This past summer, my six-year-old came home from a neighborhood swim meet with a sparkle in her big brown eyes, and a huge smile on her face, as she showed me the prize she brought home. It was a first-place ribbon in butterfly! And if you aren’t familiar with swim strokes, this one is hard to learn and takes a specific technique that is not intuitive to most. As a dad, I was grateful that this little bitty, precious six-year-old attempted the stroke and finished the race.
But I need to let you in on a small detail. The reason that she got first place…was because she was the ONLY swimmer in the butterfly race. There were no opponents racing against her in her age group.
Shortly after this event transpired, this thought hit me: My marriage sometimes resembles our six-year-old swimmer in many ways. My wife and I must first make the decision to participate in the race. Both of us should have the necessary equipment to help us run the race better. And we need to be willing to stay in the race even when it gets hard.
A few questions for all of us married folks to ponder:
Are you daily making the decision to participate and do your part in your marriage relationship?
Are you accessing all that God has equipped us with in His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us do our best?
Are you attempting to run this marriage race alone or do you allow your spouse to be your teammate and partner on the journey of marriage?
I must admit, at times, I think “this would be so much easier if I could just do it alone!” It is tempting to believe that my life would be easier if I didn’t have my spouse, who seems to oppose me on some days, and also sees my faults and mistakes. It’s easier to feel like I’m winning when things go my way. But just like getting a first-place ribbon in a race with no opponents, it’s an illusion to think I can grow and live out God’s design for me and my marriage in isolation.
God designed marriage for the husband and wife to run together as one team, pushing each other to become better. And He also designed us to run the race alongside other married couples. We can’t learn and grow, the way He desires, in isolation from our spouse or from other Christ-followers.
Running the race is the goal. Running the race together, along with God, is how you reach the finish line. We won’t always run it perfectly. To expect it to be easy and with smooth waters is naïve. But if you cooperate with Him, God will continue to uniquely equip your marriage to thrive as you run your race. He knows what you need, and He equips you for the journey.
When my six-year-old jumped in the water to swim her butterfly race, she was prepared to race. She was equipped. And although she had no opposition to push her to do better than she had in the last race, her focus was to not give up and to reach the finish line.
My daughter’s goggles helped her see through the chlorine water. Has God given you clarity in what is best for your marriage? One of the greatest blessings you can give your marriage is a vision for what the finish line looks like.
For my wife and I, the finish line is running the race together where every season our marriage is healthier because of what God is doing in our marriage. If God is not doing something in my marriage (i.e., taking something off that is hindering us or putting something on to equip us), it is most likely that we are the ones not allowing Him to work in our marriage. God never fails!
Every work that God does in our marriage makes us better. It makes our love stronger. It makes our time together more enjoyable. It makes our intimacy healthier. We need to continually cooperate with God so that He can do His transforming work in us.
So, how’s your marriage race going? Are you prepared to run the race, accessing the equipment God has available for you to use? Are you trying to run the race alone? Is it starting to get hard and you want to give up before you reach the finish line?
Marriage is a unique calling God has given us. But never lose sight of the fact that God has equipped us with His Spirit, His Word, and the Body of Christ. God knows that we are two imperfect people joining together to become one in our marriages. But God created you for your spouse and your spouse for you. He created both of you with unique and specific gifts that help you run the race together. He has gifted each of you with wisdom, knowledge, and experiences intended to help you grow together and glorify Him.
And why did God design it this way? Because He shows up and transforms us during the race and glorifies Himself in the process. So choose to persevere in running your race together, because He designed your marriage so that it would bring both of you closer to Him and each other!
In what ways specifically are you daily making the decision to participate and do your part in your marriage relationship?
Make an honest assessment to see if you are accessing all that God has equipped you with in His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. What action steps or course corrections do you need to make? Who will hold you accountable to do these?
Talk to your spouse about another couple that can serve as “mentors” or “coaches” on your journey of marriage. Then contact them to see if they are available to meet with you to discuss taking on this role to help you. (If neither of you can think of anyone, then talk to your Pastor or church leadership).
Written by Jeremy Lively for Abiding Marriage, September 2022. Jeremy and his wife, Natalie, live in Central Arkansas and love running the race of life and marriage with their 4 daughters. Jeremy is on the Board of Directors for Abiding Marriage.
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay