Vivienne Solomons is a legal consultant. She and her husband have two young children and together they pastor the Every Nation Church in Randburg, Johannesburg..
One of the aspects I find most satisfying in pastoring a church is the opportunity it presents to counsel younger married couples over what I like to refer to as the “bumps in the road” in their relationship.
Make no mistake, that’s not to say that my husband and I have mastered married life and harmonious living as a couple. Not at all!
Those of us who have been married for a while will attest to the fact that It can take a lifetime and then some to explore what marriage means and experience the fullness of married life. We simply enjoy sharing our learnings (sometimes gained the hard way) with others so that they can benefit from our experience and not make the same mistakes we have.
We recently counselled a couple who were experiencing difficulties in their relationship, specifically the young woman was concerned about what was expected of her. What she was really asking was: Who am I and am I enough?
In other words, it seemed to her that in order to make the relationship work, she would need to change to such an extent that she would possibly hardly recognise herself in the process. This is a common concern and it can be a stumbling block in any relationship, particularly in marriage. Indeed, it was a concern for me.
Heaven or hell
But I have never forgotten what someone once said to me, that marriage can be a picture of heaven on earth or hell on earth … and that we get to choose what it looks like … as reflected in our everyday decisions and choices.
Sometimes, we are at risk of making decisions out of guilt or because we are afraid to make our own needs known. Perhaps we think that just going along with an idea that doesn’t sit well with us is no big deal … until one day we discover that we have not been true to who we are or who we were created to be and, as a result, our lives don’t look the way we had imagined the day we walked down the aisle.
We deny who we are in an attempt to avoid conflict and in the process, create a marriage that does not fully reflect heaven.
It is safe to say that my husband and I have experienced our fair share of conflict in marriage. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. While there’s been great joy and much laughter, there’s also been sacrifice and compromise. Un-voiced and unmet expectations. Broken promises and dreams put on hold. There have been disagreements extending over days, loud arguments, sore hearts and bruised egos.
But one thing has remained constant: our love and commitment for/to our God and each other.
It takes faith to build a healthy marriage, if it is to withstand the challenges that may be encountered over the course of a lifetime together.
1 Corinthians 13:7 says it this way: “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance”.
Whenever the going got tough, as it inevitably does, our faith kept us together. But faith in what? Ourselves? Each other? The relationship? No! Our faith in the living God is what brought us together and it is what has kept us together in the face of sometimes trying circumstances.
It is what has guided our decisions and our choices. It is what enables us to enjoy the sweet and funny moments for what they are, even though there may be unresolved issues between us.
But faith is not something we are born with. Nor can we conjure it up when we need to or when we feel like it — and let’s be real, sometimes we just don’t feel like it.
The Word of God makes it clear that faith is a gift from God. Not because we have earned it or deserve it but according to His plan and His purpose for our lives — and for His glory.
In Hebrews 12:2 we read that Jesus is the author and perfector (or finisher) of our faith. What a comforting truth, and one that I have experienced firsthand in marriage, that the creator of our faith also watches over it and furthermore, sustains it … to perfection in (every single area of) our lives!