“The two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:8-9, NIV
I’m sure you remember your wedding day, the day you “tied the knot.” Some of us are newlyweds, others have been married a while, and still others are a lot farther down the path.
Looking back over 21 years of marriage, I can see good times and bad times, and I know there will be more of both to come. I see how we’ve done things to build walls—like anyone, we’re both prone to selfishness and self-protectiveness—but I also see that no matter how imperfect we are, God brought us together for His purpose. So, despite the times we loosen the “knot” God tied, we keep choosing to remain together. God desires us to endure in marriage, for better or worse. And in this, we gain an amazing picture of His deep love for us.
As a young bride, I couldn’t imagine my life without Roger. Sometimes I pondered the “what if’s.” What if he was killed in a car accident? What if he got terminally ill? What if something else took him away from me? How would I go on? I didn’t want to imagine life without him across the breakfast table every morning. Even now, years down the road, after plenty of ups and downs, my pervading thought is: I can't imagine life without a table between us.
How about you?
Can you imagine life without the one God gave you? No matter what you’ve gone through together, would you have it any other way? Ann Voskamp writes, “Love is not passion. It is the pulse of sacrifice. Marital love is a demanding and dying thing compared to the stuff of movies and mirages. The love of imagination—it’s entirely different than love made in the image of a Savior with nails in His hands. There are no standing lovers: the only way to love is to lay down. Lay down plans. Lay down agendas. Lay down self. Love is always the laying down.”
I love the Bible’s picture of how we are to love each other as Christ loves His bride, the church. But there are times when we allow our marital knot to loosen. I want to encourage you to do a few things to bless and bind you tighter together as God designed:
• Touch each other every day. Touch is important to our health, and it doesn’t have to be dramatic to make a difference. But it tightens the knot in our marriage.
• Be publicly positive about each other. Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV).
• Imagine yourself as a giant highlighter. Highlight the things that are honorable and true about your spouse. One wife shared that when she wrote down all the beautiful things she wanted to respect in her husband, she fell in love with him all over again.
• What you think about is what you will believe. Through dependence on God, we can control what we think. Put the negative out of your mind by setting your thoughts on the positive. Love is a behavior, not a feeling. But feelings will follow choice. Focusing on the positive is a discipline. It doesn’t come naturally, but it can be done. It’s your choice.
• The small things are what matter. It’s not the house, the car, the property, the money in the bank. These may create an environment conducive for happiness, but they cannot give happiness in themselves.
• Find time to be your spouse’s friend. Do little things for each other that build intimacy.
Because we are ministry leaders, the health of our marriages directly affects the impact of our leadership. Ministry leader Michael Hyatt writes, “Being effective at work or in ministry begins by being effective at home. Early in our marriage, Gail and I attended a church led by a dynamic, thirty-something pastor. He was an extraordinary communicator. He was a wise and empathetic counselor. As a result, the church grew rapidly.
“But as we got better acquainted with him and his wife, we started noticing a disturbing trend in the way they related to one another. They would often make disparaging remarks about the other in public. At first, it seemed cute. Their comments seemed playful and humorous. Everyone laughed. But over time, they became more and more pointed, thinly masking their frustration with one another. We ultimately left that church. But several years later we learned they suffered an ugly divorce, both admitting to multiple affairs. They lost their family, and of course, their ministry. . . .
“Conversely, I noticed that Sam Moore, my predecessor at Thomas Nelson, always spoke highly of his wife. He would often say, “I hate to leave her in the morning, and I can’t wait to see her in the evening.” They have been married now for nearly 60 years. Last time Gail and I were with them, they were holding hands. It was obvious they were still in love. In reflecting on these two experiences, I am convinced that praising your spouse in public is one of the most important investments you can make—in your family and in your leadership. This is important for at least five reasons:
*You get more of what you affirm. . . .
*Affirmation shifts your attitude toward your spouse. . . . If you start speaking well of someone, you start believing what you say.
*Affirmation helps strengthen your spouse’s best qualities. . . .
*Affirmation wards off the temptation of adultery. When others see you are happily married, they are less likely to proposition you. . . .
*Affirmation provides a model to those you lead. To be a truly effective leader, you must lead yourself, and then you must lead your family. Your marriage is a powerful visual of how you treat the people you value the most. When you speak highly of your spouse, your followers are more likely to trust you. It takes your leadership to another level.
“Affirming your spouse in public is an investment that pays big leadership dividends. In a world where fewer and fewer marriages last, it can be a difference-maker.” (“Why Speaking Well of Your Spouse is so Important,” © 2013, Michael S. Hyatt. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.michaelhyatt.com).
I hope you will take the time to invest in your marriage, in your spouse, in this gift God gave you. He knew what you needed when He brought you together, and what you needed all through your life. Tighten your knot by living the gospel toward one another and ultimately toward those who witness your life.