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Monday, November 22, 2010
Since my last post in response to those looking for “practical” marriage advice, I’ve been further considering the whole idea of thinking, being and doing.

My reflections, as they so often do, relate to the bridal paradigm, the spiritual parallels that can help to inform our understanding of marriage. It may not be obvious where this headed at first, so hang with me.

Relationship vs. Rules

There is a broad misconception about Christianity, in my opinion, that paints it as little more than a religion of a bunch of rules; an extensive list of do’s and don’ts. For many, including some in the church, Christianity is mostly about doing, perhaps even more pervasively about NOT doing.

Do you count yourself among those who think that you have to do the right things in order for God to like you? Or at least do enough of the right things to counterbalance all the wrong things you do? Do you see God as mostly mad, sad or frustrated with you? If that’s how you see God, then this little post probably won’t do a whole lot to sway your viewpoint, but let me just say I think that is complete wrong thinking.

God went to all the trouble of creation with one purpose in mind: to have a people he could love. He made you for that very purpose. He went so far as to step out of the perfection of heaven and put on humanity, to come to us as Jesus, our loving Bridegroom, and even to die, in order to make a way for you to dwell with him in intimacy for all eternity.

Yes, the Bible is basically a love story. And yes, God wants to marry you.

You see, our walk with God is all about relationship, not rules. Oh sure, the Bible has lots of exhortation to the kinds of things we should/shouldn’t do, but it’s all there in order to remove the stuff in our lives that hinders love. Love for God, our knowledge of his love for us, and our love for others.

God is after our hearts. Our sincere “yes” to him in our hearts causes all the angels in heaven to rejoice. The very heart of God is struck by our slightest glance in his direction. Doesn’t that amaze you? It does me. He is able to see us a beautiful and perfect because of the yes in our hearts to the extravagant grace of Jesus. It’s not that what we do doesn’t matter, it’s that his love is completely unaffected by it, because of our greater yes to him.

What if?

I’m sure you are wondering what exactly all this has to do with marriage and the whole thinking vs. doing question.

Well, suppose for a minute that a right understanding of God’s love led to right thinking about the way you are to love your husband or wife? Suppose for a moment that you saw that the primary purpose of your marriage was so that you could love your spouse and not so much so that you could get them to do what you want (or even so that they would love you back). Suppose love was your only motive.

Now turn it around. Suppose love was your spouse’s only motive. Suppose you knew that they were after your heart and not your conformance to a set of expected behaviors. Suppose what mattered most to them was to live in intimate relationship with you and not how they could get their own needs met. And further suppose that they were able to love you “as if” your love was already a perfect reflection of the selfless love of God, even when you behave otherwise.

How would it affect your marriage if BOTH of you thought of your marriage in this way?

The Gap

Now obviously we are not able to love as perfectly, as selflessly or as consistently as God does. There’s always going to be a gap between what we think in our minds and we actually believe in our hearts. And there’s always going to be a gap between what we believe and what we are able to demonstrate day in and day out in our actions. We are prone to human frailty and failing. True enough.

But, if you both know that the other has the right mindset and right heart toward your marriage, then these “gaps” don’t have to undermine your relationship and your desire for intimacy. Your spouse’s greater “yes” toward you and your marriage makes intimacy much more attainable and sustainable.

Once you both have your minds renewed to a different, love-centered paradigm (“right thinking” as referred to in my last post), it’s a lot easier to bridge the gaps that happen in real marriages involving real people.

Changed Mind => Changed Self => Changed Marriage

In the end, you ultimately want to be a better husband or wife and do the kind of things that bless your spouse, that make your marriage stronger and that build intimacy. In the end there has to also be right doing.

I believe that once you are able to think about your marriage, your spouse and your self in the right way, once you really believe that selfless love is the path to true intimacy, your attitudes and beliefs about your marriage and your spouse can’t help but be changed for the better. And as you gradually become more the husband or wife you want to be, your actions can’t help but be changed as well. It’s immutable.

But in this marital model, better behavior is not the goal. Rather, it is but a byproduct of a new way of thinking and believing.

What do you think (pun intended)? Does my theory on thinking and doing hold water in your own marriage experience? Am I being too high minded, too philosophical or too idealistic? I’d love hear your honest opinion.


Anonymous said...

What do I think? Dead on!

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