[box] This is a personal reflection based on chapter 3 of You and Me Forever. [/box] "Beautiful people make beautiful marriages….Your best shot at having a beautiful marriage is if both of you make it your goal to become like Jesus.”—Francis and Lisa Chan
When I think of a beautiful marriage, I usually look at how a couple communicates with one another, whether they “glow” when they look at each other, or whether they get along or are soul mates. I know it’s a rather shallow basis of judgment, but I’ll be honest here.
But what the Chans are saying here is something entirely different. Rather than basing it on an external picture, they are talking about our personal, individual walk with Christ. The husband or wife that is cultivating a growing intimacy with Jesus will become more like Him. When that happens, we then begin to live and love like He does.
Of course, this is easier said than done. I have often found that the hardest people to love are the ones that are in my own home. Anyone else feel the same way? It’s hard to love the people that take you for granted, grate on your nerves, whose limitations or weaknesses are before you at every turn. If it’s not your spouse that bugs you, then it can be your children.
When it comes to showing the sacrificial love of Jesus, we often think of the heroic things: running into a burning house to save a child, saving our loved ones from a sinking ship, or throwing ourselves in front of a speeding train to protect them. But really, how often do we actually encounter situations like this? I hazard to guess that most of us live rather boring, ordinary lives.
If we are waiting for these moments to come, we most likely will be waiting a long time. In fact, if we do nothing during those mundane moments with our families in the privacy of our own home while we wait for these heroic moments to come, we will most likely not be prepared when they do.
Cultivating a heart of sacrificial love and service is not going to happen overnight. It takes practice. Like I mentioned in my post about practicing the presence of God, these habits are learned in the ordinary routines of life. It is practicing the habit of helping your spouse after a long day of work, even when you’d rather hide in the den and flip on the TV. It is practicing the habit of biting your tongue when a sarcastic comment threatens to erupt from your lips. It is practicing the habit of seeing the best in someone even when they are at their worst (again) and praying that God will help you love them even as they irritate the living daylights out of you.
But in order to be that person, we need to realize that it is not something we can simply muster up strength to do. We cannot conjure up the will to serve—at least not consistently for a prolonged period of time. The only way to do that is through abiding in Christ, learning to practice His presence, praying continually, living life at every moment--whatever we are doing--as an act of love and service toward Him.
Strangely (or maybe not really so), the greatest thing we can do in our marriage (or in our parenting) is to devote myself to loving Jesus. In my personal experience, I have found that when I am focused on just my marriage or my parenting, I am much more easily frustrated because inevitably my spouse and children will fail me. When I dig down deeper, I see this discouragement and despair because I am looking at them to satisfy something in me. I may not say this or even want to admit it, but I am looking for them to meet something in me that only God can. I get angry with them when they fail (unsurprisingly) to do so.
But when I am finding my deepest satisfaction in God, my focus is not on what they can give me but how I can bless them, for that is the nature of God’s heart. As I find my greatest joy in Him, I am satisfied. When I am satisfied, I am not grasping and needy. I am content in the deepest core of my being, which then brings freedom to give, not take.
As I continue to find my delight in Jesus, I am then able to not just be joyful but desire to seek the good of others, even if it is at my own expense. As I often share, we then live a life of overflow. We are not generating good works from the flesh; we are overflowing the heart of God naturally into the lives of those around us. This giving heart of God slowly begins to become our own.
And so returning to the opening quote, I have realized that the greatest thing I can do for my marriage is to invest in my personal life with God. The Chans say the same thing in their video. It seems counterintuitive at first, but if we really think about it, it makes a lot of sense. It’s not about manufacturing my own godliness, but allowing the Spirit that dwells in me to rule my heart and create in me the likeness of Jesus. I cannot do this on my own, try as I might.
The Gospel reminds us that our salvation is not by our own works or merit. We do not work it out by our own strength either. It is often said that we become like the people we hang out with. When we learn to keep company with Jesus, we begin to look like him too. We will talk like Him, act like Him, think like Him.
When that happens, we become beautiful people from the inside out. The first people that we should bless is our spouse, shown in the small acts of kindness, service, and sacrifice. Though it isn’t easy, it is what helps a husband love his wife like the church, laying down his life for her. It is what helps a wife submit to the leadership of her husband joyfully and respectfully (Ephesians 5:22-33).
And when we start living like this, our marriages will really start to stand out from the rest of the world. We become the living example of Christ, not only to the people around us but most importantly, to our children who have a front-row seat.
I want a beautiful marriage. I know it is going to take time to cultivate it. There are days when I have to deal with the weeds in my own heart. Some days I need to fertilize the soil with truth from His Word. There is effort involved.
By faith, I am trusting that the end result will be a marriage that is not just different but deeply blesses those around me, starting with my spouse and children, and ends in bringing God the greatest glory. It starts with Him, is shown in small acts of faithfulness that no one sees, and blossoms into Christ-like character that spreads the aroma of Christ to all that we touch.
Lofty words, yes. That is what a vision is. We may never achieve it fully in this lifetime. But it is a vision that keeps me going and pressing forward, even when I regress or fail. I hope they encourage you too to pursue Jesus with all your heart.
It’ll be worth it.