Today is my fourteenth wedding anniversary. I feel so thankful to have married such a fantastic woman who has such a wonderful servant's heart and who is so kind and gracious.I know that I wouldn't be in the place I am today without her constant love and support and for that among other things I am so thankful. I consider my marriage to be an answer to pray.
Since today is my anniversary it makes some sense to write about a subject that I have had many conversations about and yet written almost nothing. The subject is marriage as a context for spiritual growth. For whatever reasons it seems odd that we don't talk more about marriage as a vehicle for spiritual growth. Perhaps it is because so many marriages are hurting and for many people it is a place of pain and heartache rather than growth and discovery.
Never the less it is worth looking at a few ways in which marriage can be a way for us to grow spiritually. Before I do that I don't want anyone to infer that abuse in a marriage in any form is okay or that all marriages have to last, I know of some situations where the marriage shouldn't last. With that being said here are a few ideas on how a marriage can be part of our spiritual growth.
Learning to love God and to love our neighbor is at the core of Christian spirituality. God calls us to be a people who can routinely and regularly love; that is we are called to be people who can will, choose and act for the good of another. This is the primary mark of a mature Christian. Maturity in Christ is about love, not how well we know the bible, or how many churches services we attend or the amount of money we give. All of these are good but they are no substitute for love.
Loving is something we learn. Love is something that requires God to inspire, teach and guide us.
A marriage can and should be a place where we learn to love our neighbor. We learn to make choices for the good of our spouse. We learn to give and receive forgiveness. We learn the meaning of covenant and promise. We learn to become more selfless and less selfish.
When viewed this way our marriage can be seen as part of a school of love where our hearts are formed in Christlikeness. We start learning to love someone whom we have chosen and who has chosen us. The goal is to start with someone who is easier to love (our spouse) so that we can learn to love people who are more difficult to love. Perhaps as we mature in Christ we can learn to love those society has cast off.
Seeing our marriage as part of school of love can help to give new meaning to the challenges all marriages face. They part of living in community and they can help form us as more mature people who are capable of loving God and loving our neighbor. Interestingly enough research shows that only 1% of couples that regularly pray together get divorced.