Today’s post comes from our friends at refineus.org.
Spiritual growth isn’t easy. Spiritual growth as a couple is even more difficult. My wife, Trisha and I have spent more than twenty years in ministry. We are supposed to be professionals at spiritual growth and discipleship. Despite our bible college education, spiritual growth in our marriage was a weakness for many years.
One of the reasons we struggled in this area is because we looked at spiritual disciplines as a box we needed to fit into rather than a relationship to be developed. Most of the time we felt guilt for not praying or not reading the bible or not journaling than we did intimacy with God or each other in our Christian journey.
A few years ago, we made some changes in our marriage that drastically increased the intimacy we feel with one another and the intimacy we experience in our relationship with God. Here are a few shifts we’ve made that have helped us.
First, we recognize the spiritual dynamic of marriage. Marriage is physical and marriage is emotional but more than anything else, marriage is spiritual. We often treat our spouse as our enemy and fail to recognize the spiritual enemy we have that is fighting against our marriage relationship. Treating one another as the enemy drastically stunted our spiritual growth as a couple. Now we assume the best of each other and fight the spiritual battle of marriage together.
When you recognize the spiritual aspect of marriage, you are more willing to do the second thing, which is pray with and for your spouse. Prayer is the most intimate aspect of our relationship with God. We get to share our heart with our Heavenly Father that cares about us and longs to hear from us. When you choose to share the intimacy of prayer with your spouse, an intimacy is birthed in your marriage that is rich and deep. Here is the key when it comes to prayer: pray what’s in your heart not what you think should be in your heart. Trying to be spiritual or perfect in prayer doesn’t impress God, it only limits the amount of intimacy you can experience with Him. When you choose to be vulnerable in prayer with your spouse, your marriage grows in intimacy.
Third, we give grace freely in our marriage. What we realized is that so much of our spiritual development as a couple was being held back by built up resentment toward one another. Jesus said, “He who has been forgiven of much, loves much.” It isn’t until we realize our need for grace that we are truly able to love our spouse with the grace-giving love of Jesus. You can read the bible every day, pray every hour and fast every week, but if you are holding on to bitterness, you won’t grow the intimacy in your marriage relationship.
What God desires for us is not behavior modification, it is heart transformation. It is as we pursue God and pursue each other that we stop trying to change our spouse into the person we want them to be and free them to be transformed into the husband/wife that God created them to be.