A Prayer To Remember - Devotions for a Sacred Marriage

A Prayer To Remember

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1–2

WHEN I COME INTO TOWN FOR “SACRED MARRIAGESEMINARS, I OFTEN GET taken out to dinner beforehand. The organizers sometimes invite an engaged couple to join us. I always like this, particularly if I feel tired from traveling, because I know I can ask one question of the engaged woman that will reward me with a good rest. I know this because she will likely take at least ten minutes to answer. The question is this:

“Tell me about your future husband.”

The bride-to-be’s eyes light up, and she starts to gush with enthusiastic and unqualified praise: “Oh, I so appreciate this about him, and he’s so good at that, and he’s so wonderfully thoughtful in this area, and in that area he’s absolutely the best . . .”

Then, later in the weekend, I’ll be with a group of wives and say, “Tell me about your husbands.” I still get a rest, but I don’t find it nearly as pleasant. The chorus goes like this: “He doesn’t do this. He never does that. He wouldn’t know how to spell ‘spiritual leader,’ much less act like one.”

I go back to my hotel room and ask myself, “At what point does a woman stop defining a man by what he is and start defining him by what he is not?”

The sad answer, unfortunately, is marriage. All our hopes, expectations, dreams, and ideals get poured into this relationship. Because we marry a sinner, each day brings a new and often legitimate disappointment. Before long, we stop seeing what attracted us and instead become consumed by what disappoints us. Whereas before marriage our eyes filled with the glory of the person we had chosen to spend our lives with, now our eyes get filled only with their shortcomings.

Before long, we stop seeing what attracted us and instead become consumed by what disappoints us.

I end the “Sacred Marriage” seminar with a story about a woman who decided to marry a man who had been severely disabled in a work-related fire. While he could certainly offer emotional, relational, and spiritual support, such a man obviously will lack a lot of other things women typically seek.

“Ask yourself what a blind man with no arms and only one leg can’t do for himself, much less for you,” I’ll say, “and then tell me what your husband isn’t. Tell me how your wife disappoints you, or how your spouse doesn’t live up to your highest ideals.”

Every day millions of couples wake up and evaluate their marriages by asking themselves, “Am I happier today than I was yesterday?” but I think there’s a much better question we could ask. It comes from a song I heard on the radio, with one line that goes like this: “Ain’t nobody gonna say good-bye, ain’t nobody ever really tried to love you like I love you.”

The poor grammar aside, there’s some good theology in there. I’m called to love my wife like nobody ever has and nobody ever will. I am called to be the one person so devoted to her overall good that I commit myself to being there on her behalf, regardless of any disappointments or faults, so that on the day I die, while my wife may well remember the many bad habits I carried with me to my grave, she might yet say, “But you know what? That man loved me like I’ve never been loved; I can’t imagine ever being loved like that again.” If she can say this, then I’ll know I’ve “succeeded” at this thing called marriage. It won’t be about dying happier than other men; it’ll be about whether I have truly loved.

So here’s the question—more of a prayer, actually. Instead of waking up and asking yourself, “Am I happier today than I was yesterday?” how about praying, “Lord, how can I love my spouse today like she [or he] has never been or ever will be loved?”

You know what I’ve found? That’s a prayer God loves to answer in very practical ways. He delights in loving his children, and he searches the earth to find someone willing to be his agent to fulfill this quest.

Just imagine how your marriage might change if, before your husband or wife returned home from work this evening, you spent some time asking God—and listening for his response—“Lord, how can I love him [or her] today like he [or she] has never been loved?” The answer may be very practical: take over a chore, speak a word of encouragement, take care of something that needs fixing. Or it may be romantic, or over-the-top creative, or generous, or very simple.

But ask God to help you. Partner with him to build up and encourage the person with whom you’ve chosen to spend the rest of your life.

Ask.

“How can I love my spouse today like he [or she] has never been or ever will be loved?”

When we focus on what we can do, it’s amazing how little time we have left to become consumed by our disappointments.

From the Book: