I mentioned a few times over the past months that my husband and I had a rough patch for a month or so right before the holidays. Everything that should have been good-we had no reason to not be getting along spectacularly. Nothing major had shifted in our relationship and we were both doing what we were “supposed” to be doing. We went to church together, we attended groups, we were each getting our own time in the bible and in prayer. We had what should have been a good marriage.
Still, it felt as though there was something missing in our Christian Marriage.
We didn’t connect. Our conversations with each other were stilted and few. We were being short with each other(okay, mostly me) and not sharing what was bothering us(totally him). Our marriage was not thriving, despite the hours I was spending by myself, praying over it, reading about ways to make it better, studying how to make it better.
Have you ever seen this visual before? The one with a triangle and husband and wife are at the bottom, the closer they move upwards towards God, the closer they get. I enjoy that visual for the message behind it-move closer to God, move closer to each other. I think it did me a disservice, though.
I realized after awhile that growing closer to God on my own and my husband growing closer to God on his own wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough that we were both Christians, fighting to learn, love, and grow in Jesus. We needed to do that together. We needed to open our Bibles and sit together, reading over the Word. We needed to pray over our day to day choices and situations. We needed to invite God into our fighting, our cooking, our parenting, and even our bedroom. And more than invite Him in-we needed to make Him central in every step.
Which is why we’re leaving our Christian marriage behind in 2017 and we are moving forward to a Christ-centered marriage.
I know, I know. Some of you may believe that those are two things are just semantics-it’s like saying “I follow Jesus” vs ”I am a Christian”; they are overall the same exact thing. I understand that. But for us, the wording is making a huge difference for in how I look at every choice we make together.
Where, in our Christian marriage, I was quick to pray for my husband when I was upset with him, in our Christ-centered marriage I am all about sitting down and praying with him when I am upset.
In our Christian marriage, I was all about studying God’s Word alone and leaving my husband to do the same while in our Christ-centered marriage we are putting that in the middle and forefront of every one of our decisions.
In our Christian marriage, we focused on ourselves growing in Him. In our Christ-centered marriage, our focuses are on pushing the other to continuously grow in and rely on Him.
In our Christian marriage, we moved towards being at peace with ourselves within God. In our Christ-centered marriage, we are going to fight our way to peace together.
What steps are we taking to intentionally have a more Christ-centered marriage? Putting Jesus in the center, of course. But if you’re like us the idea of that is much easier to think about than actually implementing Him being the number one in your relationship. If you’re like us, sometimes it’s simpler to go to bed once the kids are asleep, instead of praying together. Or the time you do get together, it’s easier to watch a movie and laugh than read a bible verse and talk about the hard stuff. So I wanted to share with you the easy, intentional steps we’re taking.
- Praying together whenever there’s a choice that needs to be made. Even the smallest choices.
- Reading the same books about the Bible and discussing them as we make dinner, eat out, etc. Recently I read through a book my husband had read a year ago and talking over it with him has brought us closer.
- Signing up for the same “verse of the day” app and praying over that verse separately and together. Being in the same mindset with the same verses(or in different mindsets with the same verse) can help establish a common ground. It’s also a great way to use these mobile devices for good-we often hear negativity surrounding social media/cellphone usage, but this is something that can connect a marriage in Jesus.
- Use e-mail/texting/messaging for good. I’m a social media girl. It’s just who I am. I’m a millennial, who grew up with a computer in her home for as long as she can remember. My husband, while 11 years older, is a computer dude. We often message back and forth when we are not together. Why not use that to message words of encouragement, verses straight from the Bible, or things we are currently praying over?
- Don’t say it before you pray it. When you’re angry, take a step back and pray about the things you’re about to say in your rage. I’m guilty of spouting things off, mean and angry things, without thinking it through. I’ve begun praying, “Lord is this fair?” Is it fair of me to be angry because my husband slept one hour more than me? Is it fair to yell about him relaxing? Not at all. This also gives my impulsive self a moment to reconsider what I want to get out of what I’m saying.
- Don’t use sex as a weapon. Sex is a great, awesome gift from God for married couples. Don’t use the withholding of it hurt your spouse. God didn’t make it to be used as a weapon.
- Complain about each other in healthy, accountable ways. I hate the new belief that we should never ever complain about our spouses, instead keeping everything between God and us. First, I think it gives a lot of room for resentment. Secondly though, I also think it leaves us doubting the work God can do through our friends. I’m not saying it’s appropriate to complain about your spouse on Facebook daily, but I think having an accountability partner of the same sex is major in growing, learning and leaning into the teachings of older, wiser Christians. I’m passionate to a fault about accountability partners and can’t wait to talk more about them.
- Tell each other one thing they are doing great daily. How great does it feel to be recognized for the things you are doing? God made us as imperfect individuals, but he also made us as humans who have unique gifts and services made to honor Him. Show the love by praising your husband or wife for the ways they are cultivating these things. Empty encouragement is not good so find something you actual admire about them.
- When asking for forgiveness, remember to ask God for forgiveness as well-and if you are the forgiver, invite Him into your heart as you work to move forward. Listen, we all mess up sometimes and must ask God and our spouse for forgiveness. I do it often-like I mentioned above, I’m a hot head. I yell before thinking it through more often than not. I have to say I’m sorry a lot, and in that, I pray to God for forgiveness on my own shortcomings and downfalls and how I have stepped away from what He had in mind for our marriage. Asking forgiveness is not a weakness-saying sorry is not a sign of weakness. It’s leaning into the strength only He can give.
- When all else fails, dive into the Word on your own for guidance. Open your Bible and read it! Search for stories of marriage, of relationships, of love and God…read them, pray on them, memorize them. No one will give better “marriage advice” than the creator of marriage Himself.
I recommend really reading through Ephesians 5:21-33 and dissecting it as a couple. These verses are some of the most crucial to me for forging a Christ-centered marriage.
These are ten steps we are taking to make our marriage look less like a Christian marriage and function more like a Christ-centered marriage! Do you work to have a Christ-centered marriage? What do you do to keep Jesus central in your relationship?