There is a third party in my marriage.
When I’m upset with my husband, he’s there for me to run to. He always has time for me, and he always listens, really listens, without pre-judging, lecturing, assuming, or interrupting. He is able to see things from my point of view the first time I say it, and he gets it when I pour out my complaints about my husband. He always talks to me gently, kindly, and always lifts me up from the heaviness in my heart and helps me to see the lighter side of things.
If I were to be absolutely honest, this other guy knows me better than my husband, sometimes I think even better than myself. In fact, he’s pretty perfect, in every way.
The funny thing is, my husband knows him too. Because he’s also the one my husband goes to vent his complaints about me, the one who helps my husband unwind and relieve all the stress and confusion in his mind.
Yup, you guessed it – it’s my husband’s best friend. And, quite possibly, mine too. His name is Jesus.
I guess some of you might be thinking, what an anti-climax. So some spiritual being/’God’ is the third party in your marriage and both your best friends? Sounds nuts.
I can understand. When TJ and I became Christians, we were just about to get married, and our world pretty much revolved around each other. And frankly I was quite happy and secretly wishing it would stay that way (for TJ’s world to revolve around me, that is, not so much the other way round).
So when the pastors and leaders told us during pre-marital counselling that God had to come first in our marriage, before our spouse, and that Jesus needed to be in the centre of our marriage, I didn’t like that at all. I figured, why should we need to put Jesus in the middle between us? We’re doing fine by ourselves. And after all, three’s a crowd.
So we ended up learning the hard way, the wisdom of what our pastors and leaders had tried to tell us. Because the truth is, no matter how well-intentioned, sincere, and in love you start out, thinking that things will work themselves out if you just focus on putting your spouse and lover before yourself, there will come a point in time when the loving, romantic feeling that you thought would never run out will be swallowed up by the daily grind of work, life, family, chores and stuff, and your focus on each other will gradually turn into criticism of each other’s flaws and frustration at the other person’s inability to change.
Thankfully, by God’s grace, the words of our pastors and leaders did stick with us, if nothing else, and in the moments of great stress and distress in our marriage we cried out – sometimes literally – to Jesus. It was a long and bumpy process, but we learnt to do it more and more.
And quite honestly, that Jesus is in our marriage is the only reason why we are still married, and blissfully so, today.
Please don’t misunderstand me on this. It’s not “oh because we honour God and we are Christians so we have to uphold the sanctity and sacredness of holy matrimony”. I’m not that good. Just human. And many Christian couples still go through divorce, for pretty much the same reasons everyone else does.
Remember the description at the start of the post? It’s true. When we’ve blown it, or blown up, when we feel totally dejected, hopeless, and furiously ready to go to the extreme, and we pour our own hearts individually to Jesus, He doesn’t kick us or snub us or chide us. Instead, He listens, He comforts, and He reassures us that it’s going to be okay (even if it doesn’t feel so right then), that He will work something beautiful and glorious out of these ugly moments for our good, that He has blessed our marriage, and that He didn’t make a mistake when He put the two of us together.
He reminds us that He loves us, that His grace is right there in abundance in the midst of our depressing situation, and in that love and undeserved favour we find the strength and the wisdom to do the right thing, which usually is to apologise and forgive each other. And move on.
The first miracle that Jesus ever did when He walked on earth was at a wedding, in a place called Cana. The wine had run out, just as the master of ceremony was about to propose the toast to the wedding couple. Jesus’s mother Mary alerted Him to this predicament, and Jesus asked the servants to fill six waterpots (which were used for the Jewish laws and rituals) with water, and then to draw some of the water to bring to the master of ceremony. As the servants took the water over, the water turned into wine, and the master of ceremony exclaimed that it was the best wine he had ever tasted.*
Jesus turned the impossible into reality. What would take man years to make (best wine), He did in an instant.
That this was the very first miracle of Jesus and it related to a wedding tells us the importance Jesus places on marriage and His heart in wanting all marriages to be blessed with celebration, fun and pleasure like intoxicating wine, not bland and full of rules and civility like water.
And when I say pleasure, I mean all marital pleasure – to the full, not the religious idea of being chained to your marriage in celibacy, courtesy, and duty. Jesus wants all our days of marriage to be just like our wedding day, full of celebration, love, fun, and intoxicating pleasure.
Practically, putting Jesus in the centre of your marriage doesn’t mean there won’t be any more fights. It simply starts with asking and inviting Him to come into your marriage, and to be in the centre. And in Him all things are held together (Colossians 1:17), including marriages. And over time, you won’t just find yourself running to Him during the major upsets, but also in minor irritations, and slowly but surely seeing yourself changed by His grace (not your efforts), and seeing your spouse through His eyes.
Every marriage needs a third party. His name is Jesus.
Because when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.
*The account of Jesus turning water into wine is recorded in John 2:1-11.