This was the subject of our couples fellowship held last Friday July 31. I jotted down 15 points in a message that lasted for about 35 minutes. There were 2 rationales, 4 reasons, 3 excuses, 4 exhortations and 2 realities to consider. This was according to how I heard and not according to what was written in the outline of the preacher. I welcome any correction.
What is the rationale for laboring to draw closer and making our marriages grow? One, our spouses are not perfect. In fact, they are far from perfect. Like ourselves, they are sinners. And even if they have been redeemed, enough sin remains to make marriage less than happy. Two, marriage was meant to last. It is not like gum that you chew for a while and stick underneath a chair once it loses its flavor. It is like rollerskating uphill; it takes effort to move upwards; once you stop, you start sliding downwards.
What factors make laboring to draw closer a necessity? One, the multiplicity of distractions. There is just so much business around so as to neglect the most important earthly relationship that we have. Two, the possibility of division. It is a reality that couples drift apart, at times, to the point of no return. One stark evidence of this is the reality of divorce and separation even among Christian couples. Three, there is the reality of the intrinsic differences of men and women. Unity in marriage does not come automatically. These gender differences must be taken into account. Four, there is the inevitability of change. We age; the children grow; situations change. We cannot presume that what applied last year applies today. There needs to be constant evaluation.
What are some excuses people make or can make for not laboring? One, “we have been together for so long that we need to work less than we did before.” Or, “we have been together for so short a time that it’s like we’re still in our honeymoon period.” Two, “why the need to labor when my spouse isn’t cooperating? He or she is not doing what he or she is supposed to do.” Three, “we are far too distant that the gap is impossible to bridge; it’s a hopeless situation.” In reality, these excuses don’t hold water. No couple is exempt from laboring to make their marriages better.
Four exhortations were given: one, never coast! Coasting equals drifting. Don’t be content at being “still married.” Rather, enjoyment of each other ought to grow as the years pass. Two, live with each other, especially the husband to the wife, according to knowledge. Don’t assume you know everything about your spouse. There is no auto-update in married life. Three, consciously delight in your spouse. There is more to the Song of Solomon than just Christ and His church; there is a pattern of delighting in one’s partner that each of us could imitate. Coupled with this is maintaining an awareness of the likes and dislikes of your partner. Four, engage in frequent transparent communication, especially in a context of promoting spiritual growth in each other. Talk about the messages that you hear; engage in joint devotions; encourage each other to read the word.
The devotion ended with two foundational realities: one, we must always remember that marriage is a reflection of the gospel, of the relationship of Christ and His church. We either glorify Christ or not. We either display His relationship to His church in a superior or in a mediocre way. Two, we need to be filled with the Spirit. Who is sufficient? May the Spirit be our help in laboring to draw closer through the years instead of drifting apart.
I hope I reproduced the message well. Here are pictures of 14 cute, smiling couples present during the fellowship (I missed one couple who came late) among other pictures taken.