A Great Marriage that Never Was
For Dalia and me this year of 2021 has been the most fascinating and exciting of almost thirty-three years of marriage. In many ways, it feels utterly surreal.
In the midst of a global pandemic when so many homes and relationships have ruptured, Dalia and I have discovered our best season of marriage--the way it was supposed to be for the past three decades, but somehow never was. In a way, it's like we're honeymooning again but this time motivated more by a mutual desire for pleasing God more than pleasing ourselves.
The odd thing is that for all of these years, I've always believed that Dalia and I have a great marriage. A cursory glance at our 'marriage resume' seems to support this belief. We've led hundreds of marriage workshops and classes, published marriage books and articles, led marriage ministry for our local church, counseled countless Christian couples, raised two godly children to adulthood, and most of the time identified as a 'happy' couple. Yet today, the Holy Spirit is showing us the very sobering reality that our marriage reeked with spiritual immaturity-- offensive to God's nostrils. Our marriage was not what the Apostle Paul describes to the Corinthian Church as 'the aroma of Christ to God' (2 Corinthians 2:15).
A Flawed Follow
Dalia and I started the Eusebeia organization five years ago with this conviction to be obedient to the Lord in leading a spiritual revival for Christian marriage. In those first several years, it felt like an amorphous goal with little practical guidance. Despite our own questions, we asked other faith-filled couples to follow us along this uncertain journey not realizing that this road is primarily an internal labyrinth to find our joint spiritual identity as husband and wife.
What Dalia and I did not realize five years ago is that even after many years of marriage we did not know how to follow Christ as a couple. Sure, we are both Holy Spirit-filled. We are both active, committed, tithe-paying leaders in the church. We are both anointed with spiritual gifts that bless the Kingdom of God. In other words, we individually performed Kingdom works. Yet, our marriage was not transformed by them. How does that happen?
It happens because our ability to follow is deeply flawed. We don't know how to systematically follow the Holy Spirit that Christ sent to lead us.
Very few Christian couples ever learned how to follow Christ together. We are clueless--errantly assuming that if we do good things for Christ and the Kingdom that our marriage, by association, is going to please God. This is a lie of the Adversary. It doesn't work like that.
This lie endures because our mindsets are corrupted by the 'follow ideology' of the secular world that idolizes pleasure. My ego says 'follow me'. My social media profile says 'follow me'. My ministry branding says 'follow me'. The more others follow, the more successful and happy I feel. In a real sense, far too many of us calculate our life's worth by who follows us.
Here is the stark reality. Your own spouse may not even be following you. As one example, I cannot tell you how many Christian wives have shared her frustration that her husband is not the spiritual leader of the home. It is in this distorted reality that husbands brandish Ephesians 5:22 in an attempt to manipulate their wives to follow them. Is it any wonder that so many of our children are departing from our Christian faith--having no interest in following your Christianity because they keenly sense its selfish hypocrisy.
A Favored Follow
There is, however, another way. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, the Apostle Paul offers the divine perspective on what it means to follow. It is this passage that has charted a new path in marriage for Dalia and me over the past year and a half. It says simply, "Follow me as I follow Christ" (MEV).
In my marriage, rather than focusing on whether or not Dalia is following me, I need to focus on how well I am truly following Christ. Following Christ demands personal sacrifice and humility. Following Christ means gracefully loving Dalia in her strengths and her weaknesses. Following Christ means embracing holiness as a lifestyle. We know all of these things in our head. But, we don't embrace it in our heart. Like the wayward Hebrew people wandering on the wrong side of the Jordan River, my marriage to Dalia lost sight of the Promised Land for far too long--solely because we ignorantly omitted the 'as I follow Christ' from our 'Follow me'.
Dalia and I have a long way to go on this path to a spiritually mature marriage that is more favored than flawed. But, here is what I can confidently say to your marriage, "Follow us as we follow Christ". We are doing our best to live out the spiritual disciplines in our home. Each weekday evening we do a devotional and prayer together as a couple for at least thirty minutes. Follow us as we follow Christ. On Wednesday of each week we are fasting for our marriage (and yours). We sent you an email earlier this month about this corporate fast. Follow us as we follow Christ. And, finally, the book of James tells us that we cannot tame the tongue (chapter 3:8); however, we are admonished to control it (1:26). Each day, Dalia and I are becoming more intentional about controlling what we say (verbally and non-verbally) to one another. Follow us as we follow Christ.
Our goal here at Eusebeia is to be participants in a spiritual revival for Christian marriage by inviting you to follow us but only as far as we follow Christ. Your marriage will not find its true identity until you spend more time as a couple in prayer and fasting together as a marriage team. God's magnificence is only manifest as you follow as one flesh.