MY LAME MARRIAGE
How Did We Get to This Point?
A few months ago, a good friend of mine called and said, Mac, I’ve got a date set up for fishing down at the Texas coast, and I want you to go with a couple other guys and me. And I said you know what? Because I love you, I will do this. And so we made our way down to the coast. And we were only going to be fishing for one day, so we got incredibly early, got some cereal in us, and idled away from the dock with our guide before 5:30 in the morning. Pitch black dark. And as soon as we got out into the channel, our guide put the hammer down on his boat and just started screaming across the bay.
Every now and then, he would reach down and pull up a Q Beam to try and find channel markers to make sure that we weren’t about to hit one or a pylon or a buoy of some sort. And after about a 25-minute terror ride across the bay, he kind of idled into this one little flat that we were going to try to fish for the first thing that morning while it was still night dark. And as we got there, he picked this Q Beam up again and started looking this time for bait fish that were kind of crashing on the surface that would indicate the fish we were after were chasing them. And sure enough, here on this first flat, there were fish running for their lives from the big hog sow trout we were looking for. And he said, This is it. And so we started getting ready. We started pulling on wading boots, wading belts, getting our tackle ready, rods and reels. And just before we were going to slip over the side into the ink-black waters, unbeknownst to us, with our heads still down, he had picked the Q Beam up to take one last look across the flat. And while we were pulling on our boots, we heard this: Hmm, uh-oh.
Now, when it’s dark and you’re about to get into the water, you don’t want to hear hmm, uh-oh. And so all four of us who were not guides turned and looked at him and said, Hmm, uh-oh? What is hmm, uh-oh? He said, Well, you’re not going to believe this, but you see those two little dots right there at the water line about 70 yards out? Yeah. He said that’s a gator. He goes, I don’t think he’s that big. We can go ahead and fish here. And at this point, I was thinking, Hmm, uh-oh. And he took one more look. He goes, Oh, you know what? Let’s don’t do that. He’s about 10 to 12 feet long. We were like, We’re good. Let’s find another one, okay?
Now, let me ask you a question. What if, when those two orange dots had reflected back into our guide’s eyes he had not recognized what he was looking at? What if we had waded into those waters unaware of the danger that was right there just a few feet from the boat? I don’t want to even think about it. But you know, a lot of people wade into the waters of marriage with the same lack of awareness. They have no clue what dangers are lurking just beneath the surface, waiting to ambush every marriage. And every marriage starts out with such high hopes and great expectations, doesn’t it? I mean, nobody gets married saying, you know, it’s probably going to only last a couple of months, but we’ll have a good run. Of course not. You don’t spend that kind of money on a wedding and on a dress and on cake and put that kind of emotional investment in it just hoping to make it a few months. Everybody gets married thinking that it’s going to last forever. Everyone outside of Hollywood, that is.
And so the fact of the matter is that there are some very real dangers out there. And this morning, you and I are beginning together a new series of messages that is going to be kind of a Q Beam series of messages. Because over the next few weeks, we are going to highlight some of those predators, some of those things that are lurking beneath the surface of every marriage, trying to take it down. Now, as soon as we say that we’re talking about marriage, instinctively some people will choose to check out. You may be a single adult. You may be a student. You may be a divorcee. Let me encourage you to not check out no matter your marital status, because what we are talking about goes much deeper than just peace and welfare inside a home, because what we are looking at is the fact that God has set marriage up so that human beings just like you and I would experience and live out of radical MBQ. You say Mac, MBQ? What is that? MBQ is Marital Bliss Quotient. Marital bliss quotient. Yes, I completely made that up. But that is a fact of life.
A lot of times we use the term marital bliss almost as a punch line or sarcastically and ironically. Like well, how are things going? Well, I just live in marital bliss. I remember when our kids were infants and toddlers, you want to talk about survival mode for a marriage, that’s tough sledding, man. People go, How’s it going? We’re living in bliss, let me tell you. But the fact of the matter is God wants marriages to be blissful. Blissful. And if you will, go ahead and pull your outlines out of your bulletin you were handed when you came in, and I’m going to show you how this is mathematically. I’m going to give you an MBQ equation this morning that you can use to rely on as a fact of God’s desire for every husband and wife to experience radical, revolutionary, high degrees of MBQ.
The first factor in this equation is this, that God is a God of excellence. God is a God of excellence. That is a fact. God does nothing halfway. God is not watching the clock just kind of putting in his time as God. He does everything with excellence. The Bible says in Psalm 145, “Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise. His greatness no one can fathom.” You and I can’t even get our minds around how great, how excellent God really and truly is. If you want confirmation of that, think about creation. Think about what God did. Think about how the earth’s axis is tilted at exactly the right angle. It spins at exactly the right rotation. Think about opposable thumbs. I mean, that’s engineering genius right there. God does everything with excellence.
The second factor in this equation is the fact that God ordained marriage. God ordained marriage. Marriage is not a human convention. Marriage is a divine ordained institution designed for God’s purposes. Look back in the beginning at Genesis chapter 2. “The Lord God said it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” I want you to underline that word, helper suitable. When you first read that in the English, you need to understand that that translation cannot do justice to what was being communicated in the original language. In the original language, helper suitable is an expression that is used elsewhere only of God himself. And rather than helper suitable, we should plug in there life giver, life saver. That’s what God’s saying here. In the original language, it is ezer kenegdo. Say that with me. That’s kind of a good word to know. Ezer kenegdo.
So guys, when you’re rolling over going to bed at night, you just go, you’re my little ezer kenegdo. I mean, you talk about touching the heart of a woman, nothing does it like ezer kenegdo. Ezer kenegdo. What God is saying here is that when he looked down at man, the crowning glory of his creative work, he said it’s not good for him to be alone. At every other step of creation, God said there’s day and there’s night, it is good. There are the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the fish of the sea. It is good. There are the trees. It is good. But when he looked and he saw man alone, you’ve got to figure the garden was messy, you know? You’ve got to figure that man had already shown himself to be lacking. And God said this is not good. There’s something bad wrong about this picture. And so he created woman. He created woman as that ezer kenegdo, that one who completes, that one who complements, that one who is distinct, who is different, but who is out of him. Bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. So God ordained marriage.
So we have the fact that God is a God of excellence, God ordained marriage. And that equals the fact that God desires excellent marriages. God desires excellent marriages. If he didn’t want excellent marriages, he wouldn’t have created them. He wouldn’t have ordained marriage as a divinely given institution. He desires excellent marriages. I want to encourage you to make this message series, this time of worship over the next few weeks, a priority. You need to understand that there will be thousands of reasons for you to miss over the next few weeks. There will be a lot of things that come up in your calendar, in your schedule, and I want to encourage you, whether you’re married or single or student, to be here, because God is up to something significant in every single life that he draws together for this moment. And the fact of the matter is that if you are a single adult, if you’re divorced, you need to know that this material, this information, this truth matters for you as much as it does for any of us who are married, because the fact of the matter is that your perspective on marriage informs how you date. And as a general rule, how you date determines how you marry.
Now, I’m working on that. I have two children of my own, and personally, I would love to bring back the arranged marriage, but I don’t think I’m going to win that battle. They one time are going to begin dating. They are going to start making decisions on their own about who they’re going to date. And how Julie and I relate as husband and wife is going to significantly impact how they do that, and in turn, how they marry. So this is something that transcends marital status. And this morning at the very end, we’re going to wrap this up, and I’m going to show you exactly why that is. But as we begin here this morning, I think it’s important for us to just acknowledge the fact that to even bring up improvement in marriage is risky business, isn’t it? Because you’re implying that there’s room for improvement. And there is none of us in this room, especially men who are married, who want to begin that conversation. That’s a tough thing to bring up, isn’t it? Say, Honey, let’s talk about how we could improve our marriage. Boy, that’s going to be a fun time in the old town tonight, isn’t it?
So what I want to do this morning is I want to play bad cop to your good cop, okay? What I want to do is just kind of roll some MBQ questions out on the table. I’m going to roll some grenades out and then let you handle them. But you’re going to be able to say, honey, it’s not me. Mac brought it up. What did you think about that? I thought he was kind of nuts, but let’s just talk about it, shall we? Then you’ve got a conversation going. And the first MBQ question that you need to ask of each other, of yourself is this: Are we flying, running, walking, stumbling, or falling? Are we as a couple flying, running, walking, stumbling, or falling. What? This is a question that is rooted in scripture.
Look at Isaiah chapter 40. The Bible says, “Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall. But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.” When you hope in the Lord, when the hope of your marriage is placed in a relationship with God, you have the opportunity to soar, to absolutely fly. Now, I have heard, I have it on reliable authority, that not every marriage is always soaring. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I’ve heard that that’s true. You know, there are times when in a marriage it’s okay to be walking. There are times when as husband and wife over the life cycle of a marriage it’s okay to enjoy just the quiet, still of that walk. But then there are other times when God wants you to fly, he wants you to soar.
Have you ever been around somebody who maybe took a second honeymoon, and they got away just for a few days, just the two of them, left the kids with parents or babysitters back home, and they were just the two of them for three or four days or three or four weeks? You want to talk about somebody soaring and flying? Because in those moments, they have a chance to reconnect and to remember what it was that drew them together, to remember to go oh, yeah, that’s right. We were husband and wife before we were mom and dad. There was a time when we were attracted to each other physically. Yeah. And then all of a sudden, those emotions start to flow, and the consideracies start to come back, and the attention to detail and the attention to needs, those things get attention paid to them again, and all of a sudden, you’ve got a couple that is soaring. This is a great question to ask. Are we soaring? Are we running? Are we walking? Or maybe are we stumbling or are we falling? Is there room for me to improve as a husband? Yeah. That’s a great question to ask. And you need to give your spouse the freedom to answer that lovingly and honestly. Bringing the question up is not bad. But I would suggest to you that to say to your spouse, Well, what do you think? You think we’re flying, haha? That’s not a good way to begin the conversation. Again, just go, Hey, what did you think about that?
Next question, do we have any UTR issues? Do we have any UTR issues? Now, I’m not talking about the University of Texas at Richardson. Under the radar. Do we have any under the radar issues? Are there any subterranean conversations that maybe you’ve played out in your mind and decided, you know what? It ain’t worth it. Not going to do it. Wouldn’t be prudent. And you’ve said, you know what? This is a situation, this is an issue that is frustrating to me about this relationship, about my spouse. Man, I’m just not even going to go there. This is a great question to ask, to say is there anything that maybe we need to cover. Because a lot of times, we decide erroneously that it’s not worth the time, it’s not worth the effort to deal with it. But look at what the Bible says. Again, let me say this. Whatever you want to believe or think about scripture and about God, you can never, ever credibly say that it is irrelevant, that God is not involved in the details of life. Watch this. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you. God is light. In him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, watch this, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his son purifies us from all sin. If we will bring these UTR issues into the light as God is light, then we will have fellowship. We will be one. We will be united. Why is that?
Because when we bring those things into the light, we are accurately representing the character of God. When we keep them bottled up, when we keep them stuffed down, we’re betraying the image of the one we were created to mimic, the one we were created to copy. So when we do that, when we bring those things into the light, it works. God blesses that, God honors that.
Now, I’m going to suggest to you this morning that this one will probably be the last question that you have the guts to ask. I started thinking about this. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t probably harbor some of these UTR conversations, some of these things that are just kind of there, and over time, over years, you just kind of learn to live with them. I would encourage you to lovingly bring that up. Create an environment where you can get those things out in the open. The next question, are we having fun yet? Are we having fun yet? Now, I know some of you may think, Mac, that is so shallow. Fun. I’m a Christ follower. I don’t have fun. Well, let me tell you this. Wrong. Wrong. I love you, but you’re wrong. Being a Christ follower should be joyful. Marriage should be fun.
Now, there are times when it’s not. Granted. I mean, you have to pay bills, you have to replace roofs, buy tires, get up in the middle of the night. Those things happen. But by and large, marriage should be fun. Now, let me tell you this also. Throughout this series, we’re going to speak very directly about what God says about having fun in marriage. It includes but is not limited to the subject of sex. Sex is a God-given gift. This series, as every single worship service around here, is designed for students in high school and older. If you have small children, they need to be in our children’s ministries. Because it is in there that they have ministries that are designed specifically for them, for them to discover that God loves them in a profound way, in a way that resonates with them.
Also, when your kids are in there, you can focus on what God’s doing in here. You’re not worried about giving them the blue crayon or to keep them happy or to keep them quiet. And I know people are saying, well, when I take them to the nursery, they cry. Of course they cry. They’re kids. That’s what kids do. And you’re doing them a favor when you do that, because when you take them into the nursery or somewhere like that, you help them learn how to cope with other people. They learn how to socialize. They also learn that they’re not the center of the universe. Everybody wins. So I’m telling you that.
Now, having said that, understand that marriage should have a great deal of fun in it. If you doubt that, look at Proverbs chapter 5. This is a great one to memorize. There are going to be more in this series, but this is beautiful. Proverbs 5:18. This is God talking. “May your fountain be blessed. May you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” May your fountain be blessed. He is not talking about yard decorations. What you’re thinking, that’s exactly what it means. And he’s saying enjoy your wife. Rejoice in her. Celebrate her. It doesn’t mean that things are exactly the same. You’re not exactly the same as when you got married. But as you have grown together, as you mature in your relationship, in your relationship with God, you discover new ways to enjoy each other, to celebrate each other. Men, your wife should feel celebrated. And if she doesn’t, it’s your fault, it’s my fault. Now, your wife’s not perfect. She’s got her own areas of responsibility. Make no mistake. Women, don’t think you’re getting off the hook entirely. But we should be celebrating our wives. They should feel that they are put up on a pedestal, that they are cared for, that they are in a secure relational environment. And when that happens, they want to invest themselves in a husband. They want to be rejoiced in. They want to be celebrated. Women, you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I have a feeling I may be right on this one. Because that’s what God says. We must celebrate them. And we should have fun. We should have fun in marriage.
I recognize that from time to time, issues arise. Sometimes there are medical conditions that prevent the intimacy that husband and wife are designed for physically. That’s something to be weathered also, that God can bless in those moments. But barring those type situations, we should enjoy the heck out of each other. Have fun with each other. I’m going to do a whole sermon on that. God left a whole book of the Bible to the subject of sex. Song of Solomon. Read it. If you’re married. If you’re not, don’t read it yet. And you know, I want to say this too in advance. Some people think, well, the Song of Solomon is an allegory designed to describe God’s love for his people. No, it’s not. It’s a God-given endorsement of radical, revolutionary sex between husband and wife. God bless and amen. I’m going to go Pentecostal on that. How about this one?
Is our extended family in place? Uh-oh. Is our extended family in place? In-laws. Do we have them in the right place in our family’s order? Look at what God says. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” You know what God’s saying here? Cut the cord. Cut the apron strings from mama, daddy, and be a grown-up, be an adult, responsible for your marriage. I have to do this. You have to do this. Now, we’re not saying to just step on our parents. Thanks, see ya. The Bible says honor your father and mother. But one of the ways that we honor father and mother is by being independent, God-following adults who are responsible for our own behavior, responsible for our own homes, responsible for our own marriages before God. That is significant. We must do that.
We need to understand that our parents should not have the same level of influence and power in our lives as adults that they had when we were children. And a lot of times, we give them that kind of power and more. They may not even live in the same city, but through the telephone or through e-mail or through little digs here and little hooks there, they are a participant day in and day out in the marriage in a way that God never designed. Is our extended family in place? Are we financially compatible? Are we financially compatible? The primary stressor and number-one cause of divorce according to those who are divorced is financial pressure. Now, why is that?
I mean, especially here on a Sunday morning, you people who are here in this room, with the weather the way it is, you wanted it. I mean, you wanted to be at church this morning, okay? So in here, we would say, well, why would something as shallow as money come between husband and wife? Money is neutral. What we do with it is a heart issue. This is what Jesus said. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. That doesn’t mean that we have to be financially identical, but we need to be compatible. We need to be on the same page financially. And when we’re on the same page, the fact of the page itself really becomes secondary to the fact that we got there together.
Give you a great example. Julie and I, in our home, Julie is an incredible, incredible woman and gift, and she’s a tightwad. She is. Julie’s just a tightwad. And I said this with her in the room last night in our Saturday evening service, and she actually takes a little bit of spiritual pride in that. But on the other end of the spectrum, my natural bent, I’m the trigger puller in our home. I’m not talking about with the church’s money. But in our home, I’m the trigger puller, baby. I’m like, man, let’s go. We’ll figure out a way to earn some more or to do something else. Don’t worry about it, man. I’m not talking about going into debt. I’ve been down that road, and I don’t want to go back. But I’m talking about if it’s there and it’s not going to impact what we’re giving, it’s not going to impact what we’re eating and the kids can — babe, light the fire. Let’s go.
So we’ve had to learn over time that those two approaches need to be harmonized. They’re not going to change. But they can be harmonized. We can talk about these things together. And we can get on the same page so that our hearts are there. When our hearts are on the same page, the finances and all the other things just take care of themselves. But it’s important that we do that work.
Next question, is divorce an option? Is divorce an option for us? That’s a valid question to ask. I would encourage you to begin here. Now, let me say this. If you are divorced, you need to know that God does not discriminate, and neither do we. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. Neither is it ever God’s ideal. Neither is it God’s desire for a husband and wife to come together and then have it break up. That’s not his plan. That’s not what we desires. So the question becomes how do we achieve the ideal that God has set out there. And we need to understand where divorce falls in God’s economy. Forget culture. Forget what the rest of the world is doing or 50 percent. That’s their deal. You and I, everyone has the opportunity through the grace and the power of God to experience, remember, radical MBQ. And in order for that to happen, we take divorce off the table. If we’re married, we say that’s not an option. That’s not just a little weapon that we’re going to pull out every now and then, say, Well, fine, maybe I ought to just leave. No. That’s not an option.
Look at what God says in Malachi chapter 2. “I hate divorce.” That’s God. God, who is love, says I hate divorce. “And I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” When you pull divorce off the table, when you say that’s not a viable option for us, you take the first step towards guarding and protecting your marriage. And it is something to be guarded and protected. Again, we’re not saying that divorce is the unpardonable sin and you should walk around with a big, scarlet D hanging around your neck, but from this moment forward to understand why it is that God says I hate divorce.
Why does he say that? To understand that, you’ve got to ask the last question. What’s the point? When we’re talking about marriage, what’s the point? If God ordained marriage and God is a God of excellence, he’s not just doing it just to do it, what’s the point? Ephesians chapter 5. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” The end game of marriage is not marriage. The end game of marriage is a portrayal of the depth and the breadth of the love of God. He says here this is a profound mystery. We said at the very beginning God’s greatness is so great, his excellence, we can’t even get our minds around it. We can’t get our minds around his love. And so he has given us marriage to give us something that we could begin to relate to so that we could start to understand what it is that he did for us. And what it is that he did for us is that he created us to live in relationship with him. And when that relationship was broken by my sin, by your sin, he gave us a groom, the groom Jesus Christ, who offered himself sacrificially, sacrificially, so that we could have this relationship with God, so that anyone who believes in him would never die, but would have life everlasting. That is what’s going on in marriage.
So when you think of the ideal marriage, when you begin to picture that, when you begin to work toward that and live it out, you begin to get just a shadow, just an inkling of what it’s like to live in a relationship with God eternally, because then you start to understand exactly how deeply and profoundly God loves you. And that is what he did for you. That’s why marriage matters. That’s why the Bible says in the book of Hebrews chapter 13 verse 4, “Marriage should be honored by all.” Everyone. Husband, wife, single, divorced, student, pastor, nonpastor, whatever. Marriage should be honored by all because this is what’s going on.
I want to ask you this morning to begin to commit yourself emotionally at a gut level, at a soul level, to work through this subject of marriage with that understanding. And I want to ask you if you would just bow your heads and close your eyes for a moment. Because in this moment, I want to ask you if you have ever received that gift. When we talk about what it is that God did for us, have you stepped over that line of faith? True, we started talking about marriage, but the fact of the matter is that where God is concerned, all roads, all roads lead to the cross.
And this morning I want to invite you, if you’ve never stepped over that line of faith, to commit your life to him, to receive that gift, to just pray where right where you are and say God, just silently right where you are, just pray and say God, I understand that you love me. And God, in this moment, I’m choosing to believe that you communicated that love, you let me know about it through your son Christ. Jesus, I’m choosing to believe that you died on the cross for me and that you rose again for me. Jesus, in exchange for your life, I give you mine, everything that I am. In a spirit of prayer with every head bowed and every eye closed, I want to just ask you, if you just prayed that prayer if you would just quietly and briefly lift your hand up in the air and then slip it back down. If you just stepped over that line of faith, just put your hand up and then put it back down. Thank you. You know what? We celebrate that as a church.
At the end of our service this morning, we would love to just know God did that. We’d love to put a Bible in your hand just as a gift to help you commemorate this moment, say that was the day that I stepped over that line of faith for the first time, and it was nailed down eternally. If you would, just take that info card that Andrew mentioned earlier in our service and go through these doors here to my right. Out in that small lobby, there’s a place there called Starting Point, and there’ll be someone there that can take that card from you and give you a Bible. In just a moment, we’re going to worship.