“You should be thankful everyday that you’re married to a Christian.” She was smiling when she said it to her husband – not angry – and he received it well. He smiled too.
She became a Christian early in their twenty-year marriage. He is not a Christian, and occasionally suggests that he didn’t sign up to be married to one. In response, she is saying that being married to a Christian isn’t too shabby. She sounds like she is touting her good qualities, and I guess she is, but, as Christians, we want goodness to be apparent to others. We want godliness to go public.
These are some of the good things she has in mind.
…I belong to you and no other. I will work to protect our relationship, especially sexually, in both what I do and in my imagination.
…I have nothing to hide. I know that secrets are lethal to relationships so I will try to be open about things I think you should know.
… I will speak to you about joys, hurts, fears and other things that are on my heart. I will even speak to you about times I think you are being a jerk, though I will say those things with the awareness that I can be a much bigger jerk.
…You might feel as though you are in competition with Jesus for my affection, but the truth is that the more I love Jesus the more I will love you, so I will talk about Jesus with you. How can I not? We all talk about things that we love. If I am driving you crazy, let me know, and I will try to talk about Jesus in a way that is less offensive.
…I hope to confess my wrongs even before you confess yours. If you see them before I do – and there are times I know that will happen – then I will work hard to hear what you have to say.
… I will speak to you about my interests, but I will consider your interests as especially important. That doesn’t mean that we just do whatever you want; marriage is a unity of two different people. There will be times when it is good and right for you to consider my interests. That is part of marriage.
… I will treat you with respect.
… And when you see me blowing these things, I will listen.
… All these are expressions of love. My desire is that I will love you more than I want to be loved by you. And may God have mercy on me as I do these things.
Humility, in her situation, doesn’t have to mean, “ah shucks, honey, you married a no-good sinner who hopes to do better.” It can mean, “Take a look at this. Jesus is doing good things – I’m far from perfect but he is making me into a spouse you can delight in.”
She wants more than anything on earth for her husband to know and love Jesus, and her husband knows that would thrill her. Does that bother him? A little. Sometimes he thinks that she would like him more if he was a Christian, but she is quick to clarify. She has received an amazing gift in Jesus, and she wants the best for her husband. Isn’t it right to want our spouses to share in our joys; isn’t it right to want the very best for them?
And regarding the possibility of her withholding love because he is not in the Christian club? At this point, she has given him plenty of evidence that she loves him, and he knows it, so if he asks this question he probably has something else on his mind. An appropriate response is, “Honey, what’s really bothering you?” If she has had a recent stretch of loving poorly, she can confess it and recalibrate her spiritual aim. Christians are never satisfied with how they love today. They always want to love more deeply from the heart. And she wants that growing love to be obvious to him.
Yes, they both understand that because they don’t share similar convictions about God there will be harder work to be done. But hard work is normal for good marriages, and it’s been a pretty good twenty years. And God is still at work.