Few ideas have affected our marriage more than this one: marriage is more about holiness than happiness. This isn’t to say marriage isn’t happy at all, just that holiness is the higher priority. How has this focus changed us? Well, if and when happiness conflicts with holiness, holiness must win.
When we’ve gone through rough patches together, there were times when both Selena and I thought we’d be happier apart from one another. We wanted to quit on each other because it was how we felt right then. But that’s not what marriage is about, it’s about learning how to love selflessly by learning to know the One who loves sacrificially. Marriage is about covenantal love. It’s about a love that stems from the much greater, more intense, and immensely more pure love of God. Marriage is one way God refines us into people of holiness, and makes us aware of His unconditional grace and love.
Marriage has more to do with eternity than we ever fathomed.
This concept was first introduced to us through a book called Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. That’s why it’s such an honor to have him as a guest writer for Fierce Marriage! Gary Thomas is our guest today, and we’re humbled to have him (please give him a warm welcome… :) ) . We never dreamed this would happen, but here we are.
Gary has written many books, all with timeless wisdom from decades of marital experience. In lieu of introducing Gary further, I’ll let his writing do the talking. His newest book just released, and it’s called “A Lifelong Love: What if Marriage Is About More Than Just Staying Together?“.
And now this, from Gary Thomas:
A Prayer That Left Me Gloriously Ruined
I was a young husband, and during an intense time of prayer, I sensed God telling me very directly that Lisa wasn’t just my wife, but she was also His daughter and I was to treat her accordingly. It was an intense application of 1 John 3:1: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (ESV).
This was a moment of revelation for me, and the force of this insight grew once I had kids of my own. If you want to get on my good side, just be good to one of my kids. Conversely, if you really want to make me angry, pick on one of my kids. My blood pressure will go up if your name is even mentioned because I’d much rather you mess with me than with one of my kids.
So when I realized I was married to God’s daughter—and that you, women, are married to God’s sons—everything about how I viewed marriage changed. God feels about my wife—His daughter—in an even holier and more passionate way than I feel about my own daughters. Suddenly, my marriage was no longer about just me and one other person; it was very much a relationship with a passionately interested third partner. I realized one of my primary forms of worship throughout the rest of my life would be honoring God by taking care of a woman who would always be, in His divine mind, “His little girl.”
We often hear pastors contemplate the Fatherhood of God, a wonderful and true doctrine. But if you want to change your marriage, extend this analogy and spend some time meditating about God as Father-in-Law. Because when you marry a believer, He is!
When I disrespect my wife or am condescending toward her, I am courting trouble with her heavenly Father, who feels passionately about her welfare. In a positive sense, when I am actively caring for my wife, loving her, and seeking opportunities to showcase her beauty to others, I am pleasing God on about as high a level as He can be pleased.
“She’s Going to Be Okay”
Three decades ago, my soon-to-be earthly father-in-law, broke out in tears during my and Lisa’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Bill wasn’t particularly sentimental, and almost two decades passed before he explained what was behind the tears: “Gary, when you married my daughter, I thought to myself, I don’t have to worry about Lisa. She’s found a guy who will take care of her. She’s going to be okay.”
Now that I have two daughters in their twenties, I can empathize. It’s almost scary to me how desperately I want my daughters to be loved, which helps me understand that the best gift I can give a father-in-law is to take care of and even spoil his little girl. Viewing God as Father-in-Law has helped me understand the apostle Peter’s words when he wrote, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect…so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Pet. 3:7).
That used to seem backward to me; I thought I needed to pray for a better marriage, but Peter is telling me I need a better marriage so I can pray. Looking at God through the lens of Father-in-Law resolved the dilemma. If a young man came to me, praising me, complimenting me on my character, even singing songs about me and giving me 10 percent of his income, and all the while I knew he was making one of my daughters miserable through abuse or neglect, I’d frankly have nothing to say to him except, “Hey, buddy, start treating my daughter better, and then we can talk. You say you respect me? Then take care of my little girl.”
That would be the first and only thing I’d want to discuss with him every time he approached me. So it makes total sense to me that if I don’t treat Lisa well, respecting her as God’s daughter, with all the privileges such a high standing involves, that my prayer life will be hindered.
Women, to get a feel for how well you’re treating your husband in God’s eyes, just consider how you’d feel if a daughter-in-law treated your boy the way you treat your husband, in any area. Would you thank God for her, or would you be pleading with God that He would convict her and soften her heart?
We can never begin to repay God for what He has done for us. But we can love one of His precious children with devoted excellence. We can make Him smile by the way we take care of His son or daughter.
Gary Thomas (www.garythomas.com) is the author of many books on Christian spirituality and marriage and family life. This blog post is an adapted excerpt from his newest book, “A Lifelong Love: What if Marriage Is About More Than Just Staying Together?”
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