How to Stay in Love for a Lifetime

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Last Sunday marked the seventh and final message at Avalon Church for the message series, A Better Marriage. You can listen to all seven messages at www.avalonchurch.net. I encourage you to share these messages with a friend. As a way to reach friends, family, or co-workers, you can buy the book, “Marriage in the Nude: A Man’s Guide to Love and Grace,” and give it as a gift. It is quite possible that God will use you in this way to save a marriage and point people to Jesus. The following is an excerpt from the book.

 

“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:25, ESV

A fascinating thing about the first marriage in the Garden of Eden is how completely open and honest they were with each other. Of course, this was before they ate the forbidden fruit. But think how remarkable that statement is: "The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." That statement contains some beautiful truths and opens a few principles to help us foster a lifelong love.

… the man and his wife

There was a sense of equality between husband and wife. They both were acutely aware of their value to God and each other. They formed a strong team. A team commits to each other, watches out for each other, and sacrifices for the greater good. God designed marriage to be a place of self-sacrifice rather than a place of self-service. Teamwork makes the team work. Teammates do not envy the role of others. They recognize their contribution as valuable and make the team stronger by accepting divinely prescribed roles.

…were both naked

Marriage in the nude gave birth to humanity. Nakedness reveals more than a physical reality. They were completely open with each other. Openness leads to oneness. Absolute acceptance marked their union. Unconditional love underpinned their relationship. Until you build a sense of consummate openness and vulnerability with your spouse, you will not experience that kind of God-ordained unity. They did not cover up with each other. There was no shame or embarrassment, but a genuine sense of freedom with each other. Can you imagine that? No jealousy. No striving to get the upper hand. No manipulation. No hurting each other. Openness about struggles and successes, trials and triumphs.

Although it is possible to be uninhibited with each other, the only way you will truly be open is when you rest in the grace of Jesus. Once you understand His grace, then you will give grace more freely. Let's face it, when you are keenly aware that you have done nothing to earn, deserve, or merit His grace, then you can release forgiveness, live with understanding, and love with no strings attached. It mirrors God's love for us. What would happen if we truly began to live by God's grace in our marriage? There would be much less worry and stress. We would be able to communicate more clearly and share our burdens more fully. It would totally revolutionize your marriage.

…and were not ashamed

Shame has vast power. Some suggest that it significantly influences how we act, whom we accept, and how we see ourselves. That is why it is so important to remember that when Christ saves a person, he completely removes the shame of our sins and our past. We must rest in the perfect work of Jesus if we want a Christ-centered marriage. His grace transforms.                                                  

Because you are an image-bearer, you can live by grace. You can give and receive grace in your marriage. You can rest in the knowledge that God knew what He was doing when He made you. He makes no mistakes. Resting in Him helps you accept each other. Oddly enough, we often create an illusion of the idealistic partner, rather than embracing the real person. You can’t have a perfect spouse, but you can love the one God is sanctifying He continues with his makeover. Women often marry thinking their husband will change. Men often marry thinking their wife will never change. The more we rest in Jesus and his grace, then the more we depend on his finished work to empower our marriage! Resting in him helps you not be ashamed.

Once again, that is not to say that we can expect our spouse to be sinless.  No person is without flaws and blemishes, but we can grow and become more like Christ. Although there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, you can have one that is perfect for you!

Don't fall prey to the "soul mate" myth that pervades our culture. Many fear that the person they marry may not be their soul mate, whatever that means. That belief leads to thinking that marriage is a transaction designed for self-fulfillment rather than a biblical relationship requiring love, commitment, sacrifice, and service. A flawed theory like that leads to disappointment because your spouse becomes your idol. You expect your husband or wife to be the answer to all your problems. He or she will fix all that is wrong with your life. You see him or her as the source of your contentment, fulfillment, meaning, security, and hope. Only God can give you those things.