What do kids think about marriage? Ten-year-old Kristen says, “No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with. Camille, age 10, says you might be able to tell if a couple is married based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. Lynnette, age 8, says about dating, “Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough. When asked how the world would be different without marriage, Pam, age 7, said, “There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn’t there?
I John 4:19 tells us, “We love because he first loved us.” At Christmas we speak of the birth of Jesus Christ as love that came down from heaven. Perhaps the greatest testing ground of whether we have come to understand God’s love for us is in marriage. When a couple experiences the fulfillment of God’s plan for creation, that the two shall become one (Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:31), that experience of love can be one of the greatest experiences in life. When the marriage struggles it can cause as much pain as any experience in life.
If you have ever thought or said to your spouse, “The truth is, I have never loved you!” This is not only a cruel remark, it is self-condemning. Put in a Christian context it is a confession of the person’s utter failure to be a Christian. If your love for your spouse is growing cold it may not be their fault. Jesus calls us to love even the unlovable, even our enemies. The marriage bond is a fertile, and sometimes difficult testing ground to see how much we have learned to love.
As the crazy pace of Christmas takes its toll I want to suggest three Christmas gifts for married couples to give each other. First, one of the most neglected commitments to a healthy marriage is TIME together. Texting or Facebooking one another does not count. Neither does watching television together. Decide to give each other a day together. No kids, no cell phones to interrupt, and do what both of you want to do. Then decide to do this regularly throughout the year. Remind each other that couples spell love, “T-I-M-E.”
Find some marriage enrichment event to do together sometime during 2014 to help you communicate better, set some couple goals, and spend even more time together. Marriage Encounter is a national organization that is for good marriages that want to get better (and is easy to research on the internet). Most churches do marriage enrichment events throughout the year. There are so many other things that you can do that your own imagination will set your limits to finding meaningful ways to help you and your spouse build a stronger, more loving marriage.
Finally, and most importantly, get God and His church into your marriage. The greatest gift you can give your spouse is a growing and active faith. After all, if we love because God first loved us, then to be able to love our spouse we need to learn more about God’s infinite love for us. Every single study of successful marriages overwhelmingly concludes that an active faith and church life is one of the most common things in great marriages.
You may be struggling with some painful church story, which has diminished or stopped your church attendance. It is time to forgive the past. It is only hurting you. Besides, being able to forgive is a foundational part of a great marriage and a strong faith (remember the words of the Lord’s Prayer). It is the rare person that can grow in their faith, their ability to love and forgive, their desire to serve, and to grow in compassion and mercy outside of having a church family. I doubt you are one of those rare individuals. If you think you are, ask your spouse what he/she thinks.
Think about the Christmas gifts you have gotten your spouse for Christmas. Will any of them have a more profound long term affect on your marriage than the gifts listed above? What keeps you from giving these gifts also?
If you want to leave a legacy that will affect your children let them see their parents model a great marriage. That will be a more valuable inheritance, and Christmas gift, than any financial asset you leave behind after you die.
To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, visit www.lagrangepres.com.