage.  And how about, “Men, you’ll never be a good groom to your wife unless you’re first a good bride to Jesus.”  -- Tim Keller

My husband and I have been married for nearly 5 years now.  Its funny, I know what you’re thinking, that’s not long at all.  But, let me put it in perspective… We are remarried.  We came into the marriage, each with 2 kids, and a whole lot of baggage.  In the last several years, we have experienced more than I could possibly explain- two long and grueling custody battles, challenging chronic illness, 4 kids each suffering various forms of hardship and 2 with immense trauma and struggling with degrees of suicide ideation, ghosts of previous relationships, and well, candidly, more than I could share in any meaningful way in a short time.  But honestly, it doesn’t matter, what I need you to understand is well, in 6-7 years, we’ve experienced many more trials than I could have imagined.

When you enter marriage, even remarriage, you see everything idealistically.  You both love Jesus, love each other, and dream of the new perfect relationship and family.  It’s a dream come true, you’ve found that one person that “completes” you and let’s be honest, as with any marriage, you can’t ever imagine real difficulty.  And then, well, life happens, and the honeymoon stage is over.  For many marriages, that takes a bit longer as you gradually increase responsibility from bigger jobs to a child or several and over that time, the luster of the relationship fades.  In our case, since all the challenge started right from the beginning… it just happened a bit more quickly.

So, back to these quotes and what they mean… of course, to be clear, neither of us totally understood it from the start.  We both loved Jesus, and we sought his love and grace, we even wanted to show that love and grace to each other and our children.  But what we had to learn was we both had to be so desperate for God that we sought Him first, before anything or anyone else, including each other.  My favorite depiction of this is as a triangle, with God at the top and husband and wife at either corner on the bottom.  So, as you each grow your faith, your trust, obedience, and your relationship with Christ, and your partner does the same, the two of you also grow together.  The bond between you is strengthened by the Holy Spirit.  How else can we, as selfish humans, love as generously and selflessly as Jesus.  Marriage is a gift from God that allows us access to a relationship that is the closest to what we have with God on this earth.  In marriage, we must learn to put ourselves aside, to put the relationship first and if we are centered on Christ, he gives us the capacity to love like Him.  

I had previously struggled with God’s instruction for marriage, not out of resistance but merely lack of understanding.   But living in the depth of human hardship and seeking grace only God can give, as well as restoration in our marriage, has made these words become so much more distinct and clearer. “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church… As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.  For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.  He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.” Ephesians 5:22-26.  Jesus died for us.  He died so we could be forgiven, and because of his sacrifice, we all have the gift of eternity if only we believe.  That, my friends, is a love beyond any human comprehension.  But it is not beyond our heavenly Father.  It is why the only way we can truly grasp God’s plan for us in marriage, is by seeking Him first. Though none of us will ever truly mirror Jesus while on this earth, the closest we can come, and the best opportunity we have, is to pursue Christ with all our hearts.  It’s in this pursuit, that He can bless our marriages with the love that is only possible with God as our center.   As CS Lewis writes, “Being in love is not merely a feeling.  It is a deep unity maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God.”  I encourage each of you to pursue Christ with all your heart and soul.  The benefit that will bring to your life, and your marriage, is a gift beyond comprehension.