But Jesus said, “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone. Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked—or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you’re capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.” (Matthew 19:11–12, The Message, emphasis added).
I love this! According to Jesus, marriage is about largeness! Is that the way you hear it discussed? I have certainly encountered some differing opinions.
Many people see marriage not as a realm of growth and opportunity but as a trap. Some originally entered marriage with joy, only to find that the commitment seems to have placed unexpected limitations on their lives. Other people are hesitant to marry at all, afraid marriage will lessen their dreams or diminish their strengths.
Yet Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19 has the potential to increase the limits of our existence. Jesus doesn’t see marriage as a trap. He sees it as something that can enlarge our lives.
When two become one, there is multiplication in every area of life. Not until the creation of Eve, could God give Adam the command to be fruitful and multiply. The true potential of multiplication in marriage is impossible to quantify and too expansive to measure.
My husband, John, and I have both had the opportunity to author books and travel and minister worldwide. I can assure you that none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for our marriage. We would have lived small lives.
When we were first married, I was terrified of people, largely due to insecurity over having lost an eye to cancer when I was five. John knew my fear yet spoke to the gift of God on my life anyway. His encouragement helped release me into God’s plan and a larger life, which to my surprise has involved a lot of ministry to people. God expanded my life through my husband.
Has our marriage always been easy? Absolutely not! But it has been full of encouragement. We have called out the gifts of God we see in one another. God has used our marriage to enlarge our lives in every way.
When God gave that Eden charge for us to multiply, He wasn’t just talking about having children. God realized that the joining of man and woman (what appears to be the simple addition of one plus one) would create the opportunity for great multiplication. This principle holds true in every area of life: career, family life, spiritual life, and more. In marriage, God has given us something that can push back our boundaries. Here are some key principles that will help you grow into it:
1. Marriage is not easy.
Marriage is a God idea. He created it. Satan hates marriage because it’s much more than a sexual connection—it’s a spiritual union. Ephesians 5 tells us that marriage is a living picture of the relationship between Christ and His Bride.
“As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one” (Ephesians 5:31–32, NLT).
Because marriage possesses such significance, your marriage will encounter opposition. Jesus never said it would be easy. Remember His words:
…“Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace” (Matthew 19:11, The Message).
A big part of maturation is the willingness to grow and learn. Jesus made it clear that married life is going to expose our immaturities, but if we’re willing to grow in His grace (which requires humility, selflessness, and patience), we will eventually enjoy the largeness of marriage.
2. Your perspective matters.
In marriage, our perspectives will shape our realities. Even what is meant to be large can seem small if we focus on difficulties, flaws, or disappointments.
People often view a marriage covenant as a contract. This is a problem. A contract is simply an agreement that is created to restrict movement. It implicitly says, “These are the boundaries. You will not break this agreement. If you violate our terms, then I have the right to get out of this.”
Contract is also a verb, one the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “to reduce by squeezing or forcing together.” That doesn’t sound anything like what Jesus called the largeness of marriage. Marriage is supposed to enlarge our lives, not make them smaller.
God doesn’t view marriage as a mere contract; He sees it as a spiritual covenant. It’s an agreement that exclaims, “I am giving all of me to all of you. Everything I am and everything I have is yours, and everything you have is now mine. Everything we do will be multiplied, enlarged, and increased because of this beautiful exchange.”
3. It’s your story.
As you navigate the journey of marriage, remember that your story (or future story) is just that: it is yours.
For too long, much of the Church has been content to offer generic prescriptions for the problems ailing our marriages. We’ve heard, “Wives, submit. Husbands, love.” Although there is truth and value in this, frankly, there is no one-size-fits-all guide to building a marriage, because each marriage comes with its own unique fingerprint.
Look at it this way. The blueprints for every home include a foundation, supporting walls, and a roof, but the architect has the creative freedom to vary the design according to the specific needs and desires of its inhabitants.
So it is with our marriages. We are granted the creative license to design them so they will be best suited to us. Each domain should look different and have the freedom to vary with the seasons of life. In our marriage, for example, we are moving into a time in which parenting will no longer be our dominant household role. This means it won’t be long before our house will not need as many bedrooms as it has in the past. Such change in our marriages is as natural as the changing of seasons. All of this is normal.
There are universal, eternal truths and values that will propel your marriage into everything God has called it to be. God wants each marriage to be built with love, respect, joy, submission, provision, faithfulness, nurture, intimacy, and legacy—to name a few. But the way these building blocks are expressed in your life will reflect the uniqueness of your personality and the season of your marriage. God outlines the major principles but leaves room for your expression in the particulars.
At first it seems natural to assume that what has worked well for others will work well for all. But we are in unique days with unique challenges on every front. We all need your marriage to be strong! This means you must have the freedom to build the marriage of your dreams, not the marriage of someone else’s dreams. When you’re released to establish a unique union, you’ll be able to grow into all God has for you.
This article was adapted from John and Lisa Bevere’s new book, The Story of Marriage (Messenger International, 2014). Find free marriage resources and learn more about The Story of Marriage by visiting MSeries.tv.