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
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 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)
- What is love? How do you show it? What does it require?
- Who are you? Who are you as a human being? What is your worth? What is your nature?
- What is the purpose of marriage? What is your purpose as an individual?
- Who is God? Who is Jesus?
- Is the Bible God’s sovereign Word? Does it have authority in your life and your marriage? Why?
- 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?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.