Marriage Mystery, Part 4

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Ephesians 5:31 (NIV)

We’ve been looking at the clues that the Bible gives us in Ephesians 5:21-33 to solve the marriage mystery.  What are the secrets to lasting love?  So far, we’ve uncovered three of the four clues found in the book of Ephesians.  Like the game, Clue, I’m identifying each Biblical clue with a room in our homes.

Clue #1:  The Kitchen is where we nourish one another’s souls with encouraging words and loving actions.  Verses 25-26 say, “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting.  Christ’s love makes the church whole.  His words evoke her beauty.  Everything He does and says is designed to bring the best out of her.”

Clue #2:  The Library is where we study each other’s needs and learn how to speak one another’s love language.  Verse 33 tells us, So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Clue #3:  The Hall provides the opportunity for us to walk hand-in-hand with mutual submission.  Verse 21 reminds us to “…submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Clue #4:  The Bedroom is the final clue for solving the marriage mystery.  The bedroom is the place of deepest intimacy.  It’s the place where we rest in our commitment to God and one another.  Commitment is the fuel that feeds the fire in a marriage relationship.  Couples that are committed to God and each other agree to work through rather than walk away from the hard times.  No marriage is perfect.  Every marriage will face struggles and tug-of-wars.  We’re all human.  The secret of a lasting love isn’t that you won’t have conflict.  It is the commitment to God that, in the midst of your conflict, you will stick together.  Unity can only be experienced in Christ. Think of your marriage like a triangle with God at the top.  Your mate is on one side, and you are on the other.  The closer you both draw to God, the closer you draw to one another.  The easiest way to express that commitment is to worship and pray together.  Why not renew that commitment this weekend at church?  When you both rest in your commitment to God and to each other, you feel secure with a love that will last a lifetime!

So how are you doing?  I’m including a Marriage Stress Test that we did last weekend at church.  It’s just eight questions.  Compare your results after you take the test.

MARRIAGE STRESS TEST

Do you look for ways to lighten your mate’s load? 

       Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                  1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

Do you talk together about your stresses?

        Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                   1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

Do you have fun together?

      Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                  1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

    Do you have at least two marriage getaways a year?

        Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                  1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

    Do you kiss each other goodbye every morning before

        you leave the house?

         Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                   1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

   Do you pray together every night?

           Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                   1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

    Do you go to church together every week?

         Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                   1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

    Do you have a weekly date night?

         Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                   1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

ADD UP YOUR SCORE

 0-31    Running on empty (Your marriage could collapse under crisis)

32-48  Your  emotional tank is only half-filled (Your marriage is susceptible)

49-62  Your emotional tank is 2/3rds full (Take it up a level and add the sizzle back to your marriage)

63-75  Your emotional tank is filling up (Your marriage is starting to sizzle)

76-80  Your marriage is sizzling or you’re in denial (Please check your spouse’s score card for a reality check!)

Marriage Mystery, Part 3

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

The marriages that go the distance understand the secret of lasting love.  It’s always fun to interview the couples in these marriages.  One of the common denominators I’ve discovered about them confirms the clue that Paul gives us in Ephesians 5:21 when he says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  It’s the third clue for solving the marriage mystery.  If you want to understand how one plus one can equal one, you have to begin with the word submission.  Before Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church, he says to both the husband and the wife, “submit to one another….”  How well are you doing that?  An Old Testament character named Amos asked, Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3 (KJV) Agreement is the result of mutual submission.  It’s a voluntary yielding of my will to the greater purpose of finding consensus that promotes unity.  It’s being on the same side of a struggle.  You know what being on opposite sides of a struggle is called?  A fight!  Jesus said that a house divided against itself would never stand.  Marriage is never about my way – but “our” way.  This clue is best found in the hallway of life.  Do you walk hand-in-hand with your mate in the hall of life?  Think literally for a moment.  Do you hold her hand?  Do you consider her opinions?  Do you adjust your own desires or schedule to accommodate her?  Do you work through issues, or do you walk away from them determined to have your own way?  To walk hand-in-hand implies that you two are both of equal value to God.  While the wife may be told to submit herself to her husband, it in no way implies that he is superior.  It just means that he is accountable to God for the spiritual leadership in his home.  How you respond in the hallway of life determines your emotional oneness.  One of the ways the husband submits is found in verses 28 and 29.  “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.”  If it’s been a while since you have taken your spouse by the hand, why not take a walk together? It’s a great opportunity to talk about the issues that have challenged you as a couple until you come to a mutual consensus.

Marriage Mystery, Part 2

This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Ephesians 5:32-33 (NLT)

The first clue to solve the marriage mystery was in the kitchen.  It involved filling our mate’s emotional tanks with positive words that evoke her beauty and give life as well as loving actions designed to bring out the best in her.  Paul gave us that clue in Ephesians 5:25-26.  The second clue may be found in the library.  That’s where we study our mate’s needs.  Love is meeting needs.  To meet my wife’s needs, I have to understand what they are.  That’s a life-long discovery because needs can change over the course of the relationship.  Too often, I make the mistake of thinking that her needs are the same as mine.  They’re not.  That’s part of solving the mystery of marriage.  I have to study my wife to really understand her needs.  Love makes the effort.  Love takes the time.  For most men who are clueless about their wives’ needs, the Apostle Paul helps us out.  Note carefully what he says in our key passage today.  He gives specific clues as to the unique needs of the wife and the husband.  At first glance, you may miss it and think he is saying the same thing.  To the husband, he says, “… each man must love his wife….”  Most women will say that their number one need is to be loved, cherished, and valued.  Guys, this means your wife needs to feel treasured above anything or anyone else in your life.  Does she?  If you have the courage, you may want to ask her if she does.  Then, ask yourself what you can do that would increase her value.  How could you respond to her in a way that makes her feel treasured, highly prized, and cherished?  Take the initiative and demonstrate your love for her in those ways.  Ladies, take a look at what Paul says to wives.  Notice that his counsel is different for you in your relationship to your husband.  His clue for you is this – “… and the wife must respect her husband.”  Just as a wife longs to be loved and treasured, a husband’s greatest need is to be respected and honored.  While most guys might say it is really sex, Paul adds a little more dignity for us and says that deep down, even more than sex, our need is to feel respected.  Ask yourselves, ladies, how you can best meet that need in your husbands’ lives.  What can you do that would show your husband how much you respect and honor him?  One simple suggestion is with words of thanks and sincere appreciation for what they do in providing, protecting, and helping support you and the family.  When a man feels respected, he will sacrifice anything without even considering the costs.  It’s his love language.  Be creative and sincere in the way you express your respect for him, but take action and do it even if you don’t feel like he may deserve it.  People often change when we change the way we respond to them.  Remember, the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence.  The grass is greener where you water it.  Chris likes to say that she wants the grass so green in our marriage that everyone else’s yard looks brown!

Marriage Mystery

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

Ephesians 5:31-32 (NIV)

Everyone loves a mystery.  When I was a kid, I used to love to play the game Clue.  You remember Clue, don’t you?  It’s the game where you have to solve a mystery murder.  Who did it?  In what room?  And with what kind of weapon?  The Bible calls marriage a mystery.  Most men would agree!  They would say, “My wife is the mystery!  I can’t figure her out!”  Thankfully, the Bible gives us some clues to understand the mystery of how to have a lasting love in marriage.  The mystery is how one plus one equals one!  How does that work?  How do the two become one?  That is the profound mystery Paul is talking about in our key passage.  It’s a mystery because God designed our marriages to be a portrait of His love.  Let’s examine the clues that will help us solve the mystery.  The first clue is found in the kitchen.  There’s a book that says sex starts in the kitchen.  The idea is that, if you want the fire hot at night, you’ve got to light the pilot in the morning.  The problem is that men are like microwaves.  They can instantly turn on and off; but, women are more like crockpots.  They have to warm up gradually.  So here’s what God says to men in Ephesians 5:25-26 from the Message.  “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting.  Christ’s love makes the church whole.  His words evoke her beauty.  Everything He does and says is designed to bring the best out of her.”  Did you see the first two clues?  One has to do with your words, and the other has to do with your actions.  “…His words evoke her beauty….”  and “…everything he does and says is designed to bring out the best in her….”  Wow!  Talk about filling your emotional tank!  Take a moment today and reflect on your words and actions!  Have you lost that loving feeling?  Love is something you do.  Get intentional.  Speak with loving words that are genuine, and begin to do loving actions.  The feelings will catch up, and the reward will be well worth the effort!

Perfect Marriage?

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

Ephesians 5:31-32 (NIV)

Every couple wants a perfect marriage.  The truth is that this is a recipe for frustration.  Why?  Because you didn’t marry a perfect person, and you’re not so hot yourself!  It’s really not about perfection but purpose.  It’s about fulfilling God’s purpose in your marriage.  Instead of focusing on perfection in marriage, shift your focus to finding God’s purpose for marriage.  While the Bible offers many purposes including sex, children, companionship, pleasure, completeness, fruitfulness, and protection, the ultimate purpose is found in our key passage.  God’s ultimate purpose in marriage is to reflect His love for us!  Marriage should be a portrait, a picture of God’s love.  When others look at your marriage, do they get a glimpse of God’s love for them?  If you dig into this passage, in its context, you’ll see God’s desire for your marriage and mine.  He starts with a general command to both husband and wife in verse 21.  It’s that dreaded “S” word our culture shuns today, but it’s vital to the health of a marriage relationship because it puts us both on an equal playing field.  He says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  One translation renders the word submit as “yield.”  Do you do that?  In what ways are you yielding to the needs or desires of your mate?  Notice the attitude that prompts our submission to one another -  “… out of reverence for Christ.”  This is a voluntary yielding of our wills to the will of another out of love and respect for Christ.  It’s the kind of submission we see in Jesus toward His Father when He said, “…I seek not to please Myself but Him who sent Me.”  John 5:30 (NIV) If my marriage is to fulfill God’s purpose to reflect His love, then I need His presence indwelling me.  When Christ indwells me, He can be at the center of my marriage.  Paul calls this a profound mystery!  This week, we are going to examine the clues he gives us in this passage to solve the mystery of marriage.  It won’t lead to a perfect marriage, but it will help us to fulfill God’s purpose and experience all that He designed in uniting our lives as one!