Before we dive into this post we just wanted to let you know that we had a fantastic week preparing for a talk and Q & A for a Marriage Works evening with some friends in another congregation. Around 90-100 people came out for a really fun discussion on all things Romance & Sex, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to participate! While we hope more opportunities such as this present themselves in the future, we look forward to writing a few posts and trying to play catch-up on the blog a little bit this week.
This is Part 5 of an 8 week series focusing on Timothy Keller’s book, “The Meaning of Marriage.” If you’d like to start back at the beginning, feel free to start here and get everything you need. With that said, let’s go ahead and jump into Chapter 5 of “The Meaning of Marriage”, titled Loving The Stranger.
Have you ever noticed that you’re not the same person you used to be? When I (Justin) first got married, I didn’t enjoy reading much, I was ready to be finished with my education, I was more argumentative, and I never once had the thought of, “I should start writing a blog about marriage and sex.” These are only a few changes in my own life, as the list could go on and on.
Fast forward 12 years, and I enjoy reading, I enjoy taking Master’s Degree classes, I’m more conversational and relational than I was way back then. Not only that, but there were probably 3 or 4 other shades of me somewhere in between as well.
Well, the Keller’s discuss this very point early on in Chapter 5: both you and your spouse’s personalities will change in time. Your personality will change. Their personality will change. It’s going to happen whether you want it to or not. So there come times when you are married to a completely different person than the one you said “I do” to so many years ago. When this happens, you’re put in a position where you must love the stranger.
As noted in Chapter 4, the Keller’s again mention the importance of friendship in marriage. If your marriage is about true friendship, if it’s about helping one another grow in holiness, if it’s about seeing your spouse as the person God created them to be, then these personality changes don’t matter nearly as much. On this point, the Keller’s list three ‘powers’ that are inherent in the marriage relationship. These include: 1) the power of truth, 2) the power of love, and 3) the power of grace. When marriage is seen as something created by God and both parties effectively utilize these three powers in their marriage, then nothing, not even the feeling of your spouse being a stranger can stop your marriage from thriving.
One common question on this topic may be, “What if I am committed to the marriage relationship in this way but my spouse is not?” Or perhaps, “What if we’re both committed to our marriage, but one of us has become a bit too lackadaisical in their role?
While every marriage will encounter situations such as this, each of those situations would be best answered on a case by case basis. However, the Keller’s share about a time when Tim was spending far too much time involved in his career, and Kathy was continually sharing with him about how his commitment to their family must be more important. No matter how many times she told him, he still seemed to spend too many hours involved at work. While we won’t share exactly how she gets through to him (you really do need to read the book for yourself), Kathy takes some very drastic measures to communicate to him how his time at work is slowly destroying their marriage and family. In the end, he finally ‘gets it’, and begins to take appropriate steps to ensure his wife and family that they are more important to him than his job.
I’m sure that many men can relate to this. We get bogged down with work. We have some serious responsibilities through the week, and sometimes when we come home we don’t want to think about having one more responsibility. But our family must always be our primary responsibility. And not only must family be our primary responsibility, but we must continually remember how marriage is a reflection of the gospel. Near the end of Chapter 5, the Keller’s write:
Marriage has unique power to show us the truth of who we really are. Marriage has unique power to redeem our past and heal our self-image through love. And marriage has unique power to show us the grace of what God did for us in Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells us that Jesus laid down his life for us, forgiving at great cost us to make us something beautiful. And because he has done it for us, we can do the same for others. (p.159 – kindle)
1) If somebody asked you, “What is the best way for a couple to stay ‘in love’, how would you respond?
2) Kathy Keller took some dramatic steps to keep Tim accountable to their marriage/family. What, exactly, does it mean that the husband and wife should both keep one accountable? How do you best accomplish this in your marriage?