Friday, January 20, 2012

Marriage Matters: Making Change

The author of "Marriage Matters" Winston Smith makes a bold claim in his title, "Extraordinary Change Through Ordinary Moments." Is that kind of change really possible? And what in the world are ordinary moments? They are the normal day to day occurrences that cause us frustration, disappointment, anger and sadness, especially in the marriage relationship. Hint: whatever your spouse routinely does that makes you crazy. While you're at it, don't forget that it's the things you do that make HIM crazy. (Have you ever asked him what those things are?) And yes, extraordinary change is possible. We often find that difficult to believe because our ordinary moments are habitual in nature, we grow tired of fussing about them, are weary with dealing with them, or perhaps have lost hope that anything(one) will change.

 Most dangerous is the assumption that God is not interested in the minute details of your married life.  If you've prayed about these kinds of moments that cause you to want to pull your hair out and it seems as if God has not answered or is not listening, it's very easy to become discouraged. But a growing indifference to marriage and the God of marriage is like skating on thin ice.
Are you one of those who is not opposed to change as long as someone else is the one who has to do the changing? Sounds like an Israelite to me. The road to the Promised Land is long and treacherous, marked with many unknowns. Paul's Damascus Road experience sounds a lot more appealing. Change and make it quick. Especially if the change we're talking about is the change we desire in our spouse. Hope this won't just burst the balloon too terribly, but the Damascus Roads experiences are a lot less common that the wilderness treks to the Promised Land.

Read 1 John 4:7-12 and consider the three ingredients necessary for change in the ordinary moments. 1.Marriages change when we recognize God's agenda for so-called ordinary moments. God's presence makes a big difference in situations where we don't feel loved or don't respond in loving ways. When we find it hard to love we need God all the more. A lack of love should cause us not just to look closely at our marriage, but at our relationship with God. If God is indeed love (and He is) then He surely is part of the solution.

2. Marriages change when we're willing to love in practical, Christ-like ways, especially in the difficult moments. Love became a human person named Jesus who lived among us. Love in the long haul is not romance, a feeling, or experience, but a person. Jesus came, spoke, and acted in ways that made love a visible life and action in front of us. This requires a deep connection to Him, a dependence on Him and knowing what love looks like in the heat of the battle. Jesus' love informs us, motivates us, gives us a living example of what love is, and an assurance that the battle has already been won.

3. Marriages change when we're willing to love consistently, over time, not because my spouse changes, but because I am in a growing relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Change is that God lives in us and becomes visible in us. John is saying that He lives in us and His love is being made complete. Are you willing or able to offer up your own selfish needs and desires for change? Or, perhaps are you becoming highly skilled in gritting your teeth?

God has so much more to offer us in the ordinary moments of life. And besides, a life of teeth gritting will run up your dental bill. Most of life is lived out in ordinary moments. But we look to love and serve in big flashy times and places when actually it's day to day faithfulness and deep love in the ordinary moments that is so costly, but life-changing. It's not that our expectations are so high, it's quite the opposite. We are so distracted and discouraged by the annoyances of ordinary moments that we fail to see how God is using them to change us.

Have you ever read about the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-22? He comes to Jesus with some good questions that Jesus responds to with questions of his own. Jesus asks the rich young man to love his neighbor in a way that he hasn't considered before. And it's tough. Real tough. As Winston Smith says, "God is love is more than a nice thought." Jesus tells us to love our neighbor. Who is your closest neighbor? Your husband. Yes, marriage is waaaaay more than romance, having babies and playing house. If you are a Christian professing faith in Jesus, your marriage and every relationship is a spiritual matter. That's a game changer. And a heart changer. And a life changer. Like the rich young ruler, we think we are spiritually minded and doing a fairly good job with what we have and know. Jesus says, "Not so." The rich young man looked into the face of incarnate love and walked away. Sad. Very sad.
Jesus is not cold, unsympathetic or indifferent to this man's plight or to yours and mine. He is the Great High Priest of Hebrews 4:14-16 who sympathizes with us in our weaknesses, was tempted in every way as we are, yet was without sin. The scriptures say that we can have confidence to approach the throne of grace to find mercy, strength and help in time of need at the very moment in which we need it. Dr. Duncan told us a few weeks ago that God gives us mercy in four ways:
1. By removing the trial or temptation all together.
2. By giving strength to endure the trial.
3. By changing our heart and attitude toward the trial.
4. By changing our heart and attitude to our own response in the trial.
As we seek extraordinary change in ordinary moments in our marriages it is vital to understand that we neither seek nor find alone and we do not find that change somewhere within ourselves and our own strength. Our Great High Priest Jesus is our intercessor, source, and sufficiency.

Next week: Marriage Reveals What We Worship


  1. So thankful for your teaching! Praying for you.

    1. Thank you so much. Keep the prayers ascending. :)