David Powlison sits down to discusses how a married couple can make their marriage a better friendship.
I think that the first thing I would say to that, it’s a big question, hence my answer’s a small answer. But the first thing I’d say is that, to be aware of the things that sabotage friendship. The striving for moral superiority; deadly. Scorn, bitterness, contempt, hostility, brooding; deadly. Creating sectors of your life that are private gardens, little secret gardens of lush rank growth of whatever, could be sexual, could be just an escapist world, could be your private dream to make the NBA. I mean, whatever your… Video games that private worlds’ sneering contempt, this bitterness, striving for moral superiority that you see in arguing for example, that I would never do that. You’re such an idiot, kind of thing that comes so easily to sinful people. They are all absolutely destructive of friendship.
Friendship has qualities of, I’m for you. I’m your friend. I care about you. I’m willing to be candid with you. There’s an interchange, there’s a, I can share with you what’s on my mind. I can share with you why I’m struggling. Ask your counsel, your advice, your prayers, or just so you know, so I’m not bearing it alone. One of my favorite quotations is from the 17th century essayist Francis Bacon. He says that, “Those who lack a friend in which to unburden their heart become cannibals of their own hearts.” And to be able to share openly with one’s friend, it redoubles joys and it cuts griefs in half. So, there’s a sense of friendship as a place where we’re able to let another person in on our lives, and what matters to us and where we struggle on what makes us joyful.
And those are things that can be in marriage. They can be in any level of friendship, they can be between a parent and a child, as a child grows up. Hopefully those qualities of friendship more and more are parts of what takes place in a relationship between now two adults. The hard part is getting there. And there’s again, many things that can be said, I’m going to only say one thing that, and I’ll say this one thing because it’s often not said. The qualities that make for friendship between people, happen to be the exact same qualities that you see expressed in the Psalms towards God. That you see there a kind of candor. You see a willingness to confess my sins and acknowledge when I’ve been wrong. You see an attentiveness and a listening to what, in this case what God is saying.
You see a desire for help. You see a sharing of joys and gratitude. And so you actually see embodied in the Psalms the kinds of things that are relationally, almost intuitively appropriate, where there’s a relationship of trust. And there’s going to be an analog to those things in our relationships with each other. And that’s whether it’s in marriage. A marriage which is complicated that it’s not just a friendship. I mean, marriage is a sexual relationship. Marriage is a financial partnership. Marriage is a co-task of raising children. Marriage is a, who’s going to do the chores? And how are we going to get the chores done? How are we going to get the taxes paid, and bills paid? So, marriage is much more complex than a simple friendship between two friends. And each of those areas, finances, kids, sex, decision-making, does have potential to bring in more areas of disagreement, hardship, problems to reconcile, than a normal friendship would.
But, it is the qualities of friendship that are going to be the things that actually, God himself is committed to bring to pass in a marriage. They are what is at the end of the day, at the end of our lives when we made vows til death do us part. And when you’re saying farewell, it’s not going to be your money, and your sex, and all that, that is what makes that meaningful and deep. It’s going to be that there’s friendship that has been established over a long, hard road, often. Just like with God. The Psalms are a long, hard road that end up in joy. And marriage always has things to negotiate, but they are so worth the negotiating, in order to start to move towards another person with grace.