Thursday, February 5, 2009

"This Mystery is Profound...

...and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." Ephesians 5:32

Hubs and I are in group marital counseling. It is an interesting and new concept at our church; we are the guinea pig group, so to speak. There are four couples, ranging from newlyweds (they've been married for 1.5 years) to a couple who's been married 9 years. Hubs and I are right in the middle.

The couple leading the group is the assistant pastor (D.) at our church and his wife (J.); they've been married over 15 years. They're leading us through a book called When Sinners Say "I Do".

I have to tell you that I have not been this excited about a book in a really long time. You have to read this book.
I mean, you really really really need to read this book. Everyone should read this book.

Okay, I'm assuming I've made my point.

Dave Harvey says some things about marriage that I have NEVER heard of, thought about or dreamed were possible. For instance, did you know that when Paul says that the mystery of Christ and his church is profound...he means just that; it is PROFOUND (double, triple exclamation marks)! It was a mystery (in the Old Testament times) that has just now been revealed (when Christ came to earth).
When God designed marriage back in the Garden of Eden He already had Christ and the church in mind.
Our marriages are a picture, a living parable, of Christ's relationship to the church.
Our marriages are not about our happiness or fulfillment...they were designed by God, FOR Him, to display His glory. Which means that He is completely invested in our marriages, He cares so much for them...and He wants them not just to survive, but thrive!

That's some good stuff, huh?

I'm not doing this book justice. Really, you just need to read it for yourself...and make your spouse read it too for that matter. I'm only on the fifth chapter, so I can't give you an overview of the whole book, but I like where it's going.

Since this is my safe place, and because I like it when people are honest and forthright, I'll share a personal anecdote to help illustrate how much hubs and I have gotten from this book and marital counseling.

When hubs and I argue, it usually goes something like this:

me: "What were you thinking???"

Hubs looking sincere and apologetic, gives me his signature sad eyes.

me: "Don't look at me like that!! many times have we had this conversation?
When are you going to start listening to me and change (insert behavior/attitude here)??"

Hubs: "I'm sorry. I have no excuse. I'm so sorry..."

me: "Whatever. I may as well be talking to a brick wall."

And...curtain, end scene.

But it doesn't end there, I usually start back up berating hubs and listing every annoying behavior or short coming he has until I've grown tired of hearing my own voice or finally, I feel like a jerk for going off on him (sometimes that doesn't happen until the next day).

Whatever it is that hubs has done wrong, I feel like I can change his behavior by criticizing him and making him feel bad enough that he finally starts doing things differently.

Okay, so I realize you're all falling off the couch laughing at me right now. I know, I know...after four years of marriage, I realize this way of thinking just does not work. It creates distance and destroys intimacy. It can even make hubs afraid of me and I end up resenting him, because for the love of all that is good, why won't he change???
(I'll admit though, this reaction is a hard behavior for me to change.)

A big thing I've taken from counseling and a point Dave Harvey makes in his book is that I am the chief of sinners, and I do not just sin against my husband, but against my Holy and perfect Father God.
Paul says "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." 1 Timothy 1:15
Harvey makes the observation that we must all view ourselves as the worst of sinners. Not our spouses, or the guy down the street, or terrorists; but me! If I view myself as the worst, then I will be less willing to pin all the blame on my spouse. It is vital to view sin as is a big deal, because when we sin, it is first and foremost against our Heavenly Father.

This way of thinking about marriage and our sins against each other has changed everything in our marriage.

Now, when hubs sins against me or I against him, we are starting to feel the impact of our sins in much bigger way, because we are beginning to understand that it is God we are sinning against.
This realization changes the way I react to hubs when he screws up (not that he is the only one that screws up, this example goes both ways). I understand that his sin is bigger than how it effects me.

Hubs seeking to make our relationship right again by offering penance won't change my feelings of hurt, disappointment, and anger. Likewise, my criticism of his actions won't change his behavior. If we continue acting and reacting to each other in this manner, we will drive each other further away. We must turn to our Heavenly Father, grieve for our sins and repent.

You would think that viewing God in this way would make us afraid of Him...but it does the opposite. I want to run to Him. As I grow more and more aware of my sin, I grow more cognizant of His great mercy...and it is freaking amazing!

Furthermore, this consciousness drives me into the arms of my husband because I see how disgusting my sin is...and he has bound himself to me regardless of it!
Anyone else see a phenomenal parallel here?

Wow...marriage is is a mystery, and I am speaking of Christ and the church.

"A sober assessment of our sinful condition doesn't hinder that work (God making us into genuine examples of Christ), it celebrates it!"
Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say "I Do" pg. 43

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