Graduation Day for Marriage

This past weekend as we celebrated Memorial Day, Dalia and I enjoyed a restful respite away in Birdsboro, PA about an hour and a half from our home. One evening during our stay we were enjoying our seafood dinners at a nice restaurant when I noticed a steady trail of families coming into the restaurant to celebrate graduations with balloons, cards, and plenty of hugs and well wishes. I love graduation celebrations because they recognize the achievement that comes with staying consistent with one's goal. But, behind all the pomp and circumstance is a person who stayed committed.

At this point, you may be wondering "Why is he talking about graduation in a marriage newsletter?"

As I watched the graduation celebrations this weekend, I was reminded of the convicting words of Hebrews 5:12-14, a passage I have too quickly applied to other Christians rather than myself in the past.

Consider these convicting words from Hebrews.

"In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

Credentials Over Christ

I have been married for more than three decades. But, this Hebrews passage convicts that I'm still learning 'elementary truths'--still living on spiritual milk rather than meat. I'm a long ways from graduation when it comes to spiritual truths.

How do I graduate to being the 'spiritual spouse' that God called me to be? Admittedly, it is difficult to gauge one's spiritual level. But, if we carefully examine how our marital behavior reflects the image of Christ, that can help. Honestly, for much of my marriage, I have demonstrated only an elementary understanding of Christlikeness.

How can so many of us be married for decades and still be spiritually in primary school? It's the same reason the Hebrew people wandered in the desert for forty years unable to reach the land God promised them. We refuse godliness.

I've served as a minister, a published author of multiple marriage books, and a marriage educator. I have a Master's degree in Marriage and Family therapy that I earned at a world-renown seminary. I have counseled couples for more than fifteen years. I have a Ph.D. in Psychology and understand a lot about the mind in relationships. In all these roles, I have considered myself called by the Lord to this endeavor and aspired to operate in conjunction with the Holy Spirit.

But, here is the point, I have all of the academic and ministerial credentials to be a Christlike husband. There is just one problem. For most of nearly thirty-three years of marriage, I haven't been one.

It's not about credentials. It's about Christ.

  • How much does my tone of voice with Dalia reflect Christ?

  • How does my generosity (of time, attention, and resources) with Dalia reflect Christ?

  • How much does my humility with Dalia reflect Christ?

  • How much does my patience with Dalia reflect Christ?

  • How much time do I spend together with Dalia worshiping Christ?

And, stop with the nonsense of asking me 'Do you love your wife?' Of course, I love my wife. I have loved her since the time we started dating in college. But, here is the real problem. I've loved Dalia with an insufficient kind of love. I have loved her with my love (secular love) more than Christ's love (spiritual love).

Spiritual Love vs. Secular Love

How do you know which love you are showing your spouse?

Secular love comes from within you. It is usually conditional. It is usually temporal (limited in time and space). And, it is usually self-serving.

On the other hand, spiritual love comes from the Lord. It is always agape and unconditional. It is always eternal (lasting into eternity). And, it is always spouse-serving.

But, here is the difficulty. It is impossible to practice spouse-serving spiritual love with a self-serving carnal heart.

You can only share spiritual love with your spouse with the renewed mind that the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 12:2 because your spouse is going to do things that infuriate and frustrate you, anger you, lie to you, withhold sexual intimacy, treat you like a child, control and manipulate you. and take you for granted, just to name a few.

How can you practice spiritual love in this type of marriage that often feels anything but spiritual?

To practice spiritual love is to love like Christ with forgiveness and grace. But, you cannot do this of your own will. Spiritual love is only possible through the grace and forgiveness that comes with sanctification--for the individual and the marriage. Spiritual love is not about perfection but is about the pursuit of perfect holiness.

I've come to increasingly understand over the past couple of years that spiritual love is less about Dalia and me and more about each of us in service to Christ through the pursuit of sanctification. The Adversary wants us to see love as something that we earn or deserve. Christ wants us to see love as his gift to us as He continuously sits at the right hand of the Father and commissions the Holy Spirit to do the work of the Father.

As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, God has written your name in the Lamb's book of life. But, you still need more than an elementary spirituality to experience the Kingdom of God in your marriage or to maximize your outreach with the gospel through your marriage. Your best ministry demands that you practice Christlikeness day in and day out. It's time for you and me to graduate from the amateur marriage ranks and be the professional ministers of the gospel through our marriages.

How many people have come to Christ through the witness of your marriage? If your marriage is not regularly leading people to a deeper experience of Christ I encourage you to look at your unfinished HOMEwork. It takes a daily commitment to devotionals together as a couple. Only then will you one day soon experience the joys of graduation day. Dalia and I look forward to celebrating together with you.

Join our Community

For those of you in our Partnership Program, we are systematically tackling each of the spiritual disciplines during the monthly calls and those participating in the Goal-Getter Workshop series have an opportunity to incorporate these spiritual disciplines into your quarterly goals. For those interested in joining the Partnership program to participate in the monthly calls or Goal-getter workshops, just email us at

For those in our 40 Under 40 program for Millennial couples (or young in spirit), join us each month on the third Sunday at 8 pm eastern. Check out the attached link to view the comprehensive program. This month, our topic is "Fit for Life". Click here to register to attend. Please share it with a millennial couple.

And, of course, SAVE THE DATE for our live event is October 14th-17th in Baltimore Maryland. Click here to register.

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