Marriage Part 1
by Jeff White
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Hebrews 13: 3-5
I have always found it humorous that the writer of Hebrews placed the directive to hold marriage in high regard in between two additional directives, one of which was to remember those in prison while the other was to not get overly attached to your money. What a strange train of thought! You Seinfeld fans may remember how Kramer emphatically told Jerry to forget about getting married because Jerry would essentially be “doing time.” You may also be aware of how often couples fight about money and how it is spent. Is it possible this was the writer of Hebrews way of equating marriage to a prison cell where you are destined to spend endless hours fighting about how to spend money? Not a chance.
The writer of Hebrews is saying the opposite about marriage–the believer is to honor marriage. Who is called to honor it? All of us. What does it mean to honor? Honoring your marriage and the other marriages around you is being respectful in word and action and having an inward attitude of esteem for their position. The Greek word for honor means “to revere, prize, and value.” Honor is giving respect not only for merit but also for rank. We are called to prize our marriages and to encourage one another to do the same.
So if we know to whom this directive applies (all of us!) and what it means, then how do we do it? I will examine that question in this three-part devotional series. The focus for this week’s devotional will be the deepening of the friendship. Social science tells us that couples that continually seek to deepen their friendship generally have better and lifelong marriages. This should not surprise us. We’ve seen couples who enjoy one another’s company, who hold hands and laugh at each other’s jokes. They are friends. The Scripture makes it clear that spouses should love one another. But how can we really love anyone, particularly our spouse, without really knowing them? Surely this means we need to know their preferences and tastes, but we must also seek to know their current internal world. How does my spouse think about our home? Our church? Our country? When something good or bad happens, how does my spouse process that information? Who does she see as the hero or the villain? When she needs to make a decision, how does she go about it? Does she think about these things the same way she did when we first got married?
In my work as a counselor, I often see couples make assumptions about their spouse’s internal worlds. One common assumption is that their spouse is the same internally, with the same heart and mind, as they were earlier in marriage. We assume we know our spouse because we live with them every day. Of course we know their heart and mind! Of course we know their internal world!
And yet we also know that every person grows and changes. Scripture gives us many examples of people who change for both good and bad through the course of their lives. Consider Paul whom we first meet as a wild persecutor of the church and who changes his thinking completely after a life-changing encounter with Jesus. We watch Peter grow and mature and Matthew totally change his view of what is good. People change. Most of us change slowly and gradually. And those around us may not notice the change or may just assume no change has happened at all.
Do you ever look back at your high school photos? Have you ever asked yourself, “What was I thinking?” when we see the hair or the clothes? Ask yourself–would you date that person if they appeared just like they are in that photo today? Why not? Because you have changed. Your inner world, the way you process things, your heart and mind have changed. Your views have changed. Your taste has changed as the world around you has changed.
So how do we keep our friendship with our spouse fresh? How do we know their internal world? One way that we do so is by asking open-ended questions and by giving them room to express themselves fully. We must give them time and space to share their internal world. We must also show interest in hearing what they reveal. The old TV cliché of the husband grunting to his wife’s comments from behind the newspaper is an example of not being ready to listen. While not as easy to hide behind, our phones and tablets can keep us from being ready to listen as well.
In Philippians 2, Paul directs his readers to “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests in others.” One cannot support the interests of others unless that person is aware of the other’s interests. Ask questions that go beyond, “What did you do today?” Perhaps try, “How do you feel about what went on today?” God calls us create safe spaces for our spouses to share their inner worlds with us. That should not be surprising in light of how God has made a perfectly safe place for us in His Kingdom. Regardless of the situations that we see in our world, His children are perfectly and have an opportunity and responsibility to extend that safety to our others, particularly our spouses.