“It’s not good for people to be alone,” God declared in the Garden of Eden. We were created to be in life-giving relationships. The fulfillment of my life will in the end come down to how I interact with other people, more than the size of my house or bank account or biceps. “Better a little where there is love, than great wealth with turmoil,” says Proverbs 15:16-17.
There’s so much relationship pain around us. I see it written on dozens of bumper stickers. I saw this one the other day: “The gene pool could use a little chlorine.” (You think that person was having a bad relationship day?) And this one made me laugh: “My husband and I divorced over religious differences: He thought he was God and I didn’t”.
On this week of Valentines, let’s identify some biblical principles for how to make love last in our friendships and marriages. We’ll use as our relationship guide a couple from the Old Testament who had one of the most enduring marriages in all the Bible – Abraham and Sarah.
They lived roughly 4,000 years ago, back in the days when the Iceman – a mummified body found in the Alps – was a living, breathing human being. Scientists resolved that the Iceman died up there in a fight. Took a blow to the scalp. (See – relationship problems.)
One healthy trait we see in their relationship is that they cultivated a shared vision for their marriage. When we first meet them at the end of Genesis 11, we find that they are living in a place called Ur of the Chaldeans. It was a hub of civilization 4,000 years ago. The best that life had to offer back then was found in Ur. (Archaeologists recently found a Walmart there. Fake news! Fake news!) But it was also the epicenter for paganism and false religion.
At the beginning of Genesis 12, God speaks to Abraham, who is now 75 years old, and tells him that he and Sarah are to leave their homeland and move to a part of the world that God would set apart for their descendants. “I will make you into a great nation,” God says to Abraham, “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Which is an interesting promise to Abraham, because at that time, he and his wife were childless.)
So Abraham and Sarah pack up their tent and go. Though Abraham heard the voice, Sarah shared the vision with him, riding on her husband’s faith that this would be so.
In strong marriages, the husband and wife share a vision for their marriage and for each other. They have a sense of each other’s dreams and passions. I’ve heard the story too many times of the wife who works so her husband can get the degree, and once his career path is established, he suddenly “outgrows” the marriage. Hell can’t burn hot enough for the men over the years who in their greed and lust have hung their wives out to dry.
Having a shared vision doesn’t mean you have it all mapped out on the front end. (When all is said and done, marriage is largely an act of faith, which is why Jesus needs to be at the heart of your marriage.) But you should have a sense of purpose for your marriage that goes beyond ‘buy a house, have lots of sex, make babies, and be happy’.
For my wife Janis and I, we knew 32 years ago that we both loved Jesus, and we loved each other. In between those two poles, we shared a loved for missions, and a love for music. I knew Jan had a passion for horses, and she knew I had a passion to write.
As I look back on our journey, I thank God for the grace he gave us to nurture each other along in our marriage. We spent a year in London. I went to seminary. She finished a master’s program. We raised a beautiful daughter. I became a pastor. She started a therapeutic horseriding business. The adventure still continues as we take this crazy “Will God catch us?” thrill-ride in moving to California to write, and be near our daughter, and see what new doors the Lord will open for us.
Questions to Consider:
- What things have you done in your marriage that you would not have been able to do alone?
- Which of your spouse’s dreams have you helped cultivate?
- If your marriage had a mission statement for the next ten years, what would it be?