Summary: Gary Thomas suggests that God’s plans for marriage are to make us holy, not necessarily to make us happy. What does a God-centered spouse look like?
The God-Centered Spouse
Life After the Wedding, prt. 2
Wildwind Community Church
If you’re on the Wildwind email list, you may recall that a few weeks ago I sent out a series of three emails called Becoming Like Jesus, excerpted from an article by Gary Thomas. Gary is one of the leading writers of the interplay between marriage and Christian spirituality. He deserves credit for most of the inspiration, and even much of the content, of today’s sermon. The title of the message is, “The God-Centered Spouse,” which comes from a devotional book Gary Thomas wrote for couples. You’ll hear more endorsements for Gary Thomas and other great writers on marriage as we move forward in this series.
Right now I want to call you back to last week. Do you remember where we left off? If I could summarize last week’s message very briefly, I would say:
• We know what makes a good marriage, but often do not have what it takes.
• We do not have what it takes because we are heart-sick – on an individual level, we have trouble connecting because of what Jesus referred to as vomit in the heart.
• Getting what it takes to make a good marriage will require a change of heart.
So as we came to that place last week, I asked if you were prepared for a change of heart. I asked if you were willing to ask the right questions, to focus on yourself. Because today it’s time to focus in.
I want to talk to you this morning about the God-centered spouse. Now quick, when I said that just now, did you think of your spouse? Or did you think of yourself? This morning as I talk about the God-centered spouse, I am not talking about your spouse. I am talking about your spouse’s spouse. Dave, I want to talk to Mary’s husband this morning. Susie, I want to talk to Mike’s wife. Chris, I want to talk to Cindy’s husband. Karen, can I talk to Bill’s wife today?
Because a good marriage takes two, but all you can do is focus on you. That is one of the first and hardest lessons we have to learn as we get into something like this. Like the qualities of a good marriage, this is something else we can think we know, but not understand how it works in the real world. Look at all the ways people can resist focusing on themselves:
First you would have the person who is totally clueless. “What? All I can do is focus on me? Forget that – he’d better be getting up in here with some focus on me pretty soon or I’m outta here.” Focus deflected.
Next you might have the person who believes that somehow in some way they must be part of the problem – they just don’t have the self-awareness to understand how. This person is really looking for times when they have been at fault in an argument; the problem is they sincerely believe there were no such times. And of course the problem is convincing them otherwise. Focus deflected.
Next you could have the manipulator I talked about last week. The manipulator may appear to acknowledge his responsibility, but doesn’t really see it or understand it, and wants to appear to focus on himself just long enough to get the other person to focus on herself and realize that she’s really the problem. Focus deflected.
Or how about the person who knows they are part of the problem and they could tell you about times when they have done or said things that made things worse, but they just continue to tell you that they are the way they are because this is what their spouse has turned them into. “Look what you’ve done to me!!” Their spouse pushed their buttons, made them say all these bad things, drove them to distraction, brought out the worst in them. In other words, this person believes that her spouse’s shortcomings either prevent or excuse her from addressing her own shortcomings. Focus deflected.
This last person is a breath of fresh air. I’m talking about a person who is no longer clueless, who has probably tried manipulation and seen it backfire and learned some painful lessons in humility, who has not only recognized his role in the problem, but has given up blaming anyone but himself. This is the person who is not only ready for a change of heart, but who has in many ways already had one. No more games. No more blaming. No more bad-mouthing wifey to others. No more self-justification. No more making himself feel okay about his role in the problem by comparing it to her role in the problem. No more saying that his technique of withdrawal is superior to her technique of screaming outbursts. No more “if she’d just do this, then I could do that.” No more. No more. No more. Focus acquired.