Nine sets of eyes were on me. I sat next to Jennifer, but I felt very isolated . . . and accused.
“The volume of your voice and the words you use when we fight aren’t okay.”
(She was right.)
It was a Monday evening at our couples’ group after a tough weekend a few years ago. I don’t now remember what we were fighting about those days previous. It doesn’t matter. What I do remember is sitting there in that family room. I remember the chair. How it was positioned. Where everyone else sat. I remember it all. Mostly, though, I just remember sitting, listening.
What I wanted to do was defend myself, or just walk out. But I sat. I sat and listened as men and women, couples, good friends, very good friends, listened to Jennifer and spoke truth into my life—truth I did not want to hear.
As painful as the words were, their subsequent impact on my life—and on my marriage—was good. I can’t say I was grateful for the words then; I am grateful for them now. I am grateful for the death they caused—death to pride, death to (some of) my “know-it-all” attitude, death to a part of my self-image. From all that death came new life, better life—both for me and for my marriage to Jennifer.
Marital bliss is a myth. It’s a false image conjured by the world and the enemy. There’s no such thing as a married life that is simple, smooth, and easy. Our culture, our media, even our friends, make it look like marital bliss is achievable and desirable; it’s neither. There are times of peace and joy, of course—but there are times of crisis and pain too. It’s the way it is. And that’s okay.
Our King, Jesus Christ, showed us that our lives have a cycle. The cycle looks like this: life ➸ death ➸ resurrection (new life, better life). The cycle characterized his life. He demonstrated the cycle for us so that we could follow him, if we choose. You see, Jesus didn’t go to the cross (and to the tomb and back), so that we wouldn’t have to. He went to the cross and to the tomb and came back to show us how. And we must, every day actually.
So that’s how life in the Kingdom of God works: life ➸ death ➸ resurrection ➸ new life (better life). We begin with life (as we’ve gotten used to it). Then, our sin, our pride, our mistakes take us from life to death (making mistakes, committing sin, holding wrong beliefs, creating pain, creating crisis). But our King loves us too much to leave us there, in death. So he gives us the choice (really a set of choices) whether to follow him. Jesus gives us the choice to turn, to confess and repent, to turn from our mistakes and to find resurrection by following him. If we do, we find new life, better life. The cycle, for Jesus or for any of us, cannot be described as bliss, but it can be described as good.
That’s how it worked for our King, and that’s how it works for his followers. Some deaths are small. Some are large. But, we can’t avoid them . . . and we shouldn’t try. Trying to avoid them is just denial. Trying to avoid them is a denial of the teaching of our King, the King of Kings.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33, ESV).
So, how does the Kingdom cycle apply to two people holy entangled in marriage? Well, their individual lives will follow the Kingdom cycle—but their one-flesh marriage will follow the Kingdom cycle too. There will be times of life (as the couple has gotten used to it). There will be times of death (when their married life just can’t continue on exactly as it’s been . . . because of mistakes, sin, wrong beliefs, something). And there will be times of resurrection (when one or both overcome the death and re-emerge into a new kind of married life, a more God-pleasing kind of married life). Moving through this cycle is how we become more rugged, more fruitful. But it’s also precisely how our marriages become more rugged, more fruitful.
So this pain, this frustration, this anger, this death . . . none of it is random. None of it is purposeless. It’s part of a cycle created by our King.
The crucial part for the Holy Entangled is the resurrection portion of the cycle. That’s the part that’s unique to followers of Jesus. That’s the part that was added when Jesus first established the cycle. That’s the part where grace enters our lives and our marriages. We will all experience life and death. We will all sin. We will all experience pain and anger and frustration. Followers of Jesus, however, are also able to experience resurrection too. Followers of Jesus are able to emerge from even the toughest of circumstances stronger, better, with softer hearts, with more healthy lives, more able to love, more able to give.
NOTE: While it’s better for both husband and wife to turn together, we don’t believe it’s necessary for the Holy Entangled. Even one spouse turning can find some measure of resurrection for the marriage, often leading to more turning, and more resurrection, later.
What do you think about this cycle of life, death, resurrection, and new life in marriage?
Also, how can we pray for you?
photo credit: picjumbo