Read an Excerpt
Devotions for a Sacred Marriage
The God-Centered Spouse
Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
2 Corinthians 7:1
Greg Nettle, pastor of the RiverTree Christian Church in Massillon,
Ohio, was walking to his car after a golf tournament when he realized the remote trunk opener wasn't working. Neither were the automatic door locks. When he finally got inside the car, he saw the fuel gauge reading empty, even though he had filled up on gas less than twenty-four hours before. More frustrating yet, the car would turn over but then immediately die.
After a tow truck delivered the disabled vehicle to the dealership,
a mechanic came out to Greg and told him the problem: a bad BCM.
'What's a BCM?'
'The basic control module. It's essentially the car's brain, and once it goes bad, everything starts malfunctioning.'
Greg could have insisted on 'fixing' the trunk, the door locks,
the gas gauge, and any number of problems---but those were merely the symptoms of an overall malfunction.
How often do we do the same thing with marriage! We focus on the symptoms:
* 'We need to improve our communication.'
* 'We need to get better at handling conflict.'
* 'We need to show more appreciation for each other.'
* 'We need to have a more unified plan with the children.'
* 'We need to work harder at keeping the romance alive in our relationship.'
We can spend a lifetime focusing on the symptoms, or we can replace the BCM---the basic control module. I believe the BCM for marriage is our spiritual motivation.
It all comes down to this: Are you a God-centered spouse or a spouse-centered spouse? A spouse-centered spouse acts nicely toward her husband when he acts nicely toward her. She is accommodating,
as long as her husband pays her attention. A spouse-centered husband will go out of his way for his wife, as long as she remains agreeable and affectionate. He'll romance her, as long as he feels rewarded for doing so.
But Paul tells us we are to perfect holiness out of reverence for God.
Since God is always worthy to be revered, we are always called to holiness; we are always called to love. A God-centered spouse feels more motivated by his or her commitment to God than by whatever response a spouse may give.
Spouse-centered Christians try to make excuses to stop loving their spouses because of their spouses' sins. But if this were a valid excuse, every one of us could avoid the call to love, since every one of us married a sinner!
One woman came up to me after a seminar and said, 'It would be easy to be married if my husband were half as holy as you.' I managed to contain my laughter and pointed out that she had no idea how 'holy' I was; my wife feels pushed beyond her limit in many areas while trying to love this sinful man.
But that's not the point! I am not called to love my wife because she is holier than other wives (though I'm deeply thankful for her godliness). I am not called to love her because she makes me happy
(though I am grateful for the many good times we share). I am not called to love her because she makes me go all gooey inside (though sometimes she still does). I am called to love her out of reverence for
God. Any other motivation is less than Christian.
If I am to rid myself of anything that may contaminate body or spirit, then I can give no place in my life to jealousy, bitterness,
resentment, or selfishness. I am always called to practice gentleness,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Someone else's sin---even the sin of my spouse against me---never gives me the license to respond with sin. I am called to just one motivation, and one only: reverence for God.
In one sense, what my spouse says or does or doesn't do is almost irrelevant. Every decision I make, every word I utter, every thought
I think, every movement I perform, is to flow out of one holy motivation:
reverence for God.
Are you a God-centered spouse?
A Prayer to Remember
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
When I come into town for 'Sacred Marriage' seminars, I often get taken out to dinner beforehand. The organizers sometimes invite an engaged couple to join us. I always like this, particularly if I feel tired from traveling, because I know I can ask one question of the engaged woman that will reward me with a good rest. I know this because she will likely take at least ten minutes to answer. The question is this:
'Tell me about your future husband.'
The bride-to-be's eyes light up, and she starts to gush with enthusiastic and unqualified praise: 'Oh, I so appreciate this about him,
and he's so good at that, and he's so wonderfully thoughtful in this area, and in that area he's absolutely the best . . .'
Then, later in the weekend, I'll be with a group of wives and say,
'Tell me about your husbands.' I still get a rest, but I don't find it nearly as pleasant. The chorus goes like this: 'He doesn't do this. He never does that. He wouldn't know how to spell 'spiritual leader,'
much less act like one.'
I go back to my hotel room and ask myself, 'Where is the bridge that leads a woman to stop defining a man by what he is and start defining him by what he is not?'
The sad answer, unfortunately, is marriage. All our hopes, expectations,
dreams, and ideals get poured into this real relationship.
Because we marry a sinner, each day brings a new and often legitimate disappointment. Before long, we stop seeing what attracted us and instead become consumed by what disappoints us. Whereas before marriage our eyes filled with the glory of the person we had chosen to spend our lives with, now our eyes get filled only with their shortcomings.
I end the 'Sacred Marriage' seminar with a story about a woman who decided to marry a man who was severely disabled in a workrelated fire. While he could certainly offer emotional, relational, and spiritual support, such a man obviously will lack a lot of other things women typically seek.
'Ask yourself what a blind man with no arms and only one leg can't do for himself, much less for you,' I'll say, 'and then tell me what your husband isn't. Tell me how your wife disappoints you, or how your spouse doesn't live up to your highest ideals.'
Every day, millions of couples wake up and evaluate their marriages by asking themselves, 'Am I happier today than I was yesterday?'
but I think there's a much better question we could ask. It comes from a song I heard on the radio, with one line that goes like this: 'Ain't nobody gonna say good-bye, ain't nobody ever really tried to love you like I love you.'
The poor grammar aside, there's some good theology in there.
I'm called to love my wife like nobody ever has and nobody ever will.
I am called to be the one person so devoted to her overall good that
I commit myself to being there on her behalf, regardless of any disappointments or faults, so that on the day I die, while my wife may well remember the many bad habits I carried with me to my grave,
she might yet say, 'But you know what? That man loved me like I've never been loved; I can't imagine ever being loved like that again.' If she can say this, then I'll know I've 'succeeded' at this thing called marriage. It won't be about dying happier than other men; it'll be about whether I have truly loved.
So here's the question---more of a prayer, actually. Instead of waking up and asking yourself, 'Am I happier today than I was yesterday?'
how about praying, 'Lord, how can I love my spouse today like she [or he] has never been or ever will be loved?'