A shortcut to sustainability
Happy Marriage Week! I’m quite sure most of us have been bombarded by advertising related to Valentine’s Day here and there. But a fairly new initiative has, as of yet, received less publicity. Nevertheless, Marriage Week, started by Richard and Maria Kane, has already taken off in approximately 30 countries. Indeed, at this time of the year it makes more sense to celebrate marriage than just romance with sugarcoated pink hearts floating out of reach on the 14th. Well, in honour of this week, I decided to delve into the depths of relationships and prayer. Do they have anything to do with each other?
Since the theme of this week is marriage, I might as well share my growing experience in mine! My grandparents were much-loved marriage counselors in their region in Finland. They had prepared countless seminars on the topic and had gained a wealth of insight that I sensed more than appreciated as a young adult. Some seven years ago my husband and I had our only opportunity to meet them together, just months before we got married – and just months before my grandfather passed away. The impact was profound as they lovingly shared their basic tips for a good relationship. Prayer was one of them. Even though I had had almost no experience about the power of prayer in relationships, I can say that during the first years of marriage I learnt a lot about it! I learnt that:
God knows what is happening in a relationship
God understands me (and my spouse)
God has a solution
These three revelations, simple though they seem, only came through wrestling with God in my marriage. And what was gained then is still effectual today! In every relational bump my husband and I run into, we have found that there is Someone who is right there, ready to help when we ask Him in prayer!
Unfortunately, however, divorce is not just a problem in marriage relationships – it is also a problem in our prayer lives! We divorce relationships with people from our relationship with God. We try to behave before God as if He did not see the discord in our marriages, the jealousy in our friendships or the selfish ambition in our attitudes among colleagues. Jesus seems to have been very aware of this tendency we have and gave some of His much-needed advice on the topic in no uncertain terms: “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift”. (Matthew 5:23-24). In other words: make sure your relationships are as right as you can get them before you come to meet with God. The quality of our relationships with people affects the quality of our relationship with God!
The opposite is equally true. If we are nurturing our relationship with God, the love and advice we receive will spill over into our relationships with people. We will also be able to lift up relational problems to God – and receive answers that bring change! Just the other day I realised my need for some divine wisdom with our daughters. I had been trying to deal with some behavior rather unsuccessfully and ended up feeling frustrated with myself and them. I am glad to have a wonderful husband who listens to God, though! He reminded me to pray. But it didn’t end there: God also met with me and worked in me to change my attitude. He lifted the frustration and enabled me to walk with His attitude. I am happy to report that the difference the following day was incredible! This experience helped me to realise anew how God longs to be involved in our lives as the Expert on Relationships. All we need to do is resist the urge to do something crazy when the heat is on – and to pour out the situation to God instead.
P.s. More about Marriage week on this link