Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. The flap of the dust cover reads, "What if God's primary intent for your marriage isn't to make you happy...but holy? What if your relationship isn't as much about you and your spouse as it is about you and God?"
This really got me thinking (that and the first three chapters I've read so far). From the world's point of view, life is about being happy, being satisfied, being successful, and being instantly gratified. People should do everything they can to accomplish those things for themselves, says the world.
I said the other day that one of the most important things about marriage is being selfless--putting the needs and desires of one's spouse before one's own, making the other person's happiness your goal.
But now I don't think it's either of these, and I think I knew that all along; I just needed a wake-up call which this book provided. Marriage isn't about making myself happy. It's not even about making my spouse happy. It's about making God happy.
Let me say that again: the primary goal of marriage should be to give God honor, glory, and praise. The primary benefit of marriage isn't children, companionship or comfort (although those are wonderful benefits of marriage!). It's a closer relationship with God; a deeper understanding of how God loves us and how he desires our relationship with him to be.
God designed marriage to point us toward HIM. It's a matter of focus. What are we focused on? Ourselves? Our spouse? Or God? Are we looking at our marriage like we should everything else, with an eternal mindset?
I've written about this before: how looking at life with an eternal perspective changes everything. If we are considering that our final destination is heaven, the only person whose opinion we should care about is God's, and our primary goal in life is to serve, honor, glorify and obey him--then everything else in life takes on a different meaning and purpose. If we view marriage as something designed by God to draw us closer into relationship with and understanding of him, and view it as another aspect of life in which our primary goal should be to serve God, then EVERYTHING else will fall into place.
Think about it. If I'm seeking to serve, honor, glorify and obey God in my marriage, then I will be doing the following things in accordance with God's will:
Loving my husband as I love myself and as God loves both of us.
Submitting to him as the Church submits to Christ.
Forgiving him as Christ has forgiven me.
Staying faithful to him as God is constantly faithful to those who believe in him.
Honoring him and lifting him up, not breaking him down.
Treating him with kindness and patience, the way God treats me.
These are just a few of the things that will result from my seeking to honor and serve God first and foremost. Honoring, serving and loving my husband follows naturally.
Through marriage I will also grow closer to God. Marriage is teaching me:
Trust. Not in myself, not in my husband, but in God to take care of both of us.
The blessing of prayer: individually and together, my husband and I daily visit with the Lord.
The blessing of daily Bible reading: my husband has (again) initiated devotions for the two of us, which encourages me to do devotions on my own.
The limitless love God has for me. My husband is only human, and even his love is more than I can fathom. Imagine how great God's love is for me--for us!!
The unity of Christ and the church, of the Trinity, as reflected in the unity of a husband and wife.
The selflessness of Christ in giving himself up for us, as I strive to give myself up for my husband every day.
The humility of Christ as he submitted himself to his Father, as I seek to be humble and submit to my husband.
Again, these are just a few things, and this post is getting long! I was just awed and inspired by this new-found perspective that God has given me. I'd highly recommend the book (I can't wait to finish it!).