079: Unity in Marriage

Everyone is different, so when two different people come together in marriage, there are inevitably joys and struggles. How can we embrace and grow from the differences inherent in this sacred union? On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen is joined by his wife, Lindsey, along with Greg and Kay Poore to talk about what God has taught them through their respective 15 and 40 years of marriage.

Resources: 

What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

Clear Creek Counseling

Clear Creek Pre-marital Counseling Information

A Love That Lasts

For those of us who are married, we each pledged our love for our spouses at our wedding — a love that would never waver, endure sickness and poverty, and abide until death parted us.

But oh, how our human love has failed. So many marriages collapse under the strain that life brings, and even those who remain married struggle to love well through those challenges.

Striving to preserve, protect, and prosper our marriages is a worthy endeavor, but this effort can feel impossible to sustain, and thinking back on the promises we once pledged can often fill us more with guilt than joy.

Let’s think back to another day instead. Not a day in which your love was celebrated, but rather a day when your eyes were opened to a love that was extended to you.

Though our experiences are all unique, every believer in Jesus can remember a time in which you recognized God’s love as valuable, beautiful, endearing, and personal. Your heart and life were changed by love that you didn’t deserve; love you could never hope to return in kind.

And this love has endured. Amid all our struggles, failures, and sin, we still experience the love of God, turning us back to him with mercy and compassion.

When the Old Testament writers spoke of God’s love for his people, they most frequently used the word hesed — sometimes translated as steadfast love or lovingkindness. In Psalm 136, the word is present in every verse.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

– Psalm 136:1-2

God’s love can be counted on. He is faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to him. His love for us originated before creation and will last throughout eternity. He has adopted us into his family and will never let us go. He is sovereign over all the universe, and we can trust that nothing will ever overwhelm his love for us.

In the New Testament, the Greek word agape is most commonly used, particularly emphasizing the unconditional sacrifice of our Savior.

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

– Ephesians 5:2

The love of God is expressed over and over as a love that gives. The Father gave his Son for us, the Son gave himself up on the cross for us, the Spirit is given to us. The depths of God’s sacrificial gifts are impossible to fathom and made all the more inexplicably lovely by the depths of our depravity. We deserve none of his love, and yet he never fails to grace us with his gifts. His unconditional sacrifice on our behalf was costly, and the price was paid with joyous love.

In our own strength, we are incapable of loving our spouses with such a faithful, enduring, unconditional, sacrificial love. But God doesn’t stop with simply loving us. He extends that unending, undeserved love into and through us, transforming our hearts first toward him and then to those around us.

When we come to grips with our inability to earn God’s love, how can we continue to hold our spouses’ sins against them? When we understand the lovingkindness given to us, how can we not extend it to others? When we experience God’s patience with our fears and failures, how can we fail to forgive? When we have been given God’s very Son, how can we insist on our own preferences?

Through uncertainty and upheaval, in seasons of suffering or stress, attempting to root our efforts to love our spouse in our own strength will always fail us. Instead, let’s remind ourselves of the gospel love of God.

When we examine how he has loved us despite our weakness, we just might find a taste of his great love to extend to our spouse.

May we reflect his faithful, enduring, unconditional, sacrificial love each day as we work and live and grow side by side, day by day, grace by grace.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

– 1 John 4:10-11


 

I Thought I Needed a Soulmate

I grew up watching Disney fairytales, Hallmark movies, and romantic comedies. I just knew that one day I would meet my Prince Charming, my Jerry Maguire, or my Westley (any Princess Bride fans?). We would fall madly in love and live happily ever after. We would grow old together, and one day be reunited at the gates of heaven where we would spend eternity together. He would complete me.

I met my husband, Lance, at a young age in church. He was perfect! He was romantic, he loved Jesus, and he made me happy. All of my dreams had come true. We would have eternal bliss! And then, years of marriage went by. Not surprisingly, they were harder than I ever could have imagined. There were moments of intense loneliness, sadness, and heartache. I wasn’t happy. He wasn’t happy. And at the worst times, I wanted it to end.

But, God is so good. He opened my eyes to the lies that were at the foundation of my marriage. I had allowed cultural views of marriage and love, these fairytales, to seep into what I thought a Christian marriage should look like. I had entered marriage with the idea that my spouse should make me happy and solve all my problems. My fulfillment, my dreams, all came from my spouse. He was my rescuer. He was the one I believed could fix it all.

But, that isn’t what the Bible says at all!

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

– Psalm 62: 1-2

God alone is what my soul was longing for. He is my fulfillment, my purpose, my identity. He alone is my Savior, and it is from him alone that I can find true joy and peace. God showed me that I had elevated my spouse to the level of savior, an idol. I was looking horizontally for something that only a vertical relationship could fulfill. The truth became clear: only God could complete me, not my spouse.

So then, what is the meaning of marriage? If my spouse isn’t meant to fulfill me, what is the point?

There’s an answer for that question in the Bible as well!

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.

– Ephesians 5:22-28

Marriage should model the relationship between Christ and the church. It’s designed to be this beautiful picture of two people working together to share the love of Christ. We were never meant to fulfill each other, but rather point each other back to the only one who can fulfill us: Jesus.

This drastically changed the way I approached my marriage. I stopped viewing Lance as my soulmate, but rather a teammate. We now hold each other accountable. We attempt to love each other selflessly. We say tough things to each other, but we say them in love, not with selfish motivation or contempt. We do not expect our spouse to fulfill us, but rather to run the race with us. We engage in conflict differently because we realize that our goal is ultimately the same. We are not vying for our own individual happiness, because happiness is not our goal. Eternity with a soulmate is not our goal.

Both of us at the feet of Jesus is our goal.

Everything we do in our marriage should point each other back to Jesus.

Now we love each other in a way that is so vastly superior and richer than we set out to do in the beginning. When Jesus became the focus of our marriage, this beautiful thing happened: we began to see Jesus in each other, and we got a glimpse of how Jesus sees us. It’s a sacrificial love that is full of grace. Twenty years ago my hope was to one day be reunited with my spouse in heaven so that we could continue our great love story. But now, someday when I die, I cannot wait to meet Jesus in heaven and to continue that great love story. I cannot wait to worship at his feet.

Do not get me wrong, I expect that I will enjoy seeing Lance there, too. But, that’s no longer the point. More than anything else, we desire to be in the presence of Jesus, and we want others to be in the presence of Jesus as well, because we know that is the only place where we are truly complete.


 

One Thing You Can Do Every Day to Improve Your Marriage

I wish I could take credit for what I’m about to tell you. It is the best marriage advice I know to give. It is simple and profound and, if you do it, will improve your marriage in ways nothing else can. This advice is so elementary that you’ll be tempted to dismiss this article altogether. Here it is…

Pray for your spouse every day.

I am embarrassed to admit that I was married for ten years before I stumbled into this advice. For as long as I’ve been part of the church and following Jesus, it seems I should have known to do this. Actually, I knew I should pray for Donya every day, but up to that point I hadn’t made it a priority. Then, in 2013 I saw an article called “Ten Ways to Pray for Your Wife” that prompted me to take daily prayer for her seriously. It’s the best thing I’ve done for our marriage, and I’ve shared this with every married guy I’ve been in small group with for the past seven years.

Here are three reasons why.

 

When you pray for your spouse every day, you’re spending time with God every day.

There is nothing better for your life than to be with the Father. A thousand things compete for our attention every day, exerting their influence on our hearts and minds, shaping us as husbands and wives. Time with the Father shapes us into the image of the Son, preparing us for our greatest responsibility as husbands and wives, reflecting Jesus to our spouse (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Praying for your spouse every day can be part of an intentional rhythm of being with God through Scripture reading and contemplation. Your spouse needs you to be with God, to hear his voice and be shaped by it.

 

When you pray for your spouse every day, you will begin to see them as God does.

Marriage has its ebbs and flows. Spouses see the best and worst of each other. When you primarily view your husband or wife through your daily experiences with them, it can be easy to let frustration or contempt set in.

As weird as it sounds, in a Christian marriage, your spouse is also your brother or sister. Like your other brothers and sisters in Christ, they need your grace. If you find it easier to give grace to others than to your spouse, praying for them can help.

Something will happen in your heart when you pray for the person you’re married to. You’ll be reminded of their humanity. You’ll be reminded of their need for God. You’ll be reminded that experiencing God’s grace is the best thing for them.

Asking God to lavish his grace on your spouse will motivate you to join in with him. You’ll grow as an agent of grace, learning to look for opportunities to shape your husband or wife through grace.

 

When you pray for your spouse every day, God will work in your marriage.

Some TV preachers advertise God like a Sham-Wow infomercial. They promise that for an amazingly small price, God will make all your dreams come true and life will have never been better.

I’m not trying to sell you that deal. Sometimes life stinks. Marriage is hard. People sin. Wounds hurt. I’m not promising that if you pray for your spouse every day things will be instantly better and always improving. That’s not what the Bible teaches about life, prayer, or God.

Jesus did teach, however, that we should ask God for good things, and that God will give us good things!

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7:7-11

There is mystery here, for sure. Prayer is not a token to a cosmic vending machine. Prayer is a conversation with our Father. He uses it to shape us and to work in our lives.

 

Your spouse is worth praying for.

Every day.

When will you start?


 

053: Christianity and Marital Strife

How is reconciliation possible when a marriage has a normal conflict, or when it’s much worse and seems hopelessly broken? During the Sticky message series, we’re sitting down with preachers right after they finish preaching to continue the conversation. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen and Rachel Chester talk with Yancey Arrington following his sermon, “Christianity and Marital Strife.”

Resources: 

The Peacemaker by Ken Sande

What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

You and Me Forever by Francis Chan

Clear Creek Counseling

047: Empty Nest – Preparing Your Kids and Marriage for the Next Stage

You might be looking forward to it or be saddened by it, but one day it’ll be here. Those precious kids will move out and move on to adulthood. Being an empty-nester brings new found freedom but the transition into the next stage can be difficult. On this episode, Mark and Lisa Carden share what they learned about marriage and parenting when their kids were in the house and how they prepared for the launching of their kids into the real world.

RESOURCES:

God’s Design for Sex series by Stan Jones, Brenna Jones, Carolyn Nystrom

Parenting by Paul Tripp

What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp

043: Dad Life – Leading and Loving Your Kids

In light of Father’s Day, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Aaron Lutz and Aric Harding about the fun times and awkward conversations that come with being a dad. They discuss how they lead their family when it comes to technology, discipline, and the priority of their marriage and relationship with Jesus.

They also tell some classic dad jokes.

RESOURCES:

The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley

Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes

Tender Warrior by Stu Weber

 

5 Ways to Help Your Marriage Thrive During COVID-19

Over the past several weeks, most married couples have spent more time together than any time since their honeymoon. Though this constant close proximity has the potential for irritation, it also creates ample opportunity for growth and fun. Spending more time together this summer is a gift that we should embrace and utilize to grow in love for each other. 

But, how can we use this unique season to strengthen our marriage? To answer this question, we went to the experts — Clear Creek Navigators with decades of experience leading groups of married couples to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. A few of their strategies for growing your relationship together are compiled below. Which of these ideas will you implement today?

 

 

1. Plan a Date Night

We have a date night each week. We order pizza for the kids at 5 p.m., have them take showers, and then they are upstairs for the rest of the night, watching TV or playing video games. I actually put on something other than yoga pants and even some makeup. Shaun and I then order takeout or grill something, and we sit outside and relax with music on the speaker and adult conversations. We get the boys to bed at 8:30 and then watch a movie and relax with popcorn and movie theater snacks. I seriously look forward to it! 

Shaun & Elizabeth Hauser
Egret Bay

 

On Friday evenings, we order from local restaurants to have our date night dinner at home. We’ve even hung curtains near the entrance to our dining room for privacy from the kids. We listen to music while we dine together.

Scott & Tami Bishop
Clear Lake
 

Friday night dance dates! We found an online dance program that teaches us step by step. Once our daughters go to bed, we move the coffee table out of the way, throw on some socks, and try to dance the night away! It has provided some great laughs and moments of connection during this stressful season.

Ryan & Tasha Thomas
Egret Bay

 

2. Get Outside

We take late afternoon walks. It gives us a chance to get some fresh air, exercise, and time to chat about life. It has been good for us to take that pause in the day while getting out of the house together. We plan to keep this going long after COVID-19!

Travis & Cari Hicks
Clear Lake

We have been motivating each other to get moving! We either walk, ride our bikes, or do some other outdoor activity. As long as we are moving together, we are moving in the right direction!

Jaime & Nina Valverde
Clear Lake

 

Sarah and I go on walks almost every day with the kids. It gives us a chance to get out of the house, avoid distractions like TV and phones, and enjoy the kids on their bike or in the stroller. It also gives us time together as a family and as a couple. Being able to walk and talk to one another has been very important to our marriage during this time. 

Nathan & Sarah Southard
Egret Bay

 

3. Make Time to Talk

We make it a point to put the kids down early so that we have time and enough energy at the end of the day to talk about what went well that day, what could’ve gone better, and any changes to our plan of attack for the upcoming days. It’s also a great time to just relax and spend time together without kids interrupting.

Derek & Abby Willis
East 96

 

We take a walk most evenings so Doug can get an ICEE at Buc-ees. We use this time to catch up with each other and talk through ideas, plans, frustrations, etc.

Doug & Kara Dawson
Egret Bay

 

We both have been working since the stay-at-home orders started, but our working hours have been different so we are not rushing out the door at 6:30 each morning to get to work. We have been able to enjoy a morning cup of coffee together, with unrushed conversation and prayer before starting the day. 

Michael & Clara Springer
Clear Lake

 

4. Think about the Future

We love to travel and do projects in our backyard and around the house, so right now we enjoy talking almost daily about future trips and projects. Our talks vary from camping trips to sketches about closet shelves and garage organization. It’s fun to sit, plan, and dream a little together. 

Brad & Allison Swenson
West

 

We have started to dream together! We have been sharing with each other and our kids what we want to do post-quarantine, from planning vacations to new family norms. We aren’t dreaming out of current discontentment, but with great hope that the Lord will see us through and we will forever be changed.

Aaron & Nicole Daniel
West

 

5. Grow and Serve Together

Our small group had each person write down one thing about their spouse on each day of the week (M-F) that they like, are grateful for, are impressed by, appreciate, etc. Then on Saturday morning they would give their spouse the list. This was very well received and neat to see how something really simple could impact one of the people you love most in this world.

Dan & Danielle Mellen
Egret Bay

 

We actually have been more intentional about doing our couples devotional. It really jogs the mind to think about how we are growing spiritually through our family relationships and especially with one another. It asks hard questions and provides prayer suggestions. It is fun, but difficult at times. However, it does seem to reignite our communication with each other and relationship with God.

Darren & Alecia Whitmarsh
East 96

 

One of the things we struggled with before COVID-19 was slowing down and taking the time to get to know our neighbors. Lately, our new favorite thing to do once we put our child to bed is sit out in the driveway and eat our dinner. It’s a nice change of scenery, and we love to wave or talk to people as they walk by.

Matthew & Victoria Horne
East 96


 

It’s Viral

Kay and I, like many other people, have been taking a lot of walks the last few weeks. It’s been fun and it’s been a bit strange because there are times when so many people are strolling it almost looks like a parade. Everyone walking in the street – keeping a polite distance – walking along with their dogs, children, bikes, and wagons. It’s hard not to think the world would be a better place if evening walks in the neighborhood became our collective norm.

Still, there is something unsatisfying about it.

The parade has the appearance of being quaint and beneficial, until you look closely enough to see what’s really going on. If you stop and just watch the “parade” through the neighborhood you notice people are together, but separate. They can get close to each other, but not too close. Some are obviously afraid of everyone and some groups are brazen in their disregard for the whole “distancing” idea.

I want to remember the picture because it so aptly illustrates what sin does.

Think about it. Like a virus, sin is unseen. It is present all around you, and even in you, and it makes you sick and it makes the people you interact with sick.

Sin is the greatest producer of “social distancing” in the history of people. Sin separates us from one another. Sin is like the unseen virus that produces conversations without hugs, presence without intimacy. Sin is the unseen virus that keeps some people bound in fear of others while some people flaunt their indifference to how they might injure other people. Sin is the virus that makes us mistrust the person approaching us, and even mistrust ourselves. So we keep safe space, we keep secrets, we erect defenses, we chase urban myths seeking cures and comforts.

Maybe the best thing that could come out of the unprecedented response to a physical virus would be if each of us would take some strong action against our spiritual virus, sin. Instead of using the current circumstances as an excuse to look outwardly and act against a physical threat, now would be a great time to look intently inward and deal with a more dangerous threat.

Here is a really good place to look for the virus: if in the midst of spending more time at home you find yourself getting irritable and impatient with your spouse, why is that? Why is it that the person you joyfully became one with is now somehow an inconvenience? What is it that is more important to you than they are? Or, what have you been thinking and doing over the years of your marriage to give your spouse reason to mistrust you or protect themselves from how you respond to life?

If there is tension between the two of you, you can “social distance,” or you can wear masks to cover up and protect what you’ve chosen to love more. You can make your focus the harm you fear they might cause you. You can prioritize your work and personal space and just adapt to the tension. That is what is happening in some hearts and homes in the midst of this forced presence at home. And so, like the evening parade in the neighborhood it looks kind of cool, until you look closely. But if you stop and watch you notice the masks, the fear, and the mistrust.

The better response would be to kill the virus that is living in you and making you the center of your own little universe. The better response would be to hold your heart and its desires up to the truth of Scripture and face up to the ways you choose to serve you, over and against choosing to practically love and serve the person you married. The better response would be to use this unprecedented opportunity to trust God in the simplest, most mundane interactions in your home to serve your spouse. You aren’t going to fix everything in a week, but you can change the trajectory of your marriage starting today, starting with you. As a beginning how about picking just one short verse of Scripture and commit to living it out at home, something like:

 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Ephesians 4:29

 

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Colossians 3:8

 

You pick a verse that will attack the worst symptom of the virus in you. You probably already have one ringing in your ears. If so, do that one.

This strange sort of national “time out” period could be the best thing that ever happened to you, your spouse, your family. But only if you look inside and only if you have the faith and courage to ask God to forgive you, heal you, remake you in his image. God will do that if you let him. He has the power and the will to kill the virus in you.

I hope and pray you will respond to the spiritual virus that’s in you with more energy and enthusiasm than the world is responding to a physical virus.


 

Close Quarters, Healthy Marriage

All areas of life are being tested right now: finances, health, school, work, and for many of us, marriage.

Social distancing presents opportunities to grow, but can also create friction in our marriage. Amidst the constraints of space, new responsibilities, and fear, we often end up treating those we love the most, the worst. We take out our frustrations on each other, lose patience quickly, and aren’t able escape from the issues in our relationships. We should offer each other a lot of grace — we are in a unique and difficult place — but we can also use this experience to learn how to love our spouse better and strengthen our marriages.

 

1. Begin with Humility

The starting point is recognizing that our own broken nature is the biggest problem in our marriage. It’s not the order to stay at home, it’s not our spouse’s annoying habits, it’s not financial uncertainty—it is our own brokenness. Not because we are horrible all the time, not because we are worse than our spouse, but because we are all broken.

We are called to initiate the other-centered, patient, enduring love of Christ to our spouse, regardless of how they are acting.

Ask yourself, not whether your spouse is living up to your expectations, but where are you falling short of this type of love? We so often fail, but transformation is possible when we begin with repentance. In order to love our spouse well, we have to see ourselves clearly and confess—only then can we turn around.

With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2

 

2. Rest in Grace

Yes, we are broken, but we are also completely forgiven in Christ, which changes everything. In order to extend this grace and forgiveness to our spouse, we must remind ourselves of the gospel love of God – a love that we do not deserve and can never hope to return; a love that is enduring and transformative.

We forgive because we are forgiven.

Instead of white-knuckling our way to restoration through our own effort, we must learn to rest in the grace offered to us in Christ, letting his forgiveness transform us into people who offer this same grace to those around us. And when we do this, when we forgive as we are forgiven—for minor daily hurts or life-altering mistakes—it produces patience, endurance, and love in our marriage.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.

Colossians 3:12-13

 

3. Embrace your Identity 

Even when we approach our relationships in humility and with grace, we cannot escape the reality of conflict. The stereotypical marriage fight—which way should the toilet roll face—has taken on a new meaning today, but here’s the truth: it was never really about toilet paper. We think we are arguing about whether the roll goes over or under, but these arguments are actually rooted in issues of trust and love. Something simple triggers us, we feel disrespected or unloved, and then spiral into an argument.

In order to break free from cycles that leave us distant and defeated, we must remember and trust that we are chosen and loved completely by Jesus. Only then can we let go of needing our spouse to fill this place of identity. An identity centered in Christ frees us to listen without becoming defensive, to reject the temptation to blame, and to respond to our spouse with empathy and patience.

In this love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:10-11

 

We all desire happy and fulfilling marriages—and that’s good— but, the goal of marriage as Christians isn’t personal happiness, it’s much greater.

God’s design is that our marriage would reflect his own love and faithfulness and transform us into the image of Jesus. When we turn toward each other in humility and forgiveness, grounding ourselves in the truth of the gospel, he is able to use these difficult moments for his good purposes.

We are broken, but because of Jesus, we are empowered by his Spirit to transform our brokenness into marriages that reflect the beauty, love, and purposes of God. There are many suggestions on how to fill our time right now—read more, learn a new language, pick up a new hobby—but what if, instead, we build marriages that glorified God and drew others to Christ?

In the middle of trial and testing, may we all turn toward God, turn toward each other, and create something beautiful together.