A few years back I opened up our local paper and was happily surprised to see an article penned by a lady with whom I attended high school. I didn’t know Shirsten that well back then but remembered sharing a few classes with her over the years. Her article blessed me that day and I emailed the address attached to the article to let her know. She continued to write in the paper periodically and, each time I read, I was edified as she wrote so well of faith, family & community. Recently Shirsten stopped by Meadow on a Sunday and accepted my invitation to write today’s guest post (I hope to talk her into a once-a-month post if she is willing :)). Today, I’m blessed to welcome Shirsten’s wise words about how Christians and churches might seek to do a better job reaching an oft-neglected segment of our society. Below are her thoughts, read and be blessed. – Jeff
Some girlfriends and I recently had dinner, and in the course of the evening, our discussion turned to the ups and downs of marriage. Having been married 25 years myself, I began contemplating things I have learned in marriage:
- Marriage is hard.
- You and your spouse can be selfish beyond your wildest imaginings.
- Marriage does not necessarily get easier with time.
- Nurturing a marriage takes resolute intentionality.
- Parenting through the teen years is thrilling, yet exhausting.
- Did I mention that marriage is hard?
Anyone who takes an honest look at marriage will confess he or she has sometimes wondered: Why does something as wonderful as marriage have to be so difficult? Why does the passage of years make some struggles easier and others harder? Why are many marriages in turmoil even though couples laid a Biblical foundation? And the kicker – Why is the church so often silent about nurturing marriages into maturity?
Sure, many churches offer engagement seminars and small group instruction for young marrieds, but what about middle marrieds who have been married 15-30 years? When the kids are preparing to leave the nest and hubby and wife are faced with the glaring reality that they have neglected tending the garden of their marriage and are coexisting as roommates, rather than thriving as bride and groom.
Most likely, said husband and wife feel isolated and alone, because talking about marriage troubles at church is an unwritten taboo. Churches offer lessons on money and parenting and evangelism and discipleship and ministry, but when was the last time someone in your small group had the guts to ask for prayer for their marriage?
Yet, God’s Word teaches us in Ephesians 5 that earthly marriage between believers, who are so very flawed and in desperate need of wisdom and grace, is the vehicle God uses to demonstrate the relationship of His Son and His bride, the church. Churches often pour worthy time and resources into nurturing every conceivable topic except the very one God chose to demonstrate His love most visibly here on Earth.
“Middle marrieds have it all together,” you say. “They have survived the teenage years and have the golden years to look forward to.” But the reality often is that they are limping through life, nursing wounds that have festered for years and possibly threaten to undo the lives they have built. These couples often know the verses and teachings about marriage but have lost sight of how to apply them, because the apathy, pain, and anger run too deep.
Where is the church?
- Are we binding the wounds of marrieds in crisis or turning away in judgment?
- Are we exhorting one another to good works and wholesome speech inside the home (Eph. 4:29)?
- Are we teaching skills for floundering couples to find their way back onto solid ground again?
- Are we demonstrating Biblical ways of resolving conflict (Matt. 5, Matt. 18)?
- Are we giving more than lip service to the importance of marriage by investing time, wisdom, and encouragement to married people of all ages (Titus 2:1-4)?
May God give struggling couples the courage to cry for help. May the church become a haven for husbands and wives to seek support without fear of condemnation. May those who walk in wisdom and maturity come alongside the hurting and teach them how to live in the fullness of what God intended for marriage.
Shirsten P. Dreyer is a wife, mother of two college kids, director of a community choir, part-time office manager, and an avid reader. She lives in metro-Atlanta and has served as a community columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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