Christ-Centered Marriage. If you've been around church world for any length of time you're familiar with this concept. At the very least you've probably heard this phrase here and there. The older I get the more I see the need to dig underneath the surface and to get to the substance. I want to see the truth for myself and know it in the deep down places of my soul. I want to live my life with Christ on a personal level. ME. The person. Not just accept broad sweeping generalizations for my life. "Christ-centered marriage" is one of those sayings that I recited to myself since...forever. But I took it for granted instead of cherishing it as a discipline worth working for. I treated it like a little cliche I could fold up and keep in my back pocket.
It took a few years of marriage for me to grasp and cherish the labor which a Christ-centered marriage requires. But I'm so thankful that those years are still in the single digits as God opens my eyes and teaches my heart a new way. The most important thing I've learned about having a Christ-centered marriage is that there is no such thing as a Christ-centered marriage without a Christ-centered man and a Christ-centered woman. You can't take a short cut on this. (This being one of those "believe me, I've tried" types of things.)
No matter how compatible you are, no matter how in love you are, no matter how well your spouse matched your "future husband/wife" list -- you aren't capable of unconditional love, continual sacrifice, and unwavering forgiveness. It's just not how we are. We--humans. There have been SO many times in the midst of a fight with Austin when I know that the right thing to do is to put down my defenses, soften my heart (and my body language), apologize, and tell my husband I love him more than [insert whatever dumb thing I was standing my ground on]. But I couldn't. I just couldn't. I couldn't muster it up. Why you ask? Cause I love me some ME. There's no one I love as much as I love me. (Which as a mom, I like to think that I would give my life for my children...but as agitated as I get about whining or my lack of free time...I know that I still love ME a lot even though I would totally take a bullet for any of my kids.)
The only love that is powerful enough to change my selfishness is the love of Christ. Loving him is far more fulfilling than loving myself. But my efforts to love Jesus aren't what changes me. Being loved BY Jesus is what wrecks the reign of my heart. When I delight in His love, my selfish love is exposed for what is truly is and I am dethroned. Even though my relationship with him began when I humbly chose to follow Jesus, my soul was saved by his relentless pursuit of me. His decision was the saving one; my decision was the easy one. But even in light of salvation I still find myself betraying His love. Occasionally I'll trade loving Jesus for loving Austin, patting myself on the back because I'm loving Austin more than I love myself. But really I've just traded one idol for another and put enormous pressure on my husband to meet my every need and desire. (Which always ends up with every expectation met and everyone feeling so fulfilled. Wait--no the complete opposite of that.) But mainly I'll betray my loyalty to Jesus for convenience or for pride or for anger. But he will continue to love me perfectly.
While I waver, he remains steadfast.
While I waste all my energy chasing perfection out of my husband, Jesus is there waiting for me to realize his immutable holiness. While I hold myself to an impossible standard, Jesus accepts me where I am. While I just can't seem to muster the love or the forgiveness or the grace....Jesus pours grace upon grace.
Marriage is hard because marriage means you forgive even when you don't feel like it. Marriage means compromising even when you feel passionately about your way. Marriage means trusting your husband so much that you will follow him. Marriage means enduring when the days are long and hard. Marriage means loving your spouse on the worst days when there isn't a trace of the one you fell in love with. Marriage means giving grace when it would be so much easier to rub the wrong in their face. Marriage is good and marriage is hard. Marriage is impossibly hard. Grace and forgiveness and unconditional love weren't created within ourselves. We can't muster it up, no matter how much we want to. God created grace, forgiveness, unconditional love, faithfulness, steadfastness, mercy...of course he can supply it.
As we sojourn hand-in-hand together to the well of living water, always finding it in abundance, our marriage is nourished and our hearts thrive.
"With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." (Isaiah 12:3 ESV)