Updated: Jan 15, 2021
Hot and humid mornings were nothing new on the coast of East Africa. I sat, dripping with sweat, in my little clinic room, checking blood pressures, listening to chest sounds, and testing for malaria. Late into the morning, the clouds let loose and a torrential downpour began.
A few patients remained to be seen, but there were no more coming, not in this rain. Once I had seen them all, I sat out on the porch and waited.
One hour passed, then another. The downpour was relentless.
The locals in the market began teasing me for waiting (although you didn’t seem them trekking a mile in the rain), then an elderly man hobbled over with his cane to tell me, in his wisdom, that this rain wasn’t going to let up for a long while.
Resigned to the fact that I would indeed need to make the journey home slogging through the torrential rain, I locked up my clinic, gathered in a deep breath, and took the plunge (literally).
The dusty road had turned to clay, with rivers rushing on each side. Villagers scolded me from the shelter of their homes, reminding me I could get sick out in weather like this, and why had I forgotten to take an umbrella. My flip flops got stuck in the mud and broke.
Soaked, barefoot, and cold, I stepped into our little mud house.
My husband greeted me as I came in. Anticipating what I’d look like arriving home, he’d already heated the water on the stove, so I could have a warm bucket shower, and was brewing up a hot press of coffee.
My heart melted.
I hadn’t expected such royal treatment, but I sure appreciated it.
Acts of kindness require the most effort in our marriage relationship. They need thought, planning, and intentionality. This can be the most difficulty, because our energy is spent throughout the day, we are preoccupied, or let’s be honest, at times we’re forgetful and lazy.
Jani Ortlund writes, “happily married women know that having a husband does not make a great marriage, any more than having a piano makes a great musician.” I remember taking piano lessons as a kid, and practicing every day was the reason I quit, I found it too much work to be disciplined in it.
Isn’t it a wonder how we can imagine marriage to solve our problems, or to effortlessly exist as a perfect love relationship, based only on the title. It’s a mystery to me, because it’s not the case.
To the spouse in a Christian marriage, there are a few things we remember, by grace and through faith about marriage.
Marriage Requires Effort
In our busy lives, we expend a lot of energy going to work, at work, cleaning up around the house, caring for the kids…the list goes on.
We find ourselves spent at the end of a long day, (or just dull with boredom in these days of pandemic lockdown) without anything left to invest in our spouse.
Joel Beeke reminds us that, “friendship cannot be warmed up by thirty seconds in the microwave. So much today is instant, but friendship is not. It costs something. It costs you, yourself, your commitment, and your vulnerability.” As we reflect on the condition of our own marriages, we begin with understanding that to grow a friendship means to grow our effort.
I find myself longing to be served, loved, and cared for, only to remember that friendship is a two-way street. The sinful nature entangled in my heart seeks my own needs first, when Scripture reminds me, “to look not only at my own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). Building a better marriage starts with the daily practice of laying down self. This is a picture of the gospel, that while we were stuck in our sin, Christ gave his life for us.
Where do you need to let go of self?
Are there any ways you can focus on growing friendship with your spouse?
Marriage Founded On Grace
Have you noticed, that even when you read the Bible and pray every day, you still fall short of perfect love?
We feel discouraged when we see our efforts not bearing the immediate fruit we want. We see our failures and become disillusioned with our faith.
This is where we experience the beauty of the gospel.
There is no amount of effort we can give that will earn us a perfect marriage, perfect righteousness, or perfect faith. While we strive for perfection, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) and perfection is not it.
It’s challenging for us to receive grace because our culture trains us to work hard to earn success, whether it’s financial, in our careers, or our physical training. We hear the words of Scripture teach us that, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:8).
By grace we receive forgiveness and mercy, confessing our sin, turning away from it and stepping forward in faith. The ongoing work of the Holy Spirit continues inside us daily, his transforming work in us for his glory and the good of others.
Not surprisingly, as we receive grace from the Lord, we are equipped to extend that grace to others, namely our spouse. Isn’t that great?!
Would you pray, asking God for more grace in your marriage today?
Marriage Exists to Glorify God
As with every facet of our life, our relationship with our spouse is designed to bring glory to God. In the words of Timothy Keller, “marriage is so much like salvation and our relationship with Christ that Paul says you can’t understand marriage without looking at the gospel.”
When we extend forgiveness, show kindness, and persevere with hope in our marriage relationship, we reflect the one who first gave them to us; our selflessness and sacrifice points to our Savior.
Gracious, considerate acts of kindness are one way to build a marriage, and it takes effort, grace and practice, much like learning to play the piano.
My daughter taps the keys of a song she’s learning. The rhythm is off, the sharp is forgotten, it’s slower than what it’s supposed to be.
Then, I remember that I am too.
My rhythm is off, I forget things, and I’m slower to love than what I could be. By the help and grace of God, he will keep transforming me to become more like him. A woman who loves a little better every day.
How will you build your marriage today?