"Finding God in Marriage"
This chapter contains purely Christian belief, but serves as a strong reminder for the integrity of marriage.
Thomas begins this chapter by reminding us that God is the ultimate Creator. He also provides example after example from the Bible of how God wants to relate to his people as through the way a husband and wife relate in a marriage. Meaning, God wants a loving and intimate relationship with us, as opposed to a "blind adherence to principles". Being a Christian is not following a set of rules, but instead it is creating and maintaining a relationship with our Lord and Savior.
Okay, so how does this play a role in marriage? I find it to be best explained through Ephesians 5:
Marriage is the single, best analogy to compare Christ's unfailing love and commitment to the Church. Thomas argues that Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 says it best that our number one priority as Christians is to please God. Therefore, we pursue our marriage with the goal of pleasing God. And how do we accomplish this? As discussed in previous posts already, through selfless living. We've discussed this concept in the context of making our spouses happy, but what if we aim to make God happy with our marriage? Well, I think the answer is obvious that if you seek to please God, you will in effect please your spouse.
Thomas goes on to discuss reconciliation, defined as: "to end a relation of enmity, and to substitute for it one of peace and goodwill". God's mission in sending his one and only son to Earth was to reconcile mankind with Him. Why shouldn't our marriage reflect this monumental task? We should be developing a relationship with our spouse that models "forgiveness, selfless love, and sacrifice".
This is precisely why God never intended for divorce and why He hates it (Malachi 2:16). To carry your message of Christian faith, you must first live it. It's pretty difficult to convince people of anything when your message is "do as I say, not as I do"... Thomas states that the number one reason he seeks the integrity of his marriage is because he sees it as his Christian duty. God wants you to please Him and the best way to do this for a married couple is through nurturing your marriage.
Finally, Thomas ends the chapter with a discussion of lightning. There are places throughout the US that receive a significant amount of rain. As a result, when lightning strikes, there is little chance of a fire starting. However, there are other places where it is always so dry, the smallest spark can set off a raging wildfire. Every single marriage faces temptations ("sexual temptations, communication problems, frustrations, unrealized expectations"), but if your marriage is heavily "watered" with the foremost desire to please God above anything else, the conditions won't be right for a fire to engulf you after that lightning strikes.
The principles from this chapter go well with what we discussed from Chapter One in the last post. God needs to be an integral part of your marriage. I am not saying that non-Christian marriages can't survive, because divorce rates do not differ among believers vs. nonbelievers. Really the message of this chapter is if you are a Christian, then God has to be the central key to your marriage. From personal experience I find that placing God in my relationship has strengthened our marriage beyond measure. I find that it takes a lot of pressure off the relationship. You no longer have these impossible expectations of your spouse, but instead you evaluate how well you are relating with God and how that positively or negatively affects your relationship with your spouse. It increases your accountability for the marriage relationship, which is sadly a trait that is losing itself in our "blameless" society.
This chapter doesn't provide much context for application, but chapter three discusses "learning to love". We will discuss how marriage teaches us how to love, not only our spouse, but also God. "Sacred Marriage" continually relates back to itself in other chapters, as you can already see. As we continue through this series, you will see how all these topics come together for a great marital foundation and strong relationship with God.
Readers: If you are a Christian, how has pleasing God strengthened your marriage/significant relationship? If you're not a Christian, what have you found to be the best way to strengthen your marriage/significant relationship?