The beginning of this chapter talks about how scripture is constantly comparing our relationship with God to that of a marriage. This imagery is incredibly powerful, because we can explore our relationship with God through our marriages. The ideas of reconciliation, connection, love, joy, trust, peace, faithfulness, and self control all come up when I think of the different aspects of marriage. Basically, you should be able to find all of the fruits of the spirit within a healthy Christ centered marriage, but a marriage that focuses on the negatives of their spouse - is doomed. Just as one seeking to follow themselves instead of obeying and following the will of God in our lives will leave you out of the eternal kingdom of Heaven.
In my personal opinion, there are ebbs and flows within any relationship. There are days that you will wake up and not be able to get enough of your spouse... romantic days when it feels like you are back dating again. There are also days that you will wake up and wonder who the person is next to you... and during tough times (which we all have... it's called life) these days will seem more often than the romantic ones. Just as with God, you've got to cling to your relationship with your spouse and know that they will stand with you... just as your God won't forsake you - my belief is that your spouse shouldn't either. I know that isn't the case with everyone's marriage... but I feel that it is with mine. There is absolutely one thing that is certain - we are a team. It is John and I... navigating through life and if something doesn't seem right for the two of us - or our boys - we will stand against it together.
The author talks about marriage being a place for: offspring, faith and sacrament. He goes so far as to tell you that you can live without faith and offspring... but you can't live without the indissolubility. You have to know that your marriage is going to withstand the test of time and all that life throws at it. Our church back in TX, did a demonstration once a few years ago that was so powerful - it has stuck with me. They gave each member of the congregation a tiny container of play-dough. Each spouse had a different color. The pastor told us that our container represented ourselves... and the other our spouse. He then asked the married couples to mix their two colors together.
He said that marriage is to be considered much like this new lump of play-dough... where you are now 1 and you will never be able to completely separate the two. You become 1 new unit out of the 2 that you used to be. There is a reason that at the end of marriage ceremonies - they say "what God has joined together, let no man tear apart."
If you are living for God and for your spouse - you are truly living your faith. When divorce comes into the picture - especially with children - their spirituality suffers. (I know it can't be helped in some instances) Children often use their parents' relationship to help them to understand spiritual concepts - and when that relationship is lacking... it is hard for them to fully understand some of the concepts in their own literal ways. When their parents stop acting as a team - and heaven forbid, start cutting each other down in front of the children... it is almost impossible for them to learn about Christ-like love.
I'm sure I'm going to get hate mail over that... but keep in mind that I am a child from a divorce... and have formed opinions based on that.
This chapter talks about learning to love. It makes the connection that loving God and loving your spouse are not different - but aspects of the same thing... that by loving your spouse well, you are showing your love for God at the same time. Love is not a natural response that pours out of us - but we have to choose to love. Hate comes naturally, but we have to force it down and act in a Christian manner to combat that which comes naturally.
How amazing to think that God feels the most love when we love others in spite of the things they can do to us. Think about it - loving your spouse can sometimes be the hardest... that might sound strange, but consider the one person that knows you the best. They know your flaws, your weaknesses, your buttons, and you are the most vulnerable when you are known on that level. Loving inspite of all of that - without fail... is the definition of Christ-like love.
Did you know that in Deuteronomy God even spells out for us that we should concentrate on making our spouses happy? That shows love to Him, but us showing love to the person we chose to be our mate. So spend time thinking of ways to make your husband or wife happy. What are things that would bring a smile to their face today? What small ways or large ways can you think of today to show that you love them and are there for them - no matter what? I'm going to think about that, and try to do one thing today and everyday I can to show John and I love him. It is important for him to know that his happiness is important to me.
Step out there, and do something today to show your spouse that you love them... and I guarantee that you will be rewarded. You will feel rewarded by their happiness... and you will be inspiring them to potentially show you a new level of love and commitment as well.
Our God deserves the best of what we have to offer, and he gave us our marriages to help us show him that. In this world, your spouse is the person that deserves the best of what you can give them... in spite of your faults and theirs. You are to show them unconditional love anyway - and if you aren't doing that - you aren't showing that you love God either. We've got to get outside of the conventional worldly views of today - serving ourselves, instant gratification, and the like - and get back to treating those we love with the time and effort that they are worthy of.
There is nothing more worthy of your time than your marriage, and your children. In that order.