Back in Texas and hitting the ground running. As I’ve been pondering this marriage book, discoveries keep percolating. Can’t wait to get the book to you. Meanwhile, here’s another excerpt. Enjoy.
THE MARRIAGE RENOVATION by Susan Cottrell
DESIGN IS ONLY AS GOOD AS THE STRUCTURE
My dream home is a sleek, urban, clutter-free condo. My daughter’s dream is a sprawling ranch with plenty of room for people and animals. Whatever the house of your dreams, it is beautiful and personal to you. Our dream marriage is likewise beautiful and personal. We go in full of hope and wonder—with a dash of trepidation—wondering how to get there from here.
Two things are going on when we move into a house (and when we get married). On one hand are the home’s design elements—room layout, colors and décor (this is how you relate to your spouse—affection, communication, understanding). On the other hand are the structural elements—the foundation, the framework (this is how God wants to relate to you—intimately, personally, lovingly).
The structural element is what I call Christlife.* *CHRISTLIFE: a dynamic, ongoing dependence on Christ Himself; abiding in Him; letting Him love and heal from the inside out [VS]. Christ makes an extraordinary offer: to live through us [Galatians 2:20] and to let us live in Him [Acts 17:28] – in ongoing intimacy! Christlife is when we take Him up on that offer. No other religious leader has ever made such an extraordinary offer—because no one else can deliver it.
The design element of our home is the marriage intimacy—I don’t mean sex, I mean, “into-me-see,” knowing and being known by another, with nothing on the line (because our security is in Jesus, not in our spouse). God designed marriage to reflect our Christlife, and Christlife infuses our marriage. Each nurtures the other.
GOD PURPOSELY BUILT ON A CRACKED FOUNDATION
God designed marriage to mature over time. God has written a Marriage Renovation blueprint into marriage as part of the plan. No matter how wonderful your marriage is when you begin, it will not ultimately satisfy—only God does that—and it will have to grow and mature just as you grow and mature.
However responsible you are at eighteen, you look back at thirty-five and say, “Thank God I’m not where I was at eighteen.” You grow or you atrophy.
Churchianity (our own effort) is the opposite of Christlife, the opposite of knowing God more deeply. Churchianity focuses on minimizing troubles so that we can “get back to our lives.” Troubles, the ones Jesus predicted, are not a distraction from our life, but the very means to drive us to God. When we realize this, we embrace troubles and submit as God conforms us to the image of Christ.
Jesus preferred to avoid the cross [Matthew 26:39]; yet, the cross was the means of fulfilling His earthly purpose [2 Timothy 1:9]. You and I also would prefer to avoid difficulties; yet, those difficulties drive us into our life purpose of knowing God.
In this light, when I say that marriage will be difficult, I am not sighing, That’s just the way it is and you may as well resign yourself to it. I’m saying that marriage is designed to be a safe place for trouble to come—within its very walls—to reveal the ugly pieces that God wants to excise. Far from being a sad result of the fall that we cannot help, marriage is instead the lab in which these troubles come, the direct means by which we come to know our God more intimately. You cannot learn to paint not by listening to lectures but by trying out the materials for yourself.
Likewise, we can learn everything about God, including reading the bible cover to cover, but only in real life interactions (troubles) do we actually get to know Him. Marriage is just the safe, long-lasting hands-on class in which we get to try out the materials. Where can a man learn how to love a woman who is angry and manipulative except in marriage? Where can a woman learn to respect a man even as he trips time and again but in marriage? The goal is not a “good marriage” (which is just a concept)—the goal is a place for God to grow us into the image of Christ. How do you learn of His love, ability and sufficiency, until you discover you are unloving, unable and insufficient?
Mike Wells compared marriage to being two potatoes in a pot. First they get boiled, then broken, then beaten, all the while being blended together. The result is beautiful mashed potatoes! But it’s hard to see that during the boiling, breaking and beating.
Just as the room layout must fit with the structure of the house, so does our interaction in marriage fit with our Christlife. “(W)hat we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3