Marriage: Holiness Not Happiness

When my husband and I initiated our romantic relationship, the intention was marriage. Although marriage was not something I had contemplated or desired prior before meeting him, I was immediately struck by his character. He had proven himself to be a man of integrity. I would often say that if my son’s displayed similar character, I would be pleased. Although I felt he was the man I was to marry, I did not want to be led by my emotions. I received counsel from the spiritual authority in my life at the time; he confirmed that the relationship was God ordained. Despite this confirmation, I had a significant concern about his religious conviction. I was actively involved in church, attending at least three times weekly, while serving actively. Growing up, I had observed my father remain consistently uninvolved in anything that pertained to the church. He seemed to have no qualms with his family’s active participation; he did not show any opposition to our attending; he, actually, facilitated our involvement. He would often drive us to church and pick us up, but he never attended. This was not a pattern I wanted replicated in my marriage. Although this gave me pause, I wanted to be obedient to the covering God had placed over my life, and so we moved forward, with marriage in mind. There was a significant break in our relationship lasting nearly five years, rife with spiritual warfare, but there was a reconciliation. The questions concerning his religious convictions still lingered. The following Scriptures anchored me:

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate, not as inferior, but out of respect for the responsibilities entrusted to husbands and their accountability to God, and so partnering with them] so that even if some do not obey the word [of God], they may be won over [to Christ] without discussion by the godly lives of their wives, when they observe the pure and modest way in which you conduct yourselves, together with your reverence [for your husband; you are to feel for him all that reverence includes: to respect, defer to, revere him—to honor, esteem, appreciate, prize, and, in the human sense, to adore him, that is, to admire, praise, be devoted to, deeply love, and enjoy your husband]. Your adornment must not be merely external—with interweaving and elaborate knotting of the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or [being superficially preoccupied with] dressing in expensive clothes; but let it be [the inner beauty of] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, [one that is calm and self-controlled, not overanxious, but serene and spiritually mature] which is very precious in the sight of God. For it was thus that the pious women of old who hoped in God were [accustomed] to beautify themselves and were submissive to their husbands [adapting themselves to them as themselves secondary and dependent upon them]; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham [following him and having regard for him as head of their house], calling him lord. And you have become her daughters if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear [that is, being respectful toward your husband but not giving in to intimidation, nor allowing yourself to be led into sin, nor to be harmed]. (I Peter 3:1-6, AMP/AMPC)

To the rest I declare—I, not the Lord [since Jesus did not discuss this]—that if any [believing] brother has a wife who does not believe [in Christ], and she consents to live with him, he must not leave her. And if any [believing] woman has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified [that is, he receives the blessings granted] through his [Christian] wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be [ceremonially] unclean, but as it is they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner leaves, let him leave. In such cases the [remaining] brother or sister is not [spiritually or morally] bound. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband [by leading him to Christ]? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife [by leading her to Christ]? (I Corinthians 7:12-6, AMP)

If you asked me to articulate my husband’s ideology as it pertains to religion, I could not because I am not certain he can verbalize it in any meaningful way. Although his grandmother required he attend church as a child, he made no active pursuit as he grew older. My conduct towards him and my submission to him is not predicated the theology of my husband nor is it dependent on his understanding of Biblical principles.

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as [a service] to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church, Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives should be subject to their husbands in everything [respecting both their position as protector and their responsibility to God as head of the house]. (Ephesians 5:22-4, AMP)

Wives, be subject to your husbands [subordinate and adapt yourselves to them], as is right and fitting and your proper duty in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18, AMPC)

To take it a step further, it is not dependent on his behavior towards me or his ability to model the Biblical standard of a husband. The Bible is not his code of conduct nor his rule of law; it is mine. The Bible commands me to engage my spouse with grace and patience:

So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy [set apart, sanctified for His purpose] and well-beloved [by God Himself], put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [which has the power to endure whatever injustice or unpleasantness comes, with good temper]; bearing graciously with one another, and willingly forgiving each other if one has a cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive. Beyond all these things put on and wrap yourselves in [unselfish] love, which is the perfect bond of unity [for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others]. Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always]. Let the [spoken] word of Christ have its home within you [dwelling in your heart and mind—permeating every aspect of your being] as you teach [spiritual things] and admonish and train one another with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus [and in dependence on Him], giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:12-7, AMP)

I am the physical representation of Christ in my husband’s life, His hands and feet. The popular quote attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi states, “preach The Gospel and if necessary use words.” Similarly, William J. Toms wrote, “Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.” The activity of God in my life, coupled with my character should ignite a curiosity in my spouse to know of The God I serve.

But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect. And see to it that your conscience is entirely clear, so that every time you are slandered or falsely accused, those who attack or disparage your good behavior in Christ will be shamed [by their own words]. For it is better that you suffer [unjustly] for doing what is right, if that should be God’s will, than [to suffer justly] for doing wrong. (I Peter 3:15-7, AMP)

This defense must be devoid of judgment.

Do not judge and criticize and condemn [others unfairly with an attitude of self-righteous superiority as though assuming the office of a judge], so that you will not be judged [unfairly]. For just as you [hypocritically] judge others [when you are sinful and unrepentant], so will you be judged; and in accordance with your standard of measure [used to pass out judgment], judgment will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2, AMP)

In this passage, Matthew is not discussing judging which actions are righteous and unrighteous, but rather the heart posture of others. I may not understand my husband’s reservations when it comes to Christianity or his questioning of The Bible. Instead my role is to pray and remove any impediment in his journey of faith, both physical and spiritual. I must consistently remind myself that it is God who is working in the life of my spouse and I: I can not will him into the faith.

For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13, AMP)

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, AMPC)

In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places. Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. (Ephesians 6:10-3, AMP)

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