“He has remembered His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations…” Psalm 105:8
Marriage is a relationship like none other. When it is entered into as it was designed, it is a bond. When things are bound together, the intention is that they stay that way for good. It’s like when we choose a glue… we look for one that provides a good bond. We want those pieces to stick together as if they had always been stuck together, and we want that bond to stand the test of time, use, etc. In the Old Testament, you can read about such bonds. They were referred to as covenants. To break a covenant with someone was a serious, serious matter. So for most Christians, we view marriage as less like a contract and more like the Old Testament covenants.
A contract has more to do with protection and mistrust. There are exit clauses and loop holes. The law of our land provides that marriage is a legal contract. This is a connection, not a bond. Connections can be broken. I lose my wifi connection at work all the time.
There are actually three states in the US that provide a Marriage Covenant for people. People who choose this route do so understanding that to exit from it takes a good bit more effort. When you look into the scriptures you will see that God made covenants with His people, not contracts. You will find no mention of God entering into a contract within scripture.
So I say all that to say this. Matthew and I have a marriage covenant, not a marriage contract. Now, we were married in Alabama. Alabama is not one of the three states that offers the actual marriage covenant. But in our hearts, we don’t care about the paper contract, we have a covenant… a bond not easily broken. We are bound together legally, physically, and spiritually. Matthew is responsible to lead me spiritually, and I am responsible to let him, bless his heart. As head of our household, he is responsible to make sure that I am growing spiritually and leading our children to do the same. I feel that very strong spiritual bond with him, and it has great influence over me.
But here’s the thing. While I have a covenant marriage with Matthew, I also have a singular faith. Matthew is responsible for fostering in me a desire to grow deeper in my relationship with Christ, but ultimately, I am responsible for that relationship. Matthew will be held accountable for how he did his part, but I will stand alone before God one day to give an accounting for what I alone did with Jesus.
For years, I blended the two so closely that I failed to really take proper responsibility for my growing faith. If Matthew was growing, I was growing. If he hit a plateau, I just hung out there with him until I got the signal that we were moving forward again. At that point, I’d gather our stuff and plod on. I did this to the point that I would even mirror his moods. If Matthew was having a tough day, so was I. I would look to him to gauge my own feelings. This was not Matthew’s fault, it was just that I felt so closely bound to him, spiritually, that I had begun to put more into that relationship than into my own, separate relationship with Jesus.
And here’s the kicker… when I began to see this area of my life differently, an amazing thing happened. My relationship with Jesus grew, and my relationship with Matthew got even better. If Matthew is having a bad day, he doesn’t need me to mirror that, he needs me to help him find joy again. If I join Matthew on his spiritual plateaus, then he’s likely to hang out there longer. I mean, he does enjoy my company!
This shift in perspective does not mean that I am then leading him… not at all. It means that I encourage him, support him, love him and pray for him. I don’t just sit and idly wait. I love his company, too, but I like it much better when we are marching forward together.
As a Christian wife, it would be easy for me to find my identity in that position, and I have often done that. But in truth, my identity is found in Christ alone and in who He says I am. When I find my worth there, then my value as a wife increases profoundly. I am so thankful for these two, very related, yet distinct positions that I hold. And I love it so much when, about my spiritual growth, Matthew says, “You go do what you need to do.”