Pastor David Wayne (the Jollyblogger) just shared Ten Things I Think I Think About Marriage and Marriage Counseling. If I'd written it, my dear wife would say it was too long, and (if I'd written it) she'd be right. But I didn't, so....
Some of Pastor Wayne's more memorable assertions, bolding added:
I think I think we focus too much on marriage and work too hard on our marriages to really be of any help.I hope that whets your appetite. But do note, they're all out of context. Do not comment on Wayne's thoughts until you read the whole!
...But a reading of the New Testament doesn't reflect an overwhelming concern with marriage and the family on the part of it's [sic] author (God!).
...Almost every serious marital conflict I get involved in eventually becomes a contest of wills, and the struggle is over whose "will" will prevail. This is a contest to rule.
...I think I think that we could improve many marriages if we could treat one another as enemies. In fact, I think that in many cases the relationship could improve immeasurably if Christians could elevate their spouse to that of an enemy.
Biblically, the Christian is called to love his/her enemy. According to Matthew 5 the Christian doesn't retaliate against his enemy, gives twice what the enemy asks, works twice as hard for the enemy as the enemy wants and blesses the one who treats them badly.
I'm thinking that if I weren't a Christian I would want to be the enemy of a Christian, because that's a pretty sweet deal relationally.
...In my pre-marital counseling and marriage counseling I try to tell people that there is no special category of counsel called "marital counseling" [ — ] it's all about basic Christian discipleship. This takes me back to my first point where I say we are missing the boat in marriage and marriage counseling.
Now, here's what I think I think about some of what David thinks he thinks.
First, I think his central point is a really good point. Here's how I'd put it: there isn't a marriage failure that isn't also (and more fundamentally) a failure of discipleship, a failure as a Christian. I have thought that more times than I can possibly count, wanted to say, "You don't get this. It isn't simply that you need to be a more faithful husband/wife. You need to be a more faithful Christian. This isn't just about you and Mary/Bob. This is about you and Jesus."
Or, rephrased once again, you cannot legitimately say, "Yeah, I'm not much of a husband — but I'm a spankin' good disciple of Christ!" Nuh-uh.
Second, of course I think one of the ten things David thinks should be the big thing I know I think. I laid it out over two years ago in Pastoral marriage counseling: What if? Don't know whether David ever read it. Hope you do.
In that (among other things), I said:
What if, when the pair began to trade accusations, [the counseling pastor] held up his hand, and said, "Not yet. We can get back to that. What I want you to tell me now is what Jesus Christ means to you. Bob? You first. Then you, Tina."And then I suggested that the pastor assign some directed Bible study on the nature of marriage and the nature of vows, have the couple bring in their marriage vows, and work from that basis. As Christians who've made sacred, binding, lifelong promises.
That goes right along with what I think David's main point is.
Pastor Wayne's other point (not mine), in my own words, is that we can mess up marriage by focusing on marriage as if it were a special, detached thing, rather than simply a facet of discipleship. It's equally an error to treat it as if it's unrelated, and to treat it as if it's everything. "You shouldn't talk to your husband that way" sometimes is equally "A Christian shouldn't talk to anyone that way"; as "You shouldn't treat your wife like that" sometimes is equally "A Christian shouldn't treat anyone like that."
So David is saying that if we focus on what should be central (loving God with everything, loving our neighbor as ourselves), that itself will improve our marriage.
I would, however, add this — and David can say for himself whether or not he agrees: it isn't pastorally wise to approach a troubled marriage and just say, in effect, "Be better Christians and everything should work out fine." As simplistic as it sounds, there is truth in that... but there's some important truth missing, too.
I think of it as analogous to physical health. Anything I do that's good for my body is also good for my finger, my leg, my heart, my kidneys. But if I develop a problem in one of those areas, I can't and shouldn't just ignore it, saying, "I'm not going to be distracted from doing what's good for my body, and throw my focus off onto something peripheral." When some part of my body suffers, I need to do something for that part, because it is a part of the whole.
Now it may turn out that B really is affected by neglect of A. Maybe I'm having kidney stones because I never drink enough water. So I need to drink more water. That would be good for my whole body, and especially for my kidneys. But, while I'm having kidney stones, maybe I need pain meds, or maybe I'll even need some sort of surgery.
HSAT, it's always good to be reminded: God's goal should be our goal, and His stated goal is that Jesus Christ come to have first place in all things (Colossians 1:18).
Including our marriages.