Healthy Marriages: The Kingdom in the Ordinary
April 6, 2020 | Becky Post
As soon as sin entered the world, relational dysfunction was present. Adam and Eve hid from God. Between man and wife, there was temptation and blaming.
In the Old Testament book of Malachi, God says: I’m not interested in your sacrifice and your moans and groans and tears. Why? Because I’ve witnessed the way you treat your wife! God cares about the quality of our relationships. We see this in the New Testament. Jesus says the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength,” and the second is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In Pastor Bill Johnson’s words (paraphrased), “Relationships are the context through which I give myself to God. It is the simple things that illustrate a transformed life.” I cannot grow in my spiritual life, seeking to become more like Jesus, and neglect the laboratory of my own marriage.
My husband and I share this belief. And honestly, it is inconvenient for us at times! A wonderful kind of inconvenient. We want the healthiest relationship possible, not as an end unto itself, but because this is where Jesus shows up. Healthy relationships are somehow a part of Jesus’ plan to transform nations—the seemingly small context of our healthy marriage can be a place of safety to invite people into.
We have been married for a little more than nine months, and we are learning. We are laying the groundwork as best we can, imperfectly and day by day. Churches tend to focus a lot on the vertical relationship (God to man). Are they equally equipping the horizontal relationships (husband to wife or friend to friend)?
Several months ago, our pastor and his wife invited us to their home for dinner. We each shared, and our conversation led to their practical invitation to join them in a Safe Conversations Marriage class: a place where we would learn how to engage in dialogue. We needed some tools. We are finding that just as it takes purpose and planning to make healthy decisions in our personal lives (exercise, diet, etc.), it can be the same with our marriage. As my husband says, “It takes more work to be healthy than to be unhealthy.”
Sometimes, practicing the tools is hard. But with God’s presence, we see glimpses of the extraordinary. The story of the angels visiting the shepherds after Jesus’ birth expresses this reality more clearly. The shepherds were out in a field at night working. Completely unglamorous. Then “an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them”: the collision of the holy, breathtaking entrance of Christ with the utterly ordinary. The angels herald “the good news of great joy that will be for all the people”—the savior who will transform the world—and share a sign with the shepherds: “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
The transcendent beauty and awe-filled glory of this moment, combined with the utter humility of it all, speaks to its authenticity. Heaven is breaking in. Is it not so like our God to ensure that shepherds—nobodies like us doing their own inglorious work one late night in a remote area—are intimately visited with the glorious news that would transform the world? Even the sign the angels shared was so obviously for them, something humble and familiar: The baby is lying in a manger—a trough where animals eat.
God visits us in our dailiness. He endows the ordinary—the inglorious relational moments of marriage (conversations in a dirty kitchen while dinner cooks, phone calls during rush hour) with holy significance. Without the presence of the Messiah, we are a bunch of nobodies doing hard work (choosing to dialogue instead of scream when offended, or resolving to listen rather than pleading our own case). We are the shepherds on a cold, lonely night tending to sheep. But the glory of the Lord and the good tidings he brings allow us to witness a marvelous, starry night with heavenly hosts … holy and beautiful. We glimpse the Kingdom breaking through as we practice the ordinary.