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Episode 13 of Kindavangelical just released! Patriarchal Regrets

Don’t Walk Away From Your Marriage
5-DAY READING

Marriage is hard. Sometimes it feels like the best way is out, and we feel the relationship cannot survive another day. But the truth is, there is a better, more excellent way. In this 5-day plan, Pete examines the challenges all married couples face and shares how Jesus wants to breathe life and love into your marriage—even when it seems broken beyond repair.

Day 1

The Most Excellent Marriage

The best way out is always through. —Robert Frost

There are lots of ways to do something, but I believe there is usually one best way. For example, when we travel from Texas to Wisconsin, there are three different routes we could take; but I found the best one. More importantly, I figured out the best time of day to leave—7:30 at night. That way, you eat a huge dinner, everyone but me falls asleep in the car, I drive through the night, and—BAM!—they wake up in Wisconsin. Brilliant! It’s the best way to get from here to there.

When it comes to marriage, most of us want to know the best way, right? Marriage is hard. Sometimes it feels like the best way is out—that the relationship cannot survive another day. Maybe you can’t imagine staying married because you can’t imagine the best way to fix the brokenness.

In 1 Corinthians 12—the chapter right before the famous Love Chapter—Paul writes for the purpose of growing healthy relationships in the body. The church was in a rough patch; terrible behaviors were dividing the congregation. In short, they were falling apart.

Paul wanted the best for them; he wanted them to grow in Christ. He tells them directly in 1 Corinthians 12:31, “And yet I will show you the most excellent way.”

He was saying, “Hey! Listen up! Sure, you can wrestle through this. You can even fall apart if you choose. But that’s not what I want for you. Instead, I’m going to show you the best way—the most excellent way—to grow together.”

It’s a relational principle that can be applied to marriage too. Right after 12:31 comes 13:1 and—you guessed it—the passage on love. I love how The Message paraphrases Paul’s words:

“No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (13:3)

Bankrupt without love. Not growing. Not thriving. Empty and depleted without love.

The best way to grow in marriage is through love. No, not “puppy love.” Not the kind of love you feel for a while, but then it fades. I’m talking about God’s love. The intense, pure, unconditional love that not only saved us but sustains us and works through us. Yes, through that love, your marriage can do more than survive. It can thrive.

God, when I’m in the midst of a rough patch in my marriage, it’s hard to remember there is a way out other than quitting. I surrender my desire to quit, and I ask You to guide me away from relational bankruptcy into the way of love. Show me this more excellent way, Lord. I will follow. Amen.

Day 2

Fleeting Feelings

Love is not a whim. Love is not a flower that fades with a few fleeting years. Love is a choice wedded to action … I chose you, and I will choose you every day for the rest of my life. —“Karris” in The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

Many marriages are in trouble because one spouse or both are trying desperately to re-create the feelings of springtime love. Springtime love makes you feel young again. It’s the star of movies and romance novels alike.

And it’s totally unsustainable beyond spring.

See, springtime feelings of love are caused by adrenaline (and plenty of other hormones) as we experience something for the first time. These experiences, by definition, can only be experienced one time. The second time isn’t quite so exciting. The third time? We’re like, “Yay. Whoopee.” And by the fourth time, it’s like, “Babe, can we do something different?”

Yet some couples mistakenly believe springtime feelings are meant to last. As a result, when one spouse no longer produces butterfly feelings and whimsy, the other spouse either leaves or checks out emotionally.

Here’s some truth: Springtime feelings are fleeting. And if your marriage is based upon fleetings, guess what will happen to your marriage? It will fleet.

So what can you do to keep from getting suckered into Hollywood’s portrayal of love as a sentiment? You can learn the biblical definition of love. Biblical love is so much more than feelings and fleetings.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

If we break down this verse, we’ll soon see that love isn’t a feeling but a demonstration.

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Satisfied
  • Modest
  • Humble
  • Honors
  • Serves
  • Forgives

Biblical love is a demonstration. If you are still unconvinced, I have one more place we can look:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Father, reveal to me my own misunderstandings about love. If I have been living love as a feeling and not a demonstration, I ask that You correct my course. Lead me away from fleeting feelings and into deep demonstrations of biblical love. I know I can’t love like that on my own. You must love through me. Like a child learning to walk, I pray Your Spirit will show me the steps to sacrificial acts of love. Then I will place full dependence on You to do it. Amen.

Day 3

Thaw a Marriage

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction. —Cynthia Occelli

A while back, I read this tweet from a teenager: “My love life will never be satisfactory until someone runs through an airport to stop me from getting on a flight.”

Ahhh, that’s a springtime sentiment, isn’t it? I kind of want to whisper to her, “Summer is coming!”

Here in Texas, we call summer the Dawg Days. It’s hot, humid, and never-ending. In marriage, we call summer the season of babies and sleepless nights (or infertility and yearnings for a medical miracle). There’s carpooling, career-building, and house-buying. Don’t forget school sports and club sports.

During the Dawg Days of marriage, husband, and wife become coworkers—checking off the list, trying to keep up, and falling into bed each night exhausted, covered in sweat.

This goes on for 20 years. Summer for 20 years!

These summer days really affect the fall. As the children grow and the rat race slows, you two will either fall deeper in love or you’ll fall apart.

If you fall deeper in love, fall becomes a glorious season. It’s all about the small talk over breakfast and swinging on the back porch.

But if your marriage is falling apart, you’ve already learned that you can be married and lonely. Unresolved anger ebbs into a feeling of desperation. You can’t live like this! Something has to change!

This place of discontentment—this “We can’t live it, so let’s end it” mentality—is winter. I don’t want your marriage to be winterized. But if you’re already there, I have a secret to share: A demonstration of love brings life.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

To anyone at the foot of the cross, it looked like total defeat—the destruction of the Great Teacher. To those of us who believe, His demonstration of love gives eternal life by a Savior. It’s not the running-through-the-airport springtime kind of love. It’s better than that—and it’s always available through Jesus to anyone who needs a cool drink of water.

Lord, show me the season of my own marriage. If we’re in summer, strengthen our love for fall. If it’s winter, break open our hard shells so love can grow. But in all seasons, I surrender to Your Spirit, humbly asking that You will love through me in a supernatural way. I want to learn the art of love-filled demonstrations. Show me the way today. Amen.

Day 4

Everyday, Ordinary Love

I want to be in a relationship where you telling me you love me is just a ceremonious validation of what you already show me. —Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

A traditional Christian song resonates with a chorus reminding us, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” Others know we belong to Jesus by the way we love each other. “They are watching,” Jesus explained, “so love.”

But what does that love look like? Let’s back up and take a look at the Bible chapter where that song came from John 13.

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. … ‘I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. … A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’” (John 13:12, 15, 34-35)

How was it that Jesus showed His love prior to the cross?

He demonstrated service to others daily. Yes, if we are going to be known as His disciples, we must recognize that others are watching how we love each other—but that’s not why we do it. Service is a natural expression of God’s love working through us. Consider the day Jesus washed the grimy feet of His followers.

Foot-washing perfectly demonstrated what Jesus desired His disciples to understand:

  • Some demonstrations will be awkward. Love in unexpected ways, anyway.
  • Some demonstrations will feel “beneath” you. Step down and love humbly.
  • Some demonstrations will need to be repeated. Serve each other and love at every opportunity.

It was an ordinary, everyday act of service that didn’t draw the crowds. It wasn’t permanent; their feet would get dirty again. It wasn’t based on warm fuzzies and springtime feelings.

It was a dirty demonstration of serving others in love.

Is there a best way to show love? Yes, at every opportunity through ordinary acts of service.

Demonstrating love in a way that replicates You, Jesus seems impossible. But You don’t leave us to the task alone. By Your Spirit, demonstrating Your love can become my default, my norm! So I pray You will love through me at every opportunity. I ask that we start with those closest to me. Prompt me when You are ready to love another, then simply make me willing to let You do it through me. Amen.

Day 5

From Tell to Show

Have I told you lately that I love you? Have I told you there’s no one else above you? —Rod Stewart, “Have I Told You Lately”

I have one question that—if asked every morning and lived out every day—could cause the most stagnant marriages to grow again. Let’s rearrange the song lyrics above and instead ask ourselves: Have I shown you lately that I love you?

When you open your eyes in the morning and see the person beside you, ask yourself: Did I demonstrate love to her yesterday? Did I invite the Holy Spirit to love him through me yesterday?

Doing this invites us to live out a daily demonstration of love. It’s not perfect, mind you; but it’s purposeful, and our marriages will reap the benefits.

Let me share a small exercise to go along with this question. You can start this today and anticipate the changes over the next week.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4, we see Paul define love as patient and kind.

The Greek word for patient has two roots:

  • Macro = large, long
  • Thymeo = hot, anger, or wrath

So the word patient means to love with a loooooong fuse. How is your fuse today? Do you have a longer or shorter fuse than you did when you got married?

The Greek root for kindness in this text means “useful.”

How useful are you in love? Are you eager to make life easier, or do you begrudge any effort that is inconvenient or time-consuming?

Here’s the challenge: You can change your marriage this week by picking one of these two words, long-fused or useful.

Don’t tell your spouse which word you picked. Instead, pray the Spirit would demonstrate love through you this week in accordance with the word you chose.

Every morning, for the next seven mornings, awake with the question: Did Jesus demonstrate love [patience or kindness] through me to my spouse yesterday in a way that was useful?

Why? Because nothing wakes a dormant marriage like a demonstration of love—true love—that flows from God, through us, to another.

God, it is entirely possible that I’ve wrapped my love in words only. Perhaps showing love hasn’t even been on my radar. Thank You for teaching me that the best way to grow in marriage is to show love. As I choose my word above, I pray Your strength will fill me so that, together, we can love my spouse well this week. Today, and every day, show me specific ways You want to love through me. Amen.

Reflection:

  1. Am I willing to allow the Spirit to love my spouse through me—even in ways that may be inconvenient or time-consuming?
  2. What season of marriage are we in, and how can I invest in my marriage to ensure a successful next season?
  3. In what ways might the Holy Spirit want to demonstrate love to my spouse through me?

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