“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Ephesians 5:25 ESV.
Just remember this magic formula and your marriage can be nothing short of spectacular.
Stray from it and you’re doomed, with only the option of divorce left in your future if you want to feel at all.
Most Christian men have heard this verse before and many have left confused with the vague answers given by Pastors and Ministers. Men are told to provide agape love, the unconditional love that Christ emulated during His ministry on earth, to their wives. But too often, that presentation is never taught or even emulated for those who would learn and the process of the devolution and secularization of marriage as an institution rather than a spiritually God-ordained process of relationship continues to crash upon the modernistic rocks of instant gratification and self-expression.
Many have an answer though, couched in several expertly written novels and self-help style reading materials. Pastors with well meaning intentions call us to search for God’s voice in the midst of the storm, straining our ears to catch the whispered directions on how to be MEN moving into the residence of our wives’ heart, to move without painful stumbling within their delicate beauty in loving respect and desire. And the churches are littered with destroyed, wounded, and dying hearts that were unintentionally killed through ineffective and incomplete movement towards that ill-defined and poorly shown model. If you want a perfect marriage, you’ve simply seek the most ‘compromising’ position you can find, so that you can become one mind and one body.
At least, that is what we are told. No broken, heart weak marriages can exist in a conflicted and desperate world…………
But I experienced a weekend, culturally opposite of what society declares safe and correct, with other hearts that came together in defiance of what conventional wisdom and counsel would tell them. Hearts, broken with the wounds of their past and crying out to the Creator’s own heart, who came together to fight, for restoration and for the weapons to defeat the war declared upon the sanctity of their union with another, in God ordained and designed marriage.
And that was the ‘normal’ couples with newness to their relationship that was still full of wonder and grace, exploration and realization……..
But others, battered to the point of exhaustion and despair, came to soothe their painful wounds in a vain hope that the end would be reached less painfully and with some dignity for both, but that the end would indeed come. Some came to realize in the sorrow of their unions, that there still was a flame—a spark of hope that the door hadn’t completely closed on and a course of action was need to recover the battered souls clinging to the rocky shore of marriage gone cold.
All came to realize, by the end of the first day, that their marriage was something more than they even realized upon the declaration of their vows. More vital than any other pursuit they have ever undertaken. That their marriage, broken and bruised or almost naďve in its newness, was the most important thing in their lives.
To lose the relationship of marriage would mean to lose LIFE.
No mere thrusting a book into the hands of eager, even desperate couples.
No throwing a tool to them in a quick and descriptive way.
Not even an expression of hope to help warm them on the cold wintry night.
No, this weekend was about the down and dirty, the slogging through the muddy landscape of marriage in unbiblical disarray or in a distorted hope of the future. Two couples, joined through a common desire of emulation and representation, took these fifteen couples in hand and walked with them through the picture of God’s design and desire for marriages, as a model of relationship.
Your marriage broken, that’s nothing unusual. Not feeling happy all of the time? Do you expect more from a joining of two damaged people coming together with two different views, often on the same subject? Not feeling that the one sleeping next to you at night is your soul mate anymore? Guess what, they probably weren’t in the first place.
More than simple counseling, less than dictating a regulated path of instructional steps, this marriage retreat became a full engagement in pursuit of the marriage God has given each couple to live and express. Not just some ideas that the two couples facillating the weekend espouse to the eager mass of couples seeking mentoring and discipling. No, these couples moved in the circles that the group has or will face in the course of their marriage. Romance, Conflict, and Maturing.
Movement in fear, to reach to the hearts of the spouse that was chosen, to express and expose their own hearts in relation. Connection, within the bounds of the seeking heart of the spouse. And, realizing that the soul mate you thought you had found was indeed the one sitting next to you, they just hadn’t been ‘made’ into that capacity yet. In the midst of understanding what the purpose of marriage was, each couple was given the gift of example in using the tools and helps given in direct sunlight of God’s healing grace.
And, then with the fire of hearts aglow warming the snowy landscape, there appeared upon the hills surrounding this quaint little gathering life, green and new and fully exposed to the harshness of the world. But destined not only to grow, but grow abundantly in spite of the cold to bear the ultimate expression that a couple can give each other.
True representation of the love of a Groom to His Bride as Christ represented in His love to the Church, the true meaning behind the husbandly call of love and the wifely expression of submission…….
“Wives, in the same way, be submissive to your husbands……when they see the purity and reverence of your lives…….Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect…..” 1 Peter 3:1, 2, & 7 (NIV)
And this is the way we will redeem the hearts of the lost, by representing the design of true marriage by being in relationship with the heart that God’s given us as a gift to grow into the Christian men and women that He intended us to be…….
Restoration of Men to move into the chaos and darkness to protect and defend the beauty and order that God created in the embodiment of their wives.
As my wife and I drove home, she fell asleep in the passenger seat. I gazed over upon this sleeping form and the thought came to my mind via the pathway of my heart…….
In my search of a soul mate, God had given me the person in which that concept would discover life……..
I only have to reach out and touch her heart with mine. Broken, bleeding, and bruised. All I have to do is reach out……………
It is beginning……………….this marriage that God designed and brought together…. and it’s only JUST begun……
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” --John 10:10 (NIV)
This post has not been approved by the ministry of Awakened Hearts and is solely representative of my experience only.
Awakened Hearts is the ministry led by Scott Engelman and Mark Jackson which hosted, with their wives, the "Getting to the HEART of Marriage" weekend, the retreat which my wife and I attended. Scott, who serves as director of Grace Counseling Center, is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute (BA), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th M), and Colorado Christian University (MA). Scott considers it most important though to bring other men into experiencing the journey of manhood with other men in pursuit of God's design, which led to the founding of the M3 (Men Molding Men) ministry and, as a result, the marriage weekend for couples.
Mark Jackson serves as Director of the Golf Division of Davey Tree Company, but his real passion is reaching out to isolated men to re-connect them, through the Awakened Hearts Ministries, with other men in a journey to re-awaken their masculine heart. Mark has over eight years of leadership experience in men's groups and is at the center of the growing movement to recapture the hearts of men for Christ. Many men consider him a second father.
The website, www.mmmministry.org, is undergoing a major overhaul, but remains accessible at the time of this posting.