Gary Thomas has written a devotional book for couples titled, Devotions for a Sacred Marriage. Today we want to share with you one devotion that has had a profound effect on us. The amazing thing is – this is what we have experienced in our own marriage and what fuels our desire to help others cross over into a relationship that gives instead of expects to receive. This is work God desires to do! We pray you’ll find some time this weekend to talk about it and implement changes as needed.
And to all our fathers – Happy Father’s Day! Enjoy the blessings God has given to you!
A Soul Filled with God
from Devotions for a Sacred Marriage
by Gary Thomas
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” Psalm 27:4
Personal worship is an absolute necessity for a strong marriage. It comes down to this: If I stop receiving from God, I start demanding from others. Instead of appreciating and loving and serving others, I become disappointed in them. Instead of cherishing my wife, I become aware of her shortcomings. I take out my frustrations with a less-than-perfect life and somehow blame her for my lack of fulfillment.
But when my heart gets filled with God’s love and acceptance, I’m set free to love instead of worrying about being loved. I’m motivated to serve instead of becoming obsessed about whether I’m being served. I’m moved to cherish instead of feeling unappreciated.
Madeleine complains about a lack of spiritual intimacy in her relationship with her husband, Martin. “He’s never been what you might call her a spiritual leader,” she says, and this has become almost an obsession for her – as though her own spiritual health depends on her husband suddenly becoming mature.
“Did Teresa of Avila have a spiritual leader?” I asked her. “Madame Guyon? Mother Teresa of Calcutta? What about the countless widows who now pursue God on their own? Were – and are – their lives empty simply because they aren’t married to a spiritually mature man?”
Tim is upset because his wife never initiates physical intimacy. Like Madeleine, he’s become fixated on one issue in his marriage, so that he can hardly even pray – which makes him feel more emotionally dependent on the sexual intimacy he’s not getting. “Tim,” I said, “I remember praying with a husband whose wife was in the last stages of severe multiple sclerosis. It had been years since they could enjoy anything even approximating normal sexual relations. Do you think God has wired this world in such a way that her husband has no chance to be happy and fulfilled because his wife can’t initiate – or even perform?”
Tim had expected me to preach only to his wife, not to him. “In fact,” I added, “he found great joy in taking care of her – and that meant cleaning out a bedpan on a regular basis.”
Certainly, spiritual intimacy and sexual relations are legitimate desires, but you know what? Whenever I place my happiness in the hands of another human being, I’m virtually guaranteeing some degree of disappointment. It can be as frivolous as a barista not getting my chai at Starbucks just the way I like it, or it can be as profound as some pastor I really admire falling into sin.
That’s why worship sets me free. It meets my most basic need – to rest in the fact that I am known and loved, that I have a purpose, and that my eternal destiny and delight are secure – so that lesser needs (including spiritual companionship and sexual desires) serve the role of an occasional dessert rather than my main meal.
It’s simply not fair to ask your spouse to fulfill you. No one can. If you expect your spouse to be God for you, your spouse will fail every day and on every account. Not only that, should your disappointment lead you to divorce, your second, third, and even fourth spouses will fail you too!
Only one can love you like God, with a perfect, constantly steady, and giving love – and that is God himself. When the “one thing” we seek is to dwell in God’s house, to gaze upon his beauty, and to seek him in his temple, our soul’s sense of desperate need is met in our heavenly Father’s arms. Then we leave this temple and find tremendous joy in giving, in loving, and in serving rather than in keeping close accounts as to whether we’re being loved or being served.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve seen a constant formula at work in my life: the less I receive from God, the more I demand from my wife; the more I receive from God, the more I am set free to give to my wife.
The best thing you can do for you for your marriage is to fill your soul with God. Start defining disappointment with your spouse as spiritual hunger, a cosmic call to worship. Marriage is a wonderful institution, but it is limited. It can’t replace God. Don’t ask it to.