Accountability, Challenges, Commitment, Communication, Love, Priorities, Sex & Intimacy

Young couple: if we could have coffee together, here’s the one thing I’d tell you

Someone asked me the other day, “If you could have coffee with every young couple who reads your blog, what would you say to them?

The question caught me off guard and I didn’t know how to answer them right away. After a few days of hashing through quick responses, I kept coming up short. I even asked our Facebook family what they’d say (below); the comments are awesome, but I felt that if I had ONE opportunity I’d want to find the perfect topic.

I considered topics like communication, commitment, honesty, intimacy, etc. All are important aspects of marriage, but anything we’d discuss along those lines would only address behaviors. 

I realized that behaviors don’t just materialize from thin air. Behaviors are born somewhere. All behavior stems from belief and until you change your belief, you’ll always gravitate back to your original behaviors. Why else did Paul talk about “renewing your mind” (Romans 12:1-2) and becoming a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17)?

So, young married/engaged person, if I could sit down with you and talk about anything, I’d discuss your beliefs. 

Grab some coffee, pull up a chair, and let’s talk…

The Gravity of Belief

If the ultimate aim of marriage is Christ-like love, then it's primary purpose is to make us more like Christ.

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Every expectation, behavior, and consideration for your marriage begins with your beliefs. We must start there.

Think of belief as gravity and your behavior as a rock. You are charged with keeping the rock in flight. You can throw the rock up but it will fall back to the ground. If you’re feeling tenacious, you can build a contraption that launches the rock five miles into the sky. You could even engineer some wings and a rocket to make it fly. With a lot of work, a ton of scheming, and boatloads of fuel, you may be able to make it fly for an hour or two.

In all cases, the rock will inevitably return to the earth.

Every. Single. Time.

Now, what if your life depended on keeping the rock in the air forever? You’d be out of luck pretty quick; it’s an impossible task.

Now, what if the rock weighed 5 lbs? How about 20 lbs? 1000 lbs? The heavier the rock, the lower your chances for success.

Unless…

Unless you turned gravity upside down. Unless everything changed.

You see where I’m going with this. Real change starts in your heart. And real heart change starts with your beliefs. The heavier the burden of your actions, the more necessary heart change becomes. And as you likely know, marital issues can get very heavy…

Now we’re talking

So the big questions become “what do you believe?” and “what should you believe?”. How you answer those huge questions will determine how you act and why you act the way you do. How about a few granular questions to flesh it out – in no particular order:

(I encourage you and your spouse/fiancé to consider these and write down your answers)

  1. What is love? How do you show it? What does it require?
  2. Who are you? Who are you as a human being? What is your worth? What is your nature?
  3. What is the purpose of marriage? What is your purpose as an individual?
  4. Who is God? Who is Jesus?
  5. Is the Bible God’s sovereign Word? Does it have authority in your life and your marriage? Why?
  6. What determines what’s right or wrong? What about grey areas?

In case you’re wondering, these are not rhetorical questions. What do you actually believe? 

Christ is not merely a means for a better relationship with your spouse, your spouse is a means for a better relationship with Christ.

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If you believe marriage is meant for your happiness, you’ll waiver in your commitment as soon as happiness eludes you. Is unhappiness enough reason to give up? If you’re like most, you’re probably thinking “absolutely not”. But what about the next time you feel genuinely unsatisfied and frustrated?

What if your spouse doesn’t meet your expectations sexually? What should you even expect when it comes to sex?

What happens if you feel legitimately wronged? What if you don’t feel like forgiving?

See, everything you do stems from these big questions about belief.

To make things more complicated, the questions posed above are not questions you can find answers for without faith. You must anchor yourself in some belief or they’ll never be answered. Everyone believes in something. Everyone. 

Quick sidebar: Last year I wrote an essay on the philosophy of belief. In 2300 words I reached the conclusion that everyone believes – yes, even atheists and agnostics. I’m not the only person to reach this conclusion, and I’m certainly not the first (or the smartest). The evidence is strong: everyone, at their core, chooses to believe something. Not everyone, however, is equally honest about their propensity for belief.

Now, instead of asking whether you believe in something or not, the question becomes one of what you believe.

The Object of Your Faith

Unless you’re clear and in agreement on what you believe, you’ll struggle to see eye to eye on life’s most important issues. But let’s go deeper. What should you believe?

Timothy Keller writes,

“It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you.”

Marriage is the lifelong journey of learning to love like Christ.

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He uses an illustration to make his point: imagine you’re standing on the edge of a cliff and a herd of cattle is frantically charging toward you, leaving nowhere to go but over the edge. You look down and see two branches. You must choose one and jump to grab it, or else you will fall to your death.

In this illustration, it doesn’t matter how confident you are that the branch will hold you–or, the strength of your faith in the branch. What matters is which branch you will choose, or the object of your faith. A weak belief in a strong branch is vastly superior to a strong faith in a weak branch.

Which branch are you jumping for? What is the object of your faith?

We believe that Jesus Christ is the only one capable of bearing the weight of human faith; he’s the only one we can believe in and live. Additionally, we believe that love is best exemplified in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as the Son of God. This is why we constantly point ourselves and our readers to Christ for answers to modern marriage issues (as you’ve noticed if you’ve read our other posts).

NOW we’re getting somewhere.

You’ll find a list of what we believe below. Though not every line explicitly mentions marriage, every bit of our marriage flows from our core beliefs. Selena and I know and agree on each statement deeply–in our guts. There’s no doubt in our minds that when issues arise in our marriage, we have to lean into everything we believe to find a solution.

Our list below reflects core Christian doctrines. This is what we believe, it’s who we are, and Jesus is the only reason we’re still married. I definitely encourage you to sit down with your spouse and discuss your core beliefs.

We believe:

As I’ve stated, every bit of our marriage flows from these core beliefs. It’s impossible for us to deal with any meaningful part of our marriage without them.

When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.

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I sincerely hope you also believe these things; Jesus Christ literally means the world to us. If you do believe in Jesus, I hope you take some time and explicitly articulate your Biblical beliefs in your household. Belief statements like these need not be restricted to church websites and official doctrinal statements. Make sure you know for yourself what it means to follow Christ and place your faith in him.

On the other hand, if all of this is foreign to you, consider the possibility that you’re reading this by divine appointment. Perhaps it’s time to respond? If you have any questions about Jesus, who he is, or what he’s done, please feel free to contact me here.

Questions:

Have you and your spouse articulated core beliefs for your marriage and household?
If so, how have they affected your marriage?

Please leave your response in the comments below.

 

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  • Brian Cayko

    can you please link your essay on Belief that you mentioned?

    • Brian, it’s not currently published online (or anywhere, really). It was part of an application process I went through in 2014.

      • Brian Cayko

        Thanks Ryan, I would be very interested in looking at references on the topic of that essay you wrote. I dont know if you have this material close at hand or would be able to post any of it but i think it is an area that alot of people could gain understanding from.

        • I don’t have it in front of me, but it was a philosophical essay (or an attempt at one, as I’m not formally educated in philosophical argument). I do know I referenced David Hume, Kant, and a few other philosophers who addressed some aspect of belief.

          Hope this helps! I do think I’ll publish it online somewhere in the future, it’s just not ready in its current form.

          • Chrissy Shepard

            Haha, beat me to it, Brian! I was going to ask the same thing. I’ve always loved philosophy and I’d be really interested in your paper and/or references as well, Ryan!

  • Amanda

    This article is powerful! I am recently engaged and getting married in June, so everything you are sharing made me really stop and reflect. Thank you and Selena for your powerful words and love of Jesus Christ.

    • Amanda, thanks for sharing! Blessings in your upcoming marriage!

  • Debbie

    This is a great post!! A friend sent me your link. I love everything on your site. I partner with you in the beauty of marriage for eternity!
    Have you ever read Search for Significance by Robert McGee? This is just what he talks about. Or thoughts and behaviors are products of what we are deeply rooted in(our beliefs) We either rooted in performance, approval, blame or shame, lies from the ememy or we are rooted in totally excepted, deeply loved, fully forgiven and made new through Christ. These roots from the enemy will cause marriages to fail and nations to crumble!
    Thanks for all you are doing!!

  • Lily

    I try to live by God’s word for my husband even though he is not really a believer. I’ve discussed a few biblical things with him, and he agrees with a lot of the Bible, but has a hard time believing in God because he is so fact based. It’s been a rough start, but I’m not letting him affect my relationship with God, and I’m hoping the more he sees me grow in Christ, the more curious he will become about God, and we will eventually be where we need to for God.

    • Kendra

      Hi Lily ~ Does your husband enjoy reading? Would he consider a book like Case for Christ or Not Enough Faith to be an Atheist? My husband thinks very similarly and found the latter resource extremely helpful in quantifying the true facts of the Christian faith. Hope that helps!

      PS ~ This reply includes a prayer for you and your man. Bless you sister and stay strong in The Lord!

  • Katie

    From a young engaged person, thanks for the reminder! :)

  • J.J. Molstad

    This is one of your best yet, and it’s great not just for marriage but can be easily adjusted for anyone. I heard this concept from a friend once 4 years ago, and it hits the nail on the head!

  • KLB

    But what if you once both believed and now one doesn’t? I seem to find lots of good advice when both spouses are dedicated believers, but very little on what to do when one has changed their mind. I agree with everything you’ve said above, and once my spouse did too (or so I thought) but now he has been robbed of those beliefs and I wait for a day without disagreement.

    • Lori

      Be good and kind to your spouse. Right now my own husband’s walk is questionable, he is doing things that have been absent from our lives for many years. Someone recommend this blog to me in light of me deciding to love him, in a patient and kind way, even thou he is acting so undeserving, I just keep dumping grace upon grace on him. It is not easy, you must stay grounded in the Bible.

    • Evan Hocking

      I can give you an atheist perspective, if you wish. Faith in a higher power has nothing to do with love. Imagine your son or daughter became an Atheist. No sane guardian would abandon them or stop loving them. The same goes for relationships, faith might have brought you together, and even gave you something to share. If all you ever loved them for was their faith in a higher power, then that love is over. Now, as I suspect, that love was more about the person; his mannerism, humor, looks, charm, intelligence, etc. Then nothing’s really changed, except now his answer is “No” to a yes or no question “is their a God?”

      I wouldn’t attempt to change his mind, this will push you further apart. Atheism is just as strong in stubbornness as Theism. Especially during the transition phase between Belief and Atheism. During that transition phase the individual is more guarded than at any point before or after. The conflict can be huge, especially if he believed for most of his life. Almost every Atheist I’ve met, including myself, the transition was lonely, and even heartbreaking, because the realization that something once thought of as stable or even a dear part of life (faith) will never be part of it again.

      I’ve learned over the years that my Atheism is not very important, it’s not who I am. I think every Atheist gets to this point, sooner or later. People will take me to church, I don’t mind anymore. People will talk to me about God and how he gives them strength, I say that’s great (and mean it). I can still enjoy the gospels, some are quite beautiful. Belief in a higher power is over though. All my relationships, with family and loved ones, no matter how rocky they were during the transition phase are long forgotten past now. I lost not a single one of them, nothings changed, only, when they decide to ask, “is their a God?” I say no. You know what? I think they realize it would change nothing, about how they feel about me, if I’d said yes.

      Hope this is of help, and doesn’t offend you or your faith, it’s only my perspective attempt to offer help.

  • Andrew Saidler

    Can you please explain something that you wrote for further understanding? I struggle with with faith as an whole. What did you mean when you said that even Athiests and Agnostics believe in something? I’m not trying to be combative and if I’m coming off that way I’m sorry. I just was wondering if you can give me clarification to that statement.

    I reached the conclusion that everyone believes – yes, even atheists and agnostics