5 Characteristics of a Lasting Marriage - Acceptance

What comes to mind when you think of a great marriage?

For most, we imagine a fantastic fairy tale. Prince Charming or that beautiful super model will grab our hand, run off into the sunset and live happily ever after. We imagine this person will meet all our needs and it will be wrapped up by a picture perfect Christmas card from Aspen. We live in a generation where keeping up the fantasy is more important than building lasting relationship.

The problem with this “perfect” marriage is that it is comprised of two broken sinners. The reality is, there will be times when you are unhappy, upset, disappointed, and frustrated with your spouse. These times do not mean that you and your spouse are not “meant for each other” or need to take a break. Marriage is messy and it does not always operate 50/50. There will be times when it is 100/0 and most of your marriage will be a constant effort of grace. Marriage is beautiful, there are smiles and joyful moments but there are also tears, heartbreak, disappointment and hardship.

A while back, our pastor, described the church as more like a battleship than a cruise ship, and this applies to our marriages as well. [1] How many of us walk into our marriage expecting exceptional service, having a spouse who anticipates our needs, keeping us happy and comfortable.

In seeing our marriage only as a way to bring pleasure to ourselves, we miss out on seeing our marriage as a place to serve a bigger mission {God’s, Not our Own[2]}. When we submit to a higher authority[3] and seek continual equipping we will truly succeed on the battlefield of married life. In this series, we will explore radical love, how loving as Christ loves us[4], leads to a marriage that lasts for eternity.

Acceptance and Trust- Love as Christ Loved the Church

If any of you has had the opportunity to watch “The Bachelor” we can see that courtship is far from reality in our world today. Making sure our make-up is in place, picking up a girl in a fancy car, we use these false facades to woo the creature of our desire and look to create a “picture perfect” relationship.

If you have ever wondered why they do not do a reality of show of the “soul mate” couples of “The Bachelor” a year later, it would shatter the illusion of their relationship. Vacations in exotic locations are replaced by splitting up housework, dealing with in-laws, and getting to know who our spouse “really is”. Many relationships today don’t even make it past the phase of seeing the reality of who we are in relationship.

We have bought into the illusion that once the romance fades, we should end the relationship and start a new relationship with someone who is not as broken. Relationships are now motivated by fear than love. All of us have a deep desire for love and acceptance, asking, “If he/she knew the real me, would he/she still accept me?”. In John Ortberg’s book “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them.” He unpacks the idea that we are all slightly irregular. There is no such thing as normal. The sooner we realize this, the better. Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”.  Placing unrealistic expectations on yourself or your spouse, will lead to continued dissatisfaction in your marriage.

One of the greatest gifts we can give to our marriages is accepting our spouse for who they are. If you are single or in a serious dating relationship, listen up! The fantasy of changing our spouse or seeing the “potential” in a mate is dangerous. It is setting your relationship up for failure. Ask yourself this question:

If the person I am with, never changes, can I accept them now and forever for who they are today?

Acceptance means you are valuable just as you are. It allows you to be the real you. You can talk about how you feel inside and why you feel that way. It means you can express your thoughts and know that you won’t be ridiculed. Your spouse will not judge you even though they might not agree with you. It doesn’t mean you will never be corrected or shown to be wrong. It simply means it is safe to be you and no one will tear you down out of their own prejudice.[5] We had the wonderful opportunity to be part of a pre-marriage ministry and community group that was focused on being fully authentic about our finances, sexual experiences, family history, marriage expectations, and our sin struggles. Some of you may be married and may have never discussed the areas above with your spouse.

If you or your spouse does not have the freedom of acceptance in your marriage, then your relationship is built on a rocky foundation of fear. If you are hiding who you really are because you fear it would cause a break-up or divorce, you need seek counsel immediately. You may be hiding some part of you, because you hope it goes away, but bringing your struggles into the light, will allow others to speak into you and take away the burden of maintaining a façade. Not discussing these issues will not preserve your marriage; it will instead rob your marriage of true intimacy and a foundation to build upon. Be brave, and let us reflect on this truth, “Love is far, far more than unconditional acceptance. Love wants what’s best for another, even when it is painful for both”.[6] Knowing your spouse will love you no matter what, loving you the way that Christ loves the church[7], {Faults and All} is what God intended for your marriage.

Let us meditate and pray on Romans 5:5-8

5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Stay Tuned.  Next week we will dive into Part II: Conflict – There are No “Sides” in a Marriage