A simple spiritual practice can revolutionize who you become in your marriage and parenting. A short, half-an-hour a day exercise will help usher God’s presence into your life and relationships in a very practical way.
This spiritual practice sprang from a powerful (but not perfect) movement of God that swept the world in the early part of the twentieth century, often referred to by two names: Moral Re-Armament (MRA) or the Oxford Group. As the world was re-arming for World War II, MRA’s founder Frank Buchman suggested we first re-arm “morally” by adopting four summary benchmarks of the Sermon on the Mount, and then spend time daily listening to God to see how we’re progressing.
The four benchmarks reveal the astonishing depth out of which Jesus calls us to live:
- Absolute honesty
- Absolute purity
- Absolute unselfishness
- Absolute love
What if we applied these same benchmarks to marriage? What if we asked ourselves, on a regular basis, “In my relations with my spouse am I being absolutely honest? Absolutely pure? Absolutely unselfish? Absolutely loving?”
By putting “absolute” in front of these summary benchmarks, we’re unable to hide behind being “mostly” honest, “usually” pure, “occasionally” unselfish, or periodically loving. The “absolute” part was almost as important as the concept that followed. Almost honest, almost pure, almost unselfish and almost loving doesn’t cut it, and it won’t provide a foundation for a mature, intimate marriage.
Are you mostly honest with your spouse, but, for instance, occasionally lie about how much money you’re spending, how much food you’re eating, or who you’re chatting with on Facebook? Do you stop playing video games when your spouse gets home so she won’t know what you’ve been doing, and do you allow her to think you’ve been doing something else while she was gone? Is your marriage filled with these “little white lies” that, when it comes to destroying intimacy, are neither little nor white?
Go through the other three benchmarks with the same meticulous care:
- Am I pursuing absolute purity, or merely a purity that exceeds the low levels of my friends?
- Am I generally unselfish but decidedly so on certain favorite issues? Do I excuse my most deeply held points of selfishness because I try to be unselfish at other times, somehow thinking I’m “making up” for it?
- Do I tend to be loving, but also have many times when I check out of the relationship or put other, lesser things as a higher priority?
Buchman’s next point is crucial: not just aspiring after these things, but working with God’s power and guidance to experience them. He calls us to consider all four benchmarks and then wait on God, listening to His still small voice, asking Him to reveal to us where we may be shading the truth, compromising on purity, acting with mixed motives, or living for our own comfort instead of for love. We ask God to convict us by His Holy Spirit along the lines of these scriptural principles and then listen to see what He says.
“God, reveal to me where I’m acting dishonestly (wait); where my heart isn’t absolutely pure (listen); where I’m being selfish (give Him time); where I’m lacking in love…”
This small exercise is so simple, which is partly what made MRA so powerful and what allowed it to jump national boundaries to become an international phenomenon: Four objective benchmarks, followed by subjective listening. These two simple, powerful tools literally changed governments, brought revival to many places, renewed marriages, and transformed workplaces.
They aren’t tied to any century or any war. They will work in peace, and they will certainly work in your marriage. Why not give them a shot? If you take up this challenge, please share with all of us how God used these tools to refine your marriage. This is the kind of post we’ll come back to and check the comments on to keep the conversation (and learning) going.