A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Divorce rate statistics among Christian and non-Christian couples are staggering at nearly 50 percent. As a practicing family law attorney with over twenty-four years of experience, I routinely see the unsettling results of these statistics. The adversarial process of a divorce takes a toll on most families that is akin to the death of a close family member or best friend. The financial devastation of dividing retirement funds and selling the family home can be similar to a recession that takes a decade to recover from. As Christians, God wants our lives and marriages to thrive; the Bible is the instruction manual He provided for each of us to pursue the marriage of our dreams.

A few months back I came across an old wedding album photo. Without thinking twice, I took a picture of it with my iPhone and made it my new screen saver. It is one of those shots everybody takes when the bride and groom slice the wedding cake and feed the slice to each other with their hands. In the photo my husband is gorgeous but serious; I am adoring, laughing, and happy to feed him cake.  Twenty-three years later, I realize that he was not thrilled to have cake stuffed in his face or icing smudged on his ascot. Yet he happily ate the cake from his adoring wife. I love this photo!

Catching countless glimpses of the screen saver photo over the past few months has caused me to reflect on marriage and happiness, then and now. As both a marriage ministry leader who has seen God work miracles in the most lifeless of marriages, and a family law attorney who has seen the remnants of many destroyed marriages, I can say with certainty that the years between a couple’s first and last slices of cake together can be brutal, with and without Christ.

We all know life happens. We can become less adoring, less delightful, and less likely to be happy with messy faces stuffed with cake. In fact, the same scene a decade later could end a marriage. The difference I see in Christian couples who survive life’s inevitable times of transition and heartache is that couples who have or want to have Christ at the helm of their marriage can always choose to redirect themselves and follow Christ’s teachings on how to love, honor, and respect each other. As Christians we know Jesus teaches us to love one another: “and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2 NIV). We know love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (see 1 Corinthians 13). We know our husbands are to love us like Christ loved the church (see Ephesians 5:25). However, over time, we can get caught up pursuing our notions of Christ rather than our likeness to Him. In dealing with our spouses and with the pride of life, we choose to be angry; we choose to ruminate; we choose to be self-righteous. And instead of showing grace, we choose to be unkind. We don’t realize we are daily succumbing to these behaviors, eventually choking the love out of the very things we asked God for—our loving spouses and marriages.

Instead, we need to pray and redirect our notions of what it is to have a Christ-centered marriage:

  1. Pray for your husband and your marriage every day. Sometimes it is hard to pray for your husband when you are having a tough time or if you don’t like him very much. This is when you need to pray the most. If you can’t think of enough good things to say, just pray and thank God for the simplest of blessings. Thank him for your husband’s fingers and toes and for the fact that his kidneys work. Pray through the obvious areas of blessings until you feel the love and grace from God that will eventually overtake you as you focus on who your spouse is in Christ, rather than on everything he is not.
  2. Pray that God shows you who you are to your husband and how your husband sees you.Once you get a clear picture of how your husband sees and interprets you and your actions, you can decide if this is the wife that you were meant to be. Do you want to be seen as spiteful or negative? Do you want to be seen as loving and supportive? Maybe you are being all of these things, but the negative outweighs the positive. Ask God to help you show the positive, supporting, loving side of yourself to your spouse. Ask Him to help you be aware of the words that come out of your mouth and the expressions that are on your face. Are you being who you want to be? If not, pray for forgiveness and ask God to change your heart.
  3. Pray for other married couples. Participate in your church’s marriage ministry or make friends with other Christian couples and agree to pray for each other. Circulate a group prayer list. Ask God for favor, wisdom, and mercy in their marriages too. We are all in the race together. God will honor your love for one another and your faithfulness to lift up your brothers and sisters in Christ on this journey.

Make a conscious choice to not be another divorce statistic. Find a photo of you and your husband from the past that reminds you of all your hopes and dreams and of your best self. Then put it on your phone as a screen saver. Allow God to speak to you through the picture, to remind you of the beautiful love story He began with your marriage and the joy that awaits you in the next chapter that is yet to be written.

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