You can read all the “how to” books you want. You can apply all the fun little intimacy exercises, burn through all the clever conversation starters, or exhaust half a dozen “date night” idea books. And I’m not suggesting you don’t. What I am suggesting is that most all of the marital wisdom you need is contained in one short paragraph in a book that was written over 2,000 years ago.
This advice begins with a spiritual journey (Any marriage advice that doesn’t start here won’t get at the root issue):
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with his Spirit…”
A truly sacred marriage begins with a Trinitarian flare:
- We are rooted in our identity in Christ; that’s how we see ourselves.
- We get our primary, ongoing comfort (that we need so desperately, and without which we all become addicts) from the love of the Father.
- We live as radically dependent people on the ongoing presence and work of the Holy Spirit (because we don’t have a tenth of the power we need on our own).
This Trinitarian reality, and it alone, makes the amazing marriage we’ll soon read about possible.
But before we get there, ask if you wake up and consciously embrace a Trinitarian faith. Is this your underlying foundation? “I’m united in Christ, I’m spending time to receive love from the Father, and I am leaning on the Holy Spirit.”
You can’t do what follows next if you don’t first do that.
So what does happen next?
“If any tenderness and compassion…”
When we are united in Christ, when we are receiving the Father’s love, when we are offering ourselves to the Holy Spirit, God’s tenderness and compassion pour out of us. You want to bless your spouse? Be bathed in God’s tenderness and compassion. When this happens, you don’t feel sorry for yourself—how could you? Wrapped in the Trinity, you are among the most blessed! You don’t resent service—you look for service, you have a passion for service. Even opportunities to sacrifice can feel, at times, like joy-filled invitations. But only when we’re plugged into the Trinity. No one lives like this on their own.
“Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose…”
This is one amazing marriage! Two people, husband and wife, living out of the Trinity and therefore like-minded in Him, sharing His love, having the same spirit and purpose because God is the one Presence that can unify two distinct individuals.
Any conflict can be resolved, because if you live with one purpose and if you listen to one voice eventually consensus can and will be found.
It’s when married couples live with two distinct ultimate purposes: my happiness or hers, my demand for respect or her demand for love, “you have to meet my love language” or “no, you have to first meet mine” that we get torn apart. (Don’t get me wrong: I’m fan of these books when they are read to help us serve each other—what the authors clearly intend—rather than raise new demands.)
Doesn’t it sound wonderful to have a marriage where the two of you are “like-minded, having the same love, and being one in spirit and purpose?” Isn’t this the intimacy we all long for? Yes, it is!
But we’re not done. To maintain this attitude we have to:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider each other better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Did you catch that word “nothing?” I don’t perform any act that is motivated by selfish ambition or vain conceit. To live out of the Trinity is, by definition, to stop living for myself, even in my marriage. I adopt an entirely different mindset. I’m not obsessed with manipulating my spouse to do what I want her to do; I am singularly focused on serving and loving her, because I consider her needs as more important than mine.
If you think you married “beneath” you and you can’t possibly treat your spouse as “better” than you, hold your breath, because this is the sentence where it all ends:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
If Jesus can look at us this way, we can look at our spouse this way.
I’m going to skip several verses to bring this to a close (yes, I’m in Philippians chapter 2). Marriage provides a marvelous gymnasium to take this truth seriously and apply verses 12-13:
“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
I don’t naturally have this mindset. I wake up and think thoughts of myself. I wallow in my independence. And Paul says, “Stop that! Immerse yourself in the Trinity, be joined in a harmony that is literally heavenly. Live with a different passion: others, not yourself. Keep practicing this as God works through you. It’s what He created you to do. It’s what He wants you to become, more and more each day.”
Remember: we can’t skip step one—ever. If you don’t immerse yourself in unity in Christ, if you don’t receive the Father’s love (“We love because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19), if you are a stranger to the Holy Spirit, you can’t have this kind of marriage.
But if you want this kind of marriage and place yourself under the Trinity, we have this glorious promise that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” God knows what He’s doing. He can give you this kind of marriage.
This is a truly sacred marriage, and there isn’t any better.
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil 2:1-5, 12b-13)
Note: This posts celebrates the pre-release of the updated and revised edition of Sacred Marriage, which comes out in just a few weeks. You can pre-order by clicking on the book.