As long as I can remember, I’ve been an avid sports fan. I loved to play sports. My favorite sport was basketball. From elementary school to the time when I was cut from the JV High school team, I played the game that I adored. I loved the competition and I certainly loved to win.
I vividly remember the highs and lows of rooting for my favorite college basketball team—the UNC Tarheels (the UNC Chapel Hill campus was an about an hour and a half from my hometown). I loved the strategy of the college basketball. I loved seeing players emerge from obscurity onto the national stage. I loved the thrill of a clutch jump shot at the buzzer to win the game. But, as much as I loved college basketball, the collegiate level was nothing compared to what the professional players of the era could do with a basketball.
Yes, college players could score points. But, it paled in comparison to the flair and precision the professionals demonstrated. Yes, many of the college players are fast. But, few can compete with the speed and athleticism of the NBA game. The college players can play solid physical defense. But, these amateurs cannot match the stifling coverage the best professionals muster. In other words, while both college and NBA players are high performing outliers when it comes to basketball excellence, the professional players represent the best in the world.
For more than a decade, I have worked with married Christian couples. I have come to a stark conclusion. Eighty percent of Christian couples are amateurs in the game of marriage.
To be clear, it doesn’t mean that their marriages are bad. That’s important to understand. In fact, just like college basketball players, they may be much better than average. But, what these Christian couples sorely lack is professional skills.The sad reality is that most Christian couples are stuck and will never rise to the professional ranks.
Portrait of a Marriage Amateur
How do you tell if you are a marriage amateur? Each spouse should answer this question with a yes or no response.
Do you regularly give the very best of yourself to your spouse?
Only professional couples can honestly answer ‘yes’ to this question because ‘yes' demands empathy (understanding your spouse’s basic desires), humility (prioritizing your spouse’s needs over your own pleasure), consistency (how long can you keep it up?), and most importantly self-awareness (sense of what your best self is capable). Furthermore, to answer in the affirmative you must possess a reservoir of grace and forgiveness because most couples struggle to care for their spouse’s needs all of the time.
God did not design Christian marriage to stay stuck in the amateur ranks. Rather, God designed marriage to build upon a love that never fails as the Apostle Paul instructs in 1 Corinthians 13:7-8, “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Christian couples toss the word ‘love’ around with reckless abandon. Despite our claims to the contrary, most Christian marriages to not demonstrate the love to his/her spouse of which the Apostle Paul speaks.
Amateur love does not always protect. It often attacks
Amateur love does not always trust. It can be quite suspicious and defensive
Amateur love does not always hope. More often than not, amateur hope is conditional and short-lived
Amateur love does not always persevere. It almost always falters under duress
Amateur love fails in too many ways to count—mostly because it reeks of selfishness
Portrait of a Marriage Professional
So, how does a Christian couple answer ‘yes’ to the 'go pro' question and move from amateur to professional status?
Professional marriage does not demand perfection in the sense of having already arrived at God’s ultimate destination for you as a couple. But, professional marriage is perfect in the sense captured in Matthew 5:8, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect”. This perfection is one of aspiration and deliberate pursuit. This is the portrait of a professional marriage.
Professional love always protects because it knows that God is its fortress and that there is no carnal weapon that can harm them
Professional love always trusts because there is it conquers the insecurity that might threaten each spouse’s ego
Professional love always hopes because it centers on a God of possibility and abundance
Professional love always perseveres as it grounds in a desire to please God and a belief that he won’t put more on your marriage than it can bear
Professional love never fails because a godly couple is more than a conqueror against all it faces
Christian marriage is suffering from an image problem—largely because all the world sees are amateur Christian couples struggling to corral the power that God promises them. This must change if we are to move our Christian marriages to a higher level of accomplishment and intimacy.
Dalia and I have been married for thirty-one years. Honestly, it took too long for us to move from amateur to professional status. But, today, we are professionals and mentors to many married couples. We push ourselves and others to give the very best of themselves to God and one another. We want to be disruptive to the entrenched status quo of Christian marriage. We push couples to expect more of themselves. It is the only way to win this game because the Adversary seeks your unequivocal defeat.
This is the focus of the Eusebeia movement—a journey of spiritual intimacy for Christian couples. If you want to ‘go pro’ in your marriage, we can help you get there. Join this movement today. I'm glad to talk to you about what is possible.