Today as I was spending time in my Bible I read Ephesians 4 in a way I never have before. It's easy to read this chapter as it was written, to a body of believers and only think of our church relationships, but today all I could think about was my marriage.
The subtitle in my version reads "Unity In Christ" and I think this is what we all long for in our marriage. With God as the head, we desire to have unity both with God and each other through Christ. Oh, what Christ has done that we could even experience this unity that we so deeply desire (even if we don't always realize it).
Paul kicks off chapter 4 by reminding us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. So what have we been called to exactly? We have been called to righteousness, not that we can achieve this calling, but that Christ has already accomplished this for us. It's important at this point (for people like myself) to remember that there is nothing I have done, will do, or could consider doing that will create this righteousness in me. Every ounce of righteousness comes from Christ's death for me, and the work of his Spirit in me. It's at this point where I would usually become tempted to make a list of all the "good things" I should be doing, but I've finally learned how futile that is. All of my efforts are in vain. I simply cannot earn anything, and now I am free to enjoy what He does through me. Any walking I do that is a manner worthy of my calling has been walked out in me through Jesus.
So if we can't do this ourselves, we can certainly praise God when we see the traits Paul goes on to describe. He says we should be walking in humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another in love, and eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Just think of your last marital conflict or discussion. Is that how you would describe your response? Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't.
Paul explains that grace is given to us by God as a gift. If you feel like you are responding this way, while your husband is doing the opposite there is no need to despair. The same way God is working through you, and giving you grace, he is also working through your husband by NOT giving grace (or the other way around). The thing I always have to remember is that God gives each of us the perfect gift. While I may wish either of us had more grace at any given moment, I can trust that God knows exactly what he's doing, and he has a plan for both of our lives.
Paul describes the change that takes place in us as God's work of grace through Christ leads us from children to adulthood. We will no longer be tossed to and fro by the winds of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. While this may sound severe, these things can be as simple as a disagreement on homeschooling, which church to attend, or what type of budget you can set for your child's birthday party. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. It can be years of these fights and disagreements that do this. These struggles can be a like a seed in your heart. They can plant bitterness, resentment, and feelings of depression, and that's exactly what Satan is working for. It seems like a small thing because that's the only way we will walk along with it.
"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body is held together with every joint by which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love," 4:15-16
Paul then calls us to walk no longer in these old ways. The arguing and bickering from the pride of being found "right" or feeling validated by others agreeing with you is nothing in comparison to the joy and blessing that comes from a properly working marriage that builds itself up in love. Even if you are the type of person that is excellent at getting what you want, you will never be satisfied. The only way we find satisfaction in our relationships is when they are working correctly and building itself up in love. Winning fights is not the point of our marital disagreements. I believe God uses these issues to make us more like Christ and to help us better understand the bigger marriage of Christ and the church.
It reminds me that our marriage is just a shadow of what will come, preparing us for our final wedding feast. It's similar to a rehearsal dinner... a very long rehearsal dinner.
So what will these situations look like when God is granting us grace and growth? "Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Would you hurt your body?).
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouth, only such is useful for building up, as it fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Do you see what happens here? God gives us, or our husbands grace, and by Gods grace we give/receive grace as it has been given to us. This is such a wonderful experience that we don't only receive grace directly from God, but that he gives grace so that others may give, and we can give/receive in this way as well.
For me today this is just a much-needed reminder that in all marital disputes I will know God is working if there is love flowing through the circumstances. If I am the one that is loving and not getting angry I can be thankful to God for that blessing, and if I witness this in my husband when I am angry I can be grateful for that grace.
God is so good and is always working. Don't believe the original lie, the one told every day.
"Did God Really Say?"
Yes, yes He did, and we believe Him!
If you find yourself in the midst of a heated argument, turn to God for the grace to love your husband during it. If your husband gives you grace, praise God!
That's all I have for today. If I'm honest, I am writing this to myself as a reminder. I hope it helps you as well.