Defining the Kind of Marriage You Want by Garrett Schooley
What Kind of Marriage Do You Have?
Recently, my wife and I had the pleasure of going through Francis and Lisa Chan’s book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, with a small group. It was an encouraging and challenging book to work through with our group.
I’d like to share with you some key takeaways from the book:
Followers First, Spouses Second
The main point of the book, which really hit home for me, is that we are followers of Jesus first and foremost, and spouses second. This is not to the neglect of our marriage, but it is our identity that we, as men, bring to our marriage relationship. It is what gives our marriage real purpose.
The purpose of the gospel is not to have a happy marriage. The purpose of a God-glorifying marriage is to put the gospel on display.
Our relationship with God is more important and critical than our marriage relationship, because our relationship with God is eternal and our marriage is not. I had a hard time with this point, but I do know that whatever my relationship with my wife will be in eternity, it will not be less than what it is now, it will be more. So, I will trust God with that.
Most marriage problems are not marriage problems, they are God problems. They stem from either a poor relationship with God or a faulty understanding of who He is.
If our relationship with God is not good and we don’t see Him as the fulfiller of ALL our needs, like David said in Psalm 23:1, “The LORD is my shepherd I shall not want,” then we can end up placing a weight on our spouse that God never meant for her to carry. I know I have been guilty of that at times, and like Francis says in the book, there is nothing worse than a needy husband.
Where Are Your Priorities?
So, the question we need to ask ourselves is: How do we have a God-glorifying marriage?
It starts with a healthy, reverential fear of God and His holiness, to see His love for us and the extent He went to redeem us. It starts with getting our priorities straight.
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives us the “great commission” to make disciples. As disciples of Jesus, making disciples should be priority #1, beginning with our family. This goal of making disciples should inform every other decision we make in our lives.
If you think following Jesus is boring, you are doing it wrong. Jesus gave us a mission, and the reality is that one day we will stand before the Lord and give an account of our lives. What did we do with what He gave us? It will either be wood, hay, and stubble that will burn up, or it will be gold that will make it through the fire and last forever.
As followers of Jesus, we need to live for that day. That is our true day of retirement. Jesus says in John 9:4, “I must do the works of him who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work.”
I know that on that day, the only thing that will really matter to us is to hear the Lord say those words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” With this as our goal, we need to structure and prioritize our lives so that we live out what God has called us to.
Here is where marriage comes into this, and a point that the book makes which really hit me hard. The question it asks is, “How are we, as husbands, helping prepare our wives and children for that day also?”
How are you helping your wife prepare for the day when she will stand before the Lord? Based on Ephesians chapter 5, the section about husbands and wives, Francis says in his book, “You are to love, lead, and sacrifice in such a way that it results in your wife’s sanctification. The most loving thing you can do is to lead your wife to be closer to Jesus, to become more like Him.”
This caused me to ask myself, “Do I know my wife’s spiritual temperature and health? Do I know how she is doing deep down in her soul? As a husband, how am I helping her make time for those things that will feed her spiritually?”
These are very important questions to ask ourselves. Are you helping to provide your wife with the time to pray, read the Bible and encourage her in those things that will help her follow Jesus?
Are You Fully-Equipped for the Task at Hand?
All this seems like a big responsibility, and it is! But God has given us three tools that are indispensable to help us accomplish what we have been called to. The three tools are: prayer, His Word, and the Holy Spirit.
We need to be men of prayer, men of the Word, and it is only by the empowering of the Holy Spirit that we will have a God-glorifying marriage.
All this takes training, it takes spiritual disciplines and spiritual grit. We need to practice spiritual habits of prayer, reading and studying the Word, gathering together in big and small groups, fasting, silence and solitude. Not to gain God’s approval, but to stay in step with the Holy Spirit and to do what He is asking us to do.
We have a mission from God. Having a healthy marriage is part of that mission. It can’t be healthy unless we are seeking His kingdom and righteousness first (Matthew 6:33). This could be a daunting task, but don’t be overwhelmed.
Start with the basics: pray, read your Bible, get involved with a local church, serve alongside your wife in some way, and sign up for a MITA virtual group. It’s easier to steer a moving ship in the open ocean than one tied up at the dock.
I know I am not the husband I want to be all the time, and there is always room to grow. I’m sure the same could be said for you, too. So, I will leave you with the advice that the book left with me. Whatever you do, DO SOMETHING! Small corrections in our daily habits can lead to big changes. Show some spiritual grit and don’t give up!
About Garrett Schooley
Garrett Schooley lives on the central coast of California with his wife Michelle, and three children, Isaac (14), James (10), and Ruby (8). They are licensed foster parents. He is an elder at his church in Morro Bay. He works as a foreman for a landscape company in San Luis Obispo.