Last week’s post was an encouragement that marriage is hard work. I ended with a reminder, to us all, that marriage is a work in progress. So what is progress? I took this definition from the Webster Dictionary: the process of improving or developing something over a period of time. And what does work have to do with progress? A lot! You can’t have one without the other. Work is the effort that you put towards developing your marriage over time, period! It’s until death do you part.
2 Corinthians 3:3-6 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.
Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, describes to them how the Old Testament law revealed the condition of the human heart … the failure to keep man’s end of the contract. But at the right time God sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for our sins on Calvary’s Cross. What was once written upon stone, then ink and paper, is now written upon the Christian heart. Praise God we are no longer bound to a contract we are unable to keep. Thanks be to Him we are under the new covenant of grace! And shouldn’t that be how it is in marriage?
God ordained marriages to be a covenant not a contract. A marriage contact is binding so long as the both keep it. A marriage covenant binds both until death. This covenant is held together through grace, by grace and in grace … the grace God gives to us and the grace we give to each other. This covenant resides in the dependance on Jesus, through faith, to keep us together as we become one. God’s covenant calls for the two hearts to beat as one … learning from your mistakes which will cause you to grow together. You also learn from your successes and you celebrate them. This, in turn, keeps the momentum of hard work going. But most of all, you both are trusting and seeking Jesus’s help at all times. A covenant is based on a promise and a commitment that’s between God, the husband and his wife.
A covenant frees you to love unconditionally.
A contract enslaves you to the conditions of a written document.
A covenant’s signature is etched in blood upon each other’s hearts.
A contract’s signature is just ink written upon paper.
A covenant was never meant to be broken and is binding for life.
A contact says you are bound only so long as its conditions are met.
A covenant causes you to compliment one another and build upon your differences.
A contact says so long as our needs are met we are bound.
A covenant looks for God to supply the needs of the marriage.
A contract looks for each other to supply the needs of self.
God knows what we are made of and He knows that a marriage based on lust (sex), feeling (emotions), companionship (physical) and security (money) ultimately fails the test of time. Because at the root of these things are, Me, Myself and I, which translates selfishness. To show you just how selfishness works, I’ll share with you one of my own acts of selfishness that taught me early on in my marriage – It’s not always about me!
Not to long after Amy and I got married, we purchased our home and for the first time I had a beautiful yard to landscape. I was mulching a mound in our front yard to keep the weeds down and Amy came out to help me. Being the man, I loaded the wheelbarrow with bags of mulch and wheeled it up the mound and Amy spread the mulch over the ground by hand. Amy asked if she could help me with the wheelbarrow ? I didn’t think she could manage the weight of it. But, I was really more concerned about her running over our plants. I reluctantly told Amy to go for it, but be careful not to run over the plants. Guess what happened? She ran over a hosta. Well, I blew up! Amy didn’t yell back, in fact she didn’t appear upset at all. She just calmly said, “You apparently got this under control and I have somethings inside the house to do anyway.” I continued to rant on about what she had done as she walked away. Not a word came back from Amy.
Now I was all alone to do my manly mulching. But something wasn’t right, my helper was gone, and my work felt empty and hard. All of a sudden a voice inside my head said, “Really, one hosta, that’s all your wife is worth to you?” I knew it was the voice of God. Would I listen to the voice of God or continue to place more value on a plant rather then my wife’s heart? As I was asking The Lord to forgive me for how I treated my wife, I looked up and Amy was walking towards me. “Are you ready for me to help you now?” she asked. I apologized and told her how sorry I was for being more concerned about a plant than her feelings. Amy confessed that she, too, was upset and had a conversation with Jesus on how she should handle what transpired between us and that’s why she returned.
I’m not saying that we never had words again over yard work, or for that matter, anything. We’ve had our fair share of blow ups. But I did learned how to work harder at our marriage. As I mentioned earlier, a marriage takes three, God, the man and his wife. It’s hard work becoming one flesh with our spouse. This friction will sometimes set off sparks and that’s where the work comes in. Friction never stops, as I said marriage is a work in progress. But, you will have less and less friction when you set your hearts to esteem one another higher than yourself. I call that progress!
I also realize now, more than ever, that marriages should be about the journey not the destination and that’s a good thing. When I shared this idea about marriage as a journey with Amy, we began talking about how true that is. And I can’t wait to share with you in a couple weeks what we’ve discovered!