In my last post, I wrote about the state that many marriages find themselves in, that of the Indifferent Muddle. In this condition, husband and wife plod through their married life with a growing indifference in how they live in their marriages, since the marriage is carried on by rote. Oh, if asked, each will say, “I love my husband/wife!”, but maybe, if pressed about desire and attraction for their spouse, they will agree with the old Amish saying, “Cooking lasts.” Passion, however? E-e-eh, not so much.
This might go on for years, but a time may come when a husband or wife lifts a head and looks around. Taking stock of what the marriage has become, s/he realizes that the marriage has drifted into the murky fog that is the Indifferent Muddle. So, what to do?
Without adding to the multitudes of “5 Ways to Perk Up Your Marriage” genre, I believe that there are a few things that need to be done in attempting to leave the Muddle.
“Lift Up Your Eyes”
The fourth chapter of John’s gospel records an odd exchange between Jesus and His disciples. The elephant in the room is that when the disciples returned from the nearby village, they found Jesus, their rabbi, talking to a woman. A foreign woman! No self-respecting, Jewish rabbi would be caught dead doing such a thing!
Instead, they ignore the thing that is on everyone’s mind, and open with, “Let’s eat.” But Jesus doesn’t let them off the hook; instead, He immediately goes THERE – “The old saying is ‘four months to harvest’, but look around you,” He says, “the field is already ripe for harvesting!” Jesus brushes aside the disciples’ how-‘bout-dem-Bears attempt at diversion and addresses the bigger need, the fact that people need saving.
I’m going to tell you the same thing: Lift up your eyes to your marriage; look beyond this week’s appointment calendar, the new sales campaign at work, or coming up with a savings schedule for Junior’s college fund. Those are all well and good, but if you are in the middle of a meh marriage, you need to take stock of your situation.
And do it NOW. Note in John 4, Jesus mentions how workers would say, “four months from now”; instead of kicking the can down the road, Jesus is saying that the important issue is at hand, not something that can be corrected when time permits. So, “lift up your eyes”, TODAY.
“Do What You Did At First”
The church was doing a great job. The members of the church were known for their good works throughout the community, and unlike many modern churches which compromise truth for “relevance”, the teaching in this church was biblically sound, upholding the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. There was no compromise in this congregation.
And yet, something was off. Most pastors would have given their right arms for the success that that church had achieved, but at the core of this church, something was missing. This something was so important that Jesus had John the Revelator send them a personal message. After noting their praise-worthy accomplishments as a church, He says to them:
But I have this against you: You have abandoned your first love. (Rev. 2.4)
“Ephesus, you’re doing great work, But remember Me? I’m why you even have church.” Ephesus had a zeal for truth, had a zeal for people, had a zeal for their mission. But in all this zeal, they forgot one thing. The main thing, as it turned out. Like Mary and Joseph, they left without Jesus! The fact that religious organizations keep going long after God has done an Ichabod on them (Ezek. 10:18) doesn’t surprise us. But we should also realize that marriages can continue long after love has departed.
But here’s the good news: this love can be restored. Jesus Himself, in speaking to the Ephesian church, gives the remedy:
… remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; (Rev. 2.5)
While it may seem trite, John’s message was a simple one: remember what you did in the beginning, when you truly loved the Lord? Go back and start doing those things again.
DO—Some of the biggest words in the English language are extremely small, and in Rev. 2:5, the two-letter word do is extremely important. Jesus’ message to Ephesus wasn’t to try to feel like you’re in love again, but to DO the things that you did before when you were in love.
Twelve years ago, when Wife and I felt the need to find a new church, we were confronted by a word that we had never before heard applied to the Christian faith: Intentionality. “Well, of course, we’re intentional,” we reasoned, “we received Christ and lived like Christians should, reading the Bible, praying, going to church.” You know, the whole Christian bit.
But this church challenged us with a new thought, that of being intentional about our Christian growth and maturity. After all, the pastor reasoned, if you truly want something, you plan for it, whether it is saving for a vacation or taking classes to improve your job skills, or even exercising to lose weight or get fit. “You don’t just wait for these things to happen,” he told us, “you figure out what you need do to achieve your goal, create a plan, and start working your plan.”
He applied this truism to our faith, our Christian lives. If we know that there are certain activities that will help us grow, spiritually, make plans to engage in those activities to be intentional in drawing nearer to God.
Well, what if our goal is a good marriage, a caring, generous relationship with our spouses? Shouldn’t we be intentional in that area, as well? In His message to the Ephesian church, Jesus seemed to be saying that they should be intentional in returning to their first love; maybe we should, too.
The Way Out of the Muddle?
Story time – There’s an old story about a man and wife driving in their car, back in the day of the bench front seats. At a stop light, the woman looks at the car ahead of them and notices, through the rear window, that the girl is snuggled up to the guy, her head on his shoulder and his arm around her. She says to her husband, “Look at that! That used to be us 30 years ago!” The man looked at the steering wheel in his hands and then said to his wife, “I haven’t moved.”
Getting into the Indifferent Muddle is easy–all you have to do is drift. Getting out sounds simple, even trite:
Remember what you were like
Purpose to return to that love
Be intentional in doing the things that build that love.
Simple, yes. But easy? No. You can’t drift out of the Muddle, you have to be intentional.