Marriage and the Learning of Grace

Could it be that your marriage will actually help you to learn to have more grace? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I wrote recently on Margaret Sanger and her view of sexuality after a friend shared with me a book that had been put out advancing the Eugenics view recently. In communicating with my friend late at night, I started discussing the topic of marriage and what a difference it makes.

If you ever want to learn about grace, one of the best lessons in experience that you can ever have is to get married.

When you live with someone else, like a college roommate, you can learn a lot about how you relate to other people and traits you need to work on. The difference with a college roommate is that you can by and large up and walk out if you need to and there is no lifelong commitment. Besides that, chances are that if you’re a Christian, that relationship with a roommate won’t involve sharing a bed and having sex.

Marriage is different. You marry someone for life as a start. There is no backing out once you seal the deal. Second, you marry someone of the opposite sex which means you need to learn to relate to someone who has a totally different way of thinking than you do. Third off, your relationship is far more intimate than any roommate relationship could be.

It is in this that grace is learned.

How so? In the dating period, we all put our best foot forward, but when we marry, we soon come to learn that there are a lot of negative traits that person has. Oh sure, we saw them some when we were dating, but now, they can be written large and they are before us constantly.

My wife can point it out to me when I am showing pride at times, for instance, and in the marriage relationship, I am far more aware of when I am being prideful than I was before. I find I have to constantly monitor myself even when she’s not around and ask “Am I participating in a thought pattern or activity that will make me be less the man that my wife needs and less of an example to her?”

Grace especially works when we find the other person’s faults however. It’s quite amazing that for most of us, our problems are small and simple and we can take care of them, but that other person! They have to get things right! We can put their mistakes under a magnifying glass and say that ours are not really such a big deal after all.

This can become a reality in prayer and makes me think of the passage in 1 Peter 3 about your prayers not being hindered. If my wife does something that I think is wrong, I can come to God and ask what am I supposed to do in this situation and how can my wife do whatever it is that was done?

Now I do not believe in God speaking to me, but I can often picture it as if He would say in response “And how is that different from all the times that you’ve done if not an identical a similar action to me? Are you saying that I should just overlook all you did to me and you don’t do the same for your wife?”

Ouch. That hits home. That makes grace a reality. Men. Here is the challenge to us. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. I really don’t understand it these days when women complain about how hard the Bible is on women when we are told as men that we have to follow a command like that for our women.

Let’s face it men. A lot of times, love is work. It really is. It’s easy to be loving when your wife is in a romantic mood and she wants you to be with her. It’s not so easy to be loving when you’re in the middle of a disagreement and you’ve got that zinger on the tip of your tongue and you know you sure as heck better not say that since that will leave some serious scars.

Now to get back to both of us, women can also complain about their husbands. Mrs. Peters has her own concerns about me that she shares sometimes. I know sometimes I get so caught up in my own world that I’m not giving her the attention that I should. That is something I need to work on. A lot of men do that also with such things as the TV remote.

In all these cases, we sit back and wonder what it will take to change our spouse. We can pray for that change to happen. Now in a sense, I don’t have a problem with this. I think we should pray for the good of our spouse and even give God our input. The message that needs to be conveyed at this point is that of Gary Thomas’s in Sacred Marriage. In that book, he tells us that a lot of spouses say that a partner needs to change in the marriage. They’re absolutely right! They just have the wrong one in mind!

You can only change your spouse indirectly, but there is one spouse you can change directly, and that is yourself. If I want Mrs. Peters to do something or to have a certain kind of attitude, I try to ask myself “Am I doing this or am I manifesting this attitude?”

And thus, marriage makes it so that I have to see my own failures highlighted before my eyes. I can look at myself constantly and say “Wow. That is the way that I really am! I need to work on that!” When I see those failures in myself, on what basis can I sit in judgment on my spouse? To do such is even to treat myself as a superior, when I try to make it a constant point to say that we are life partners and she and I are on the same level.

What am I to do in all of this? Seek to be more holy. My own pastor could tell you that on the day of my wedding, a Saturday, he took me to a little room in the church about ten minutes before I walked down the aisle and said “How can I pray for you today?” I told him my honest request straight from the heart. “I need to be holy.” I understand that he even commented on that in the sermon. (OF course, I wasn’t there. We were too busy heading out on our honeymoon.)

Dying to self takes on a whole new reality when you realize there is someone else in your life who depends on you. It’s not one-way of course. Anyone who knows us would say that I depend on Mrs. Peters as well. She is my encouragement and support when the rest of the world doesn’t make sense and the one who has done the most to increase my confidence. Anyone who has known us can tell the remarkable impact that this woman has had on my life for the good.

It means also not just your sanctification but the others. Do we men have relationships with our women that she could think that she’s married to Christ? Christ was not only holy himself, but He is making His bride holy and His work is to present us to the Father blameless and without blemish.

As Christ loved the church. Remember that men?

If you’re married now and not intimidated by that, you’re not taking it serious enough.

For we men, a definite way to do that is to watch our relationships with other women. I make it a point to try to avoid even looking. Now some might say that’s paranoid. Well I would rather be that way rather than even risk anything happening in my marriage, since it all begins with what goes on in the mind.

Every action done in love also inclines one further that way. The more you act in love, the easier it is to love. The more you go against your own selfish desires, the more you are disciplining yourself to think selflessly and the more you do that, the better and better you are at being a spouse and not only at being a spouse, but being a Christian.

When those wrongs happen however, you learn to forgive. You are to forgive as you have been forgiven. This forgiveness does make one learn all the more about grace. Not only do you learn to show it, but you learn all the more about the grace that has been shown to you by God.

It’s all work, but it’s also a blessing. Marriage is a great adventure, something I want my single friends who seek to get married one day to recognize, but it’s also a lesson in holiness. The best advice I can give to you is to do all you can to work on that now.

And really, shouldn’t you be doing that anyway?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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