Nathan and I enjoy working with couples who see very little hope in the future of their marriage.
Enjoy might be a strange word to describe how we feel about working with couples, but our own story has set the parameters for what we believe is possible in these situations. Which leads us to believe all things are possible.
We believe marriage has a high and holy purpose AND we will continue to fight and believe for marriage miracles for as long as God allows.
But with that, marriage is not the end all of our human existence.
And those of us in marriage ministry need to be careful not to portray that it is.
Nor should we feel shy to express what God has done in marriages where people have been willing to submit their hearts to healing and transformation.
Oddly enough, Nathan and I believed these things long before we actually lived them out from our own hearts...
I will attempt to explain.
“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.” Romans 6:17
Reading through that a few times and it may appear as religious jargon we can’t wrap our mind around… so please give me liberty to paraphrase:
Thanks be to God that although we wanted our own selfish way and didn’t want to deal with the issues of our own hearts, we woke up to the reality that we could never make marriage about a dreadful duty. That marriage was not about living up to God’s unreasonable standards but rather to learn about God’s love at a heart level and to learn of our inability to love the way He loves without Him at the center. In short, marriage sets us up to need the God of marriage at a heart level…
Heart-level love is different than head-level love.
Head-level love is about duty…and sometimes duty keeps a marriage together.
Sometimes duty keeps people safe. It’s a police officer’s duty to keep us safe. And we are grateful.
Yet…head-level love falls short of the passion we long for in marriage.
Nathan and I spent years going to marriage counseling, marriage conferences, marriage retreats…we were bound and determined to have a successful marriage because that’s what good, godly people do…yet, somewhere in those 20 years, we missed that our marriage could never be heart-level love until we dealt with the issues of our own heart.
We were exhausted trying to “work on” our marriage. And we now believe that sometimes the “working on” the marriage can be a distraction from the real culprit…our own individual unbelieving and wounded hearts.
And that is what YOU are…you are what YOUR heart is. Your heart is the center of all you believe about God, others and yourself. Your heart is the most important thing about you. Not your marriage or lack of one. Not your divorce, not your failure in marriage…
This is why looking at the issues of our own heart in marriage leads to heart-level love for those who are willing.
And that’s where it can get messy. Not everyone is willing. Some are willing at the first sign of trouble, others never become willing. We often meet with those who one is willing and one is not…(Our marriage has been a back and forth drama with this very truth) And it’s true that we can’t make someone willing…we can only pray that they will be. Sometimes knowing that the marriage will not be healed, but the people in them can be.
Jesus first came in pursuit of our heart…not our marriage.
And though we pray for many, many reasons that all marriages are restored, we pray more that the individuals in the marriage are restored. When that happens, whether married or divorced, we can be at peace that as children of God, we are given new opportunities to love, to grow and to serve others.