Review Stage Three: Growth (Previous Blog)
The most important change to make in The Marriage Journey is to stop focusing on how our spouse disappoints and hurts us ("All I can see is what's bad about you.") and start looking in the mirror and face ourselves. Growth begins when one can say, "I'm beginning to see my own faults and how I contribute to the brokenness in my marriage." Therefore, the growth stage is characterized by humility and self-discovery. The greatest day in our lives is the day we face ourselves because it's then we can experience God's life-changing grace.
Stage four--joy--is represented by a picture of an elderly couple who have traveled together through enchantment, deep pain and true growth to real joy. They have come to know, accept and love one another with all their flaws and shortcomings.
Key Attitude: “I’m free to love and serve my spouse even when he/she disappoints me.”
Freedom. That’s the change that happens when one learns to depend on God instead of a god for one’s deepest questions—“Will anyone love me?” “Am I important to anybody?” In Christ the answer’s always, “Yes!” Such lavish, underserved love casts out fear of what others may think or do. Since Jesus answers our questions we live with new purpose—“I’m free to love and serve my spouse even when he/she disappoints me.”
Characterized by: Depth and Other-Centeredness
Life can be hard. Loneliness is real. We can get discouraged. No one grows deeper through all the blows and setbacks of life without knowing God. Brokenness over our self-centeredness and grateful dependence on God for our deepest needs brings depth of character—patience, kindness, courage, fidelity, other-centeredness.
We put all our hope in Him and wait for the day when a new heaven and earth will make all things new. Till then, we live in the truth of being God’s dearly loved children. We accept what kindnesses come our way without demanding more. We learn to forgive and accept one another with all their weaknesses, differences and idiosyncrasies. We treat each other the way we long to be treated. Loving our spouses for who they are, not for who we want them to be, is the soil in which true love grows. Staying on that path isn’t easy. We will get hurt. We can get stuck in our pain again. Or, we can face ourselves…again, find God, grow and give again. That’s the daily, life-long journey of becoming humble, grateful, giving, whole-hearted followers of Jesus Christ.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
If you have not yet experienced the joy stage of your marriage journey, what might your vision for this phase of your lives together look like? What would you hope for and what would characterize your relationship? How would it be different from the enchantment phase? What next step could you personally take to move in that direction?
If you have experienced the freedom and joy of humbly serving and loving your spouse with all his/her faults, what has helped you come to that place? How is God important to the change that has happened in you and your marriage relationship? What ways do you serve your spouse and how might you use your marriage to serve in your church and others together? What is one way you would hope for your marriage to continue to grow in the freedom and joy of serving and loving God and each other?