Thursday, November 06, 2014

Intimate Marriage

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33

I read everything Dr. Jim Burns writes and I would encourage you to do the same. His website, Homeword, provides encouragement and wisdom for me as a father and husband.  I access it multiple times a week.

A while back, I was listening to Jim and his wife Cathy speak to a room of pastors when he confessed that within the first year of his marriage, Jim had an affair.  You could have heard a pin drop.  You see, not only is Jim a respected and successful author and speaker in the area of marriage and family, he also has had quite a run as a pastor.

He went on saying that his affair was not with another woman and the tension grew.  “Nor was it with another man.” Jim continued.  “You see I was having an affair with my ministry and was giving it my best energy and time. I was finding my worth from it.”

We are called to exclusivity in marriage. That is a driving ethic of Christian marriage, but exclusivity pertains to more than relationships with other people.  It also speaks to our relationships with our hobbies, our career, our toys and (can I even say) our children. (Remember, that is coming from a father of five daughters who deserve and demand much from me.)

Where can we turn to discover the tools we need for a growing marriage?  We are going to address that this weekend in all three gatherings.  I will be joined on the platform by Kevin and Karen de Smidt who are one of my favorite couples because they authentically and humbly strive for God’s best in their marriage in the midst of the chaos of life.

However, don’t wait until Sunday! Jim Burns, in his book entitled Creating an Intimate Marriage has a section on refreshing spiritual intimacy in marriage.  He encourages creating a plan that includes:

1) Don’t Expect Immediate Change It is very rare for a relationship to move from lacking spirituality to strong growth overnight. It takes nurturing and pruning over time to have a beautiful garden. In the same way, it takes time and careful cultivation to grow toward spiritual intimacy. So, a good place to start is by planting the seeds of spiritual growth.

2) Pray for Your Spouse This is a simple suggestion and one that is relatively easy to begin, yet one that many couples overlook. Create a daily time to pray for your spouse and your relationship. Paul’s advice to Timothy was to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7).

3) Pray Together If your spouse is open to it, pray together daily. If your spouse is not very spiritually motivated, then keep prayer very short and do it at a meal or another time that seems less intimidating. The saying is true: “Couples who pray together, stay together.”

4) Worship Together Regularly A natural part of growing together spiritually is worshiping together. Unfortunately, some couples don’t have the benefit of worshiping together. Perhaps one works or just won’t go to church. This is an area to keep on your prayer list; look for ways to find meaning together when you can.

5) Develop a Regular Spiritual Growth Time Together It isn’t easy to discipline yourselves as a couple to spend regular time together focusing on your spirituality. Even though Cathy and I speak and write on this subject, we have struggled throughout our years of marriage in this area. Finally, we found something that works for us. We call it our Weekly Time. It’s rather simple, and, for some it may be too short, but it has worked for us.

6) Develop Healthy, Affirming Relationships with Other Couples Cathy and I had very few role models when we first got married. We didn’t know many couples we wanted to imitate in our own marriage. One day we were talking about the need to find mentors for our marriage, and a couple from our church came to mind. They had successfully raised three kids and had been married for a number of years. We asked if we could come by and ask them some questions about building a God-honoring marriage.

If we would have said, “Will you mentor us?” they might have said, “No, we don’t see ourselves as mentors.” Fortunately, we didn’t give them the option to turn us down. We simply asked if we could get together. The mealtime and conversation was so pleasant and helpful that we asked if we could get together again sometime. Today, this couple would probably say they have been mentors to us, but it didn’t start that way in their minds.

We also believe strongly in peer relationships. Cathy and I were in a couples’ group for several years, and even though each session wasn’t on marriage, it seemed like whatever we were studying in that group came back to our marriages and families. I learned much from how other couples approached their relationships.

7) Develop a Plan. When a couple is living with the same set of blueprints, they do so much better. As you begin to grow stronger spiritually as a couple, you’ll want to create your own. The plan has to work for you and for your situation. One couple I know plans two marriage-focused retreats together a year. Sometimes they go away and have read books together, listened to audio programs, or follow a Bible study booklet. At other times, they attend a marriage retreat or conference with other couples.
Part of your plan might include reading one spiritually-focused book a year, and then set aside time to discuss the book as a couple. Or, you might choose to read one book a year on a marriage topic. The choices are almost limitless. Although, I’ve said it before, let me say it again, your task is to find what works for you both as a couple.

This weekend, we will continue in Ephesians walking through Ephesians 5:21-33, the longest treatment in all the Bible on Marriage. Interestingly, it is also the most potent treatment in all the Bible on the church.  Makes one think that maybe God correlates how we treat our marriages with how we treat His church!  We all have room to grow in this area. I look forward to being together.

I love being your pastor!