Today Pastor Ed Allen began a new sermon series, "This Is Us," looking at the important relationships in our lives. Today he began two weeks of looking at marriage - but he promised that everyone will have something they can learn from.
(Oh, and before that, very appropriately, we sang songs about the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Whether or not we're getting love from other humans, God's love is faithful.)
He listed some ground rules first:
-- Listen for yourself. (There's something for everyone, even if you're not in the very target audience.)
-- Do not compare.
We'll hear stories as illustrations. Do not compare with yourself or with your spouse or kids. That brings discouragement or false encouragement.
-- Use what you can.
Pray for the time when you can use more.
Then he began on Keys to Doing Marriage Better. (We only got to two of the three in the time.)
Key #1 -- Keep your purpose before you.
This purpose is promoting our partner's spiritual and personal welfare.
We looked at Ephesians 5:25-29 -- "to make her holy" (spiritual promotion), "feed and care for her" (personal promotion).
We want to help our spouse be who God designed them to be.
Holding up an ideal picture of what we think marriage (or friendship) should be can diminish our spouse (or friend). Don't let that hang over your marriage. Instead, keep your purpose before you.
Promote your spouse personally. Promote your spouse spiritually.
"Make her holy" -- unique and utterly set apart for the purposes God made her for.
In friendship, we need to be for one another.
Then Pastor Ed interviewed Deen and Althea Salami about promoting one another.
We must fight off the tendency to keep false purposes before us, such as to provide or to please or many others. What false purposes tend to drive you?
Key #2 -- Be realistic about your happiness.
Many of us do not have what we hoped for. But the joy is there. Notice it!
Don't burden your marriage with an unrealistic picture.
Know your expectations. Unrealizable expectations will kill a marriage. Unknown expectations will damage it.
Reality clashes with our expectations, and the result is suffering.
Then for those who have been married longer, you may have settled and dialed back your happiness.
There's only one connection that can bear up under the weight of complete trust, and it's your connection with God.
God may not meet our expectations, but He meets our needs. Psalm 20:7; Philippians 4:12-13
Repeated studies have shown that the biggest predictor of marital happiness is the level of individual happiness before marriage. (It's not your spouse's fault!)
Happiness is not a byproduct of marriage.
Happiness is always, in some part, a choice. (James 1:2-3 -- "Consider it pure joy...")
Happiness in marriage is cyclical and seasonal.
Often happiness is a byproduct of nurturing a deep connection with God through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Ed finished by reading an essay from Laura Munson about when her husband had a midlife crisis and she took the stance that she was not the root of her husband's problems.
[Laura Munson wrote a book about the experience and explored it in depth. I read that book in 2010 and wrote a review of it. I highly recommend the book if any part of that story resonates with you.]
Pastor Ed left us all with something to think about in our relationships and friendships.