“Marriage should be honored by all…”–Hebrews 13:4
I work with a guy whom I will call Joe. Joe is in his late 20’s, is someone you're always happy to bump into, and has been married for a little over a year or so. He and his bride were high school sweethearts, and have been together about ten years now – a feat in and of itself! We were talking about marriage and career, and where Joe was headed next in life. What he said next almost brought tears to my eyes.
He said that right now he and his wife were just focusing on their marriage. He shared that in his current job position, he has been asked periodically to work out in the field instead of the corporate office – not just for a week, but for extended periods of several months at a time. Joe confided that, when asked, he explains that this isn’t a good time right now, because his wife couldn’t join him. He said his managers look at him like he’s got three heads, and then say, “But your wife will understand!” They can’t wrap their brains around the fact that Joe would prioritize his wife to a higher position than his career. The concept just ain’t even showing up on their radar screens. This talented, hard-working young man is risking, even turning his back on, the fast track to “success” in the industry by choosing his wife and marriage over what may be seen as valuable career experience. What a rare thing to see, and I pray God will bless them both richly for this choice. I guess Joe’s managers haven’t considering Deuteronomy 24:5 (Amplified Bible): “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year and shall cheer his wife whom he has taken.”
This made me think of how we honor the marriages of our friends and colleagues. When was the last time you prayed for the marriage of someone, not because they were having difficulty, but just because you wanted to support them and respect their marriage? In some traditional marriage vows, it is proclaimed, “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” Asunder – an adjective meaning “into separate parts, into pieces; apart or widely separated.” Do we not put asunder a friend’s marriage when we speak words of discouragement and disparagement against their spouse? Do we not tear at the very fabric of someone’s marriage when we participate with her in sarcasm/joking/little jabs about her husband? Doesn’t joining with the girls in a little (even subtle) man-bashing highlight their husbands’ weaknesses and expose/make vulnerable the problem areas of their marriage? I’m not saying this is a woman thing, this happens constantly for both sexes, for we often make our spouse the brunt of many a joke, making fun of them in front of other people, then covering the damage by an explanation of, “Oh, I was only joking, don’t be so sensitive!”
Instead we need to stand enmeshed, heart to heart, to weave a strong hedge of love, protection, and consecration around the honor of marriage, for the unity of a husband/wife, and to do everything we can to be a source of encouragement and support for these two who journey together in the partnership God has given them. Take every opportunity to lift up your friend’s husband, your friend’s wife – reminding them of all that is good and loving and respectable and wonderful in the person they have married. When they come to you with a problem, of course you listen and acknowledge it, but pray with them/for them, read the Scriptures to seek godly answers. Certainly, I am not addressing areas of danger and abuse – what I am speaking of is the everyday occurrences, the “dailies” of marital problems. Dr. Stephen Covey calls talking about someone else “confessing their sins” – don’t be part of that negative and ungodly practice. Instead, vow as in Job 27:4 that your lips will not speak wickedness, and your tongue will whisper no deceit, and each day remember James 4:11 “Do not speak against one another.” Instead use your words to build up, edify marriage and marriage partners collectively and individually, and let your words be skillfully spoken, “like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) Imagine how many marriages could be made stronger, more satisfying, and more fortified against the threat of divorce?
Challenge – for the next week, speak only positive words of encouragement to your friends about their spouses, and especially make it a point to speak the same words of love and support to the one to whom you have entrusted your own heart.