The First in a Three-part series on Marriage.
A little while ago, Elsie and I headed off to do a “Hearing God’s Voice” seminar and a Marriage seminar with our friends in St Lucia. At first sight, you would think that these two seminars are quite different. That’s what I thought until my gorgeous and deeply wise wife reminded me that it is crucial to be able to hear God’s voice in order for us to love our spouses well, especially in those instances when they are not being exactly loveable! “What does God think of my husband when he is being rude, obnoxious and hogging the remote control?! I know what I think … but what does God think?”
We have come to realize that this is a foundational key for healthy thriving marriages. Extrapolating from Paul’s comment to the Corinthians (1 Cor 2:11), we have come to understand that it is only the Spirit of God, and your spouse, who really know the motives of her heart. The great news is that when we are attentive to the voice of the Spirit, and when we ask, He is happy to tell us who our spouse really is and He is always positive, kind, hopeful and deeply in love with our spouse … Then we get to choose to think God’s thoughts after Him.
Jesus gave us The Greatest Commandment: Love the Lord and love your neighbour as yourself. One of the functions of Marriage is to teach us how to love. There is no greater incubator of love given to humanity than marriage. We think that we have fallen in love, so let’s get married. Very soon after we begin to realise just how much work marriage is! “Why has this person that I fell in love with and married become so diametrically opposite to me?! I thought that marriage was supposed to make me happy!”
One of the profound and humbling discoveries that came to both Elsie and me when we got married was just how incredibly self-centred we both were. We thought that we were pretty nice, loving Christian people. In fact, we were already ministers of this Gospel of selfless love. We would preach and teach about this God of unconditional, self-sacrificial love. Little did we realise how untouched by love our hearts really were. In my immaturity, I threatened divorce two or three times in our first year of marriage … at least once on our honeymoon.
Here is the gorgeous news: as we allow the Spirit of God to pour the love of God into our hearts, as we make choices that foster that self-giving love of God, as we learn to honour our spouse, then we begin to love the way that God loves. When we grow in loving our spouse, then our capacity to love our neighbour also increases.
Marriage was never designed to make us happy; it was designed to teach us to love. When we learn to love, with Jesus’ love, then we are happy.