Friday, May 13, 2011

Serving the Right Kingdom in Marriage

Most Friday nights Kimmy and I go out on a date. We're mildly addicted to Applebee's 2 for $20 deal and so we often end up there. Tonight was no exception.

Then after dinner we read a chapter of a book together. Right now we're working our way through Paul Tripp's book on marriage called, What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (Crossway Books, 2010). Thanks James and Shelly Vanderlinden for recommending this book to us.

Tonight we read the third chapter entitled, "Whose Kingdom?" It challenges the notion of what we consider to be love and gently--sometimes not so gently--confronts us with the reality that what we call love is often self-love. In other words, it's the "I'll love you as long as you're everything I expect and need you to be" kind of love.It says it loves the other but in truth it is deeply self-interested.

The solution to this devastating problem, Tripp rightly points out, is not other-centered love but God-centered love. To remove ourselves from the center of our affections and place our spouses there is a kind of idolatry. It's putting someone on a pedestal who was not designed to be on a pedestal. It's making an mini-god of a person. However, to remove ourselves from the center of our affections and place God there is worship. It's getting the order of life right. It's the path to communion with God through Jesus Christ. And that communion becomes an ever-flowing fountain of true love that enables us to serve our spouse with joy rather than bitterness and resentment.

Tripp uses two terms here to contrast these loves: the kingdom of self and the Kingdom of God. When our deepest concern is rooted in the second Kingdom we enter into God's vision of our marriage which is much better and more satisfying than our vision. He's right about that. Kim and I have learned this lesson 1,000 times over the course of the last (nearly) 20 years. It was good to hear this truth again and be reminded that the true fountain of our joy is in God's way, not ours.

Tripp asks why God designed things this way and answers with a potent sentence: "Marriage is a beautiful thing that only reaches what it was designed to be through the methodology of painful process" (52). In other words, the very things we think signify the lack of God's grace in our marriages are God's grace in our marriages because he's using these things to make us more like him, less like us, more perfect in love, and more full in joy.

So the application for us today was this: surrender to God and let him have his way in our marriage. In this way he will receive much glory and we will receive much joy. Amen, Lord, help us to put these things into practice.

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