“Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” – Ephesians 5:21 (ESV)
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? …But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God.” – James 4:1, 6-7 (ESV)
Robin and I are celebrating our anniversary today! We were wed in a little country church up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia thirty-eight years ago. Many considered us too young at the time, but here we are now, thirty-eight years later, with three married children and eight grandchildren. We two, have become a tribe!
Yet, we are humbled by this journey. For the secret to our marital bliss has always been the Lord Jesus, and the grace that He gives us. It is His grace that has made us reconciled to the Father and continues to reconcile us to one another. God’s grace is like love and forgiveness all mixed together and lavishly poured out on us through Christ. When things get difficult in our marriage, God’s grace is kind of like the oil in a combustion engine, it keeps the relational gears and pistons lubricated when friction and heat would otherwise cause them to break down.
And yes, we’ve had our own relational “friction and heat” in 38 years together! There’s no such thing as a conflict-free marriage and we’re certainly no exception. We’re all sinners, and sinners are selfish and want their own way. We may want to blame our disagreements and strife on someone else, but the truth is we’re usually the ones to blame.
The apostle James wrote that our quarrels actually begin inside of us. He said it’s because our own “passions are at war” within us. Marriage merely exposes the conflict that is already raging inside our own hearts.
Can you imagine going to “Dr. James” for marriage counseling today? Couples that might come looking for some communication tips or conflict resolution tweaks, would be quite surprised to have Dr. James focusing his attention on their individual relationships with God…
Dr. James – “So, John and Sally, how can I help you today?”
Sally – “Dr. James, can you please help us with our communication? John doesn’t talk to me like he used to, and when I complain, he gets angry with me.
Dr. James – “Sally, are you at peace with God? Have you humbled yourself before God and submitted to His will for your life? Are you seeking to please the Lord Jesus in all things?”
Sally – “What? We came here for marriage counseling. Not spiritual counseling!”
John – “Ha! Now you see what I’m up against Doc. She can be a real nag!”
Dr. James – “No John. Sally is not the problem. You are. Have you humbled yourself before God and submitted to His will for your life? If you will submit your role as a husband to Christ, He will give you the grace to be the husband that Sally truly needs.”
Sally – “Yes, yes! See John? You need God’s help to be a better husband to me. That’s what I’ve been praying for you.”
Dr. James – “No Sally. You misunderstand. John is the problem, but so are you. If each of you will focus on humbly submitting to God, He will give you the grace for living in harmony as husband and wife. Stop focusing on the faults you see in one another and start focusing on your own need for God’s grace in your life.”
I’m not sure if “Dr. James” would have a successful counseling practice today because people like to have their ears tickled. But I guarantee you that those who would follow his advice would see the grace of God bring peace and harmony to their lives.
That’s what Robin and I have experienced in our marriage. Sure, we could give you a list of tips and tweaks, like “don’t go to bed mad,” and always be ready to say, “I’m sorry,” and of course the very important, “the last one up makes the bed!” But none of that advice will help with the war that rages inside us. We need someone to rescue us from our own selves.
That “someone” is Jesus. When we humbly submit to Him, he “gives more grace.” Then, when we have submitted to receive His peace with God, we learn to submit to “one another out of reverence for Christ” and discover that we have found peace with one another too.
So, we are humbled to celebrate our thirty-eight years of marriage together. For it was in humbling our individual selves “before the Lord” that resulted in His “raising us up,” so that Christ gets the glory!
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MY SWEET ROBIN!