Hans’ note: The author of this post, Kat Oxley, is getting ready to go over to New York with her husband (who is super brainy!). She has been a staff worker at UTS with CREDO and she has been at Resolved since it started.
Here’s how I’d love to answer this question: The gospel shapes my life as a newly married woman by spurring me on daily to be a better ‘living parable’ of Christ and the Church (his bride) so that the people around me who don’t have a relationship with Jesus may see something of him in our marriage. But here’s the (not so) secret truth… I fall short of this on an hourly basis.
Marriage is this wonderful beautiful gift from God; to have a companion in all of life, to have a partner in all you plan and do, and to have a spiritual leader who’s primary concern is for my relationship with God, blows my mind! Plus it’s a whole lot of fun! In my best moments I am unbelievably thankful to God for this beautiful undeserved gift in my life! While I loved being single for many reasons, I still spent too much time wondering what ‘one’ had to do to earn a husband, or what this or that girl had that meant she got a husband and I didn’t. But, much like God’s grace in salvation, I have and am learning that God gives good gifts to his children because he is a good Father, not because we are good children. Some well meaning people say nice things like “I’m so glad you have a great man, you deserve that”. No. I’m not good enough to earn a husband, and living this closely with one only magnifies my unworthiness more!
I would love to respond to this gift well, to be spurred on to thankfulness more, to be more aware of my own sin (especially my selfishness) and therefore the cost of the Cross, and to love Peter as the Church should love Jesus so that God may use me to encourage everyone to love Jesus more – both in theory and in practice. But come on! It is hard. One of the hardest things is taking Peter for granted, he is a husband who reads Ephesians 5 seriously, and it would be too too easy to ‘let’ him always choose what is ‘best for me’ instead of loving and serving him, putting him above my own wants and needs. We’re also noticing a tendency to think that it is because we are so perfect for each other, or we did this and that the right way, or whatever other ‘us’ based reason, that means we have a fun and good marriage now. That is flat out wrong. Marriage is good because God made it, and he made it good (even when its hard). When we are loving being married, or even struggling through harder times, we should be driven to thankfulness. Sometimes we are – I just wish I was every time.
Having said all of that, being in relationship with Jesus fundamentally changes how I “do” marriage. If I really believe that God created me and marriage, and that I have been freed by the blood of Christ to be truly who I was made to be, well then I will want to listen to what God has to say about marriage. Thankfully he gives his Holy Spirit, because I am still too broken and sinful to selflessly love Peter as I should, but that doesn’t mean I sit on my ass and wait for the Spirit to do its magic! When I am being grumpy or selfish, there is a conviction from the Holy Spirit that says “not cool Kat” and I have to take a breath and stop dwelling in the strange comfort of the bad mood and start to work the real issues through in my mind (which often means I need to stop negatively twisting things). Marriage is from God and it is good and it is for life. “No divorce” doesn’t start when we have been fighting for years and need to see a counsellor or lawyer, it starts now, by not playing emotional games, by being honest and working out everyday what it is to be us – a married couple trying to please God. Even this I cannot do apart from God’s help.
Through God’s grace in my decisions I married a man who loves Jesus – I know Peter is also filled with the Spirit, and that divorce is not an option for him – and I know he takes that seriously from now. It is a wonderfully safe environment in which to grow and love. It also has meant that we try to have an open welcoming marriage, where hospitality and relationships with others are essential. Not just because God created us to live in community, but also because we want to be a living parable of Jesus to people (because we trust that God can use even imperfect examples). While this serves others, the transparency also serves our marriage, because when we let people see how we really are, we start to realise how much we need to draw closer to God through his word and prayer together. Hopefully this is a godly cycle that feeds itself, rather than a self-indulgence or a guilty balancing act of us time verses time with others.
If you’re a praying person, which if you know Jesus I hope you are, please pray for the marriages you see around you. Marriage is no walk in the park, even when it is fun and good, and I’m no expert on it, but I know I need love and prayer and support from my family in Christ. Pray that we would thank God for his undeserved gifts, and that it would lead us to remember his ultimate grace in salvation when we deserved nothing but judgement. Pray that we would be more aware of our own sin as we live so intimately with someone else, and that the awareness would not lead us to despair, but through awareness into thankfulness for the Cross. Pray that, in all of this, we would love Jesus more, and therefore desire to share him with people around us all the more in little and big ways.