January 16, 2014

Mind Over Marriage

Gary Thomas — 
photo: martinak15, Creative Commons

photo: martinak15, Creative Commons

The old cliché, “stupid is as stupid does” is painfully true in marriage. We can’t be both stupid and happily married. If we want to take control of our marriages (in a good way), then we have to take control over our minds. We must conquer the lies that war against us, blunting our love, leading us away from God’s plan, and that means daily immersion in Scripture.

The Bible proclaims that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1).  It’s a fair application to say that marriages will also be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Christianity is based on truth, which means, by definition, that Christian marriage is also based on truth, which means (are you still following me?) that we can’t be intimate with each other if we’re not also intimate with Scripture.

Our minds are unusually, sometimes painfully, active.

My fellow insomniacs will empathize with me lying in bed each night, feeling dog tired but having a mind that is running a mental marathon. It just won’t shut off… You may not live at that obsessive level (I pray not!) but if you have a mind, it’s processing information on a second-by-second basis when you’re awake. That information is pulling you toward your spouse and your marriage or away from both.

“That’s too much, Gary,” some might protest. “I hardly think about my marriage at all! How can it be pulling me away from my spouse?”

By not thinking about it! Love is an active pursuit. If you’re not thinking about your marriage, you’re not pursuing it.  Never going out for a run may mean I never get a running injury, but it also means I’ll never get faster, that, in fact, I’ll slowly grow slower and more out of shape. The same is true of relationships.

It’s not just mental laziness that we need to guard against:

it’s the lies of Satan who seeks to take conflict and make it relationally fatal instead of fruitful. His favorite trick is to take something your spouse does without even thinking about it and put the worst possible spin on it: “He did it, again! See, he can’t possibly care!” “That’s the fifth time this week she’s said something like that. Poor you. It must be miserable living with a wife like that.” While Scripture tells me to respond with patience, forgiveness, grace, and love that “believes all things,” Satan tells me to respond with impatience (“You shouldn’t have to put up with that!”), unforgiveness (“this is the tenth time she’s done that!”), accusation (“you know he did that just to get under your skin”), and hate (“you’d be so much better off with someone else”). People who don’t read the Bible on a daily basis must think Satan takes a day off. Good luck with that.

In addition to Satan, the world is lying to us every day about what will make us happy. When is the last time you’ve ever seen a happily married couple in a movie or television program actually pray together? You rarely see them even go to church. You are, in fact, a hundred times more likely to see a gay couple kiss in a movie or on television than you are to see a married heterosexual couple pray. We don’t live in a culture that reinforces true intimacy, as God defines it. Every woman’s magazine is trying to tout a new sexual trick that “he’s just dying you’ll try but he’s too afraid to ask.” Yeah, that’s what we need—one more sexual thrill. Then everything will be better.

It’s not just Satan and the world that lie to me, however. I lie to myself every day about what will make me happy!

I have to hear from God what is truly true lest I pour all my energies into pursuing something that can never satisfy.  “Gary, seek first the Kingdom of God.” “Gary, you’re greatest need isn’t to be loved; it’s to learn how to love.” “Gary, forgive as you’ve been forgiven.” “Gary, love believes all things, hopes all things.” I didn’t think up a single one of these revolutionary concepts, I don’t own them, and if I don’t get into Scripture on a regular basis I’m going to forget them.

The one place where I know I will never be lied to is when I safely walk in the meadow of God’s word. No errors exist there, no enemies or tricks will ever be hidden in the pages of God’s revelation. I can rest in the refreshing truth that gives life and wholeness. Bible study is one of the most refreshing, restful, soul-cleansing beautiful uses of time you’ll ever spend.

Would you become a friend of your spouse? Then become a friend of Scripture. Use your mind to feed your marriage. Put your marriage in God’s context. Put your actions in tune with God’s will. Align your attitudes with the fruit of the Spirit. Think your way to togetherness.

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