Why we had to go back to school

This past Labor Day holiday weekend, Dalia and I spent a few days in one of our favorite spots in Maryland, Solomon's Island which sits right by the intersection of the beautiful Chesapeake Bay and Patuxent River. For us, this relatively quiet destination on Labor Day weekend signals the beginning of a new season--summer is fading away to make room for the Fall.

While summer is my favorite season, I have to admit that Fall is a close second. I love to see the leaves changing colors, the start of a new NFL football season is beginning, and, of course, watching parents of school-age children scrambling to get their kids prepared for a new school year. While Dalia and I are well beyond school-age children, seeing the yellow school buses back out on the roads reminds us that school is back in session.

As I watched the school buses scurry along the neighborhood this week, I was reminded of the excitement that I used to have as a kid in that first week in a new grade, new teacher, or new school. There is something redemptive about getting to start over again. That is why for me, the Fall always feels like a fresh start.

The Deception of 'Success'

For Dalia and me, our marriage was in dire need of a refresh. But, we didn't even realize it because everything seemed 'fine'. We attended and tithed to church regularly. We were marriage ministry leaders and content creators. At home, we successfully launched our children out into the world. In other words, we had checked all the boxes that denote 'success' in most Christian communities.

What we didn't realize is that in the midst of what appeared as marital opulence, the spiritual core of our marriage was decaying away from Christ. No, there were no marital crises. There was no infidelity. There was no physical or emotional abuse. And, most of the time, there were no debilitating arguments--at least not in the past five years or so.

So, you might ask, "So, what was so wrong?"

The simple answer is that we were absolutely not growing more like Christ as a couple.

Too much of our married life was a tale of two separate individuals who are married when it should have been God's story unfolding through our walk together.

Over the past 1.5 years, God has sent Dalia and me 'back to school' in learning how God intends that our marriage develop righteousness in us. Yes, righteousness. Marriage is about righteousness that glorifies God.

The Lord has shared with us a simple three-step framework (ABC's of marriage) that we'd like to briefly share with you on your own path to righteousness.

The ABC's of marital righteousness

'A' is for Aim. The Apostle Paul advises us 'Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace" (2 Corinthians 13:11). The sad truth is that most of our Christian marriages are not righteously restored to one another or to God. We are mired in selfishness and pride that render godly restoration elusive.

The great misunderstanding about restoration is that couples think it is a destination that you reach once and for all. It isn't. Instead, think of restoration as a persistent mindset. We aim to have a continuous mindset or attitude of restoration just as Christ's grace continually restores our relationship to God, the Father. Our aim in marriage is to demonstrate this same graceful stance that heals and restores us to one another as a couple. Restoration makes agreement possible. Agreement makes righteousness possible. Righteousness releases faith and godliness to flow through your marriage.

'B' is for Believe. In the book of Mark (11:24), Christ assures us "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Dalia and I are resting on the premise and promise of Mark 11:24. Everything rests on what you believe as a couple.

Far too many of us have grossly misunderstood this scripture because we misconstrue the first part of the verse, "whatever you ask in prayer". We think our prayers belong to us. But, they don't. Your authentic prayers belong to and reflect the uttering of the Holy Spirit within you. You can believe God will answer this righteous prayer because it is actually his prayer in the first place. He is just looking for your hands and feet as a couple to obediently enact what He has already released in the spiritual realm. You can believe you have received it because the Lord has already released it.

Righteousness in marriage is listening to the Holy Spirit's prayer within you as a couple and believing that the Father wants to use your marriage to bring it to fruition in the earth.

'C' is for Commit. Once you aim for a restorative culture in your marriage and believe in the Holy Spirit's uttering within that atmosphere, it is on you to act in faith with everything that God has placed in you. You must commit. There is truly no belief without commitment. The Apostle Paul confirms that "whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" (Colossians 3:23).

Much of God's work in the world is left undone because Christian couples refuse to commit to it with all our heart. We think it is optional--our decision to do with as we will. In our minds, we are too busy, too unprepared, or too afraid to commit. But, as we remember that our righteous work is for the Lord, we accept like the Apostle Paul that we are 'slaves to Christ' (1 Corinthians 7:22). He has already prepared us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). The more we commit, the more the Lord releases. But, nothing divine happens until you commit. You're wasting your breath if you're praying for anything that you aren't committed to embody.

Will you use this Fall season to get a fresh start in your marriage? The ABC's can guide you. AIM to make your home a restorative and redemptive retreat. As a couple, discern and BELIEVE in the prayers of the Holy Spirit within you. And, then COMMIT to acting in unity to live out what the Spirit shows you. Those who live by the Spirit will keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). These ABCs reflect the journey to spiritual maturity in marriage but also the keys to the marital intimacy for which your heart longs.

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