I’m not sure when it was, but at some point in my late teenage years I began to think about the M-word—yeah, marriage. I was both excited and scared at the prospect of taking the plunge. I had witnessed my own parents’ divorce as well as other families and was a bit nervous about the whole thing. So I came up with a simple formula that I felt would be the most important in my future marriage.
I’ve been on a lot of losing sports teams over the years, and there are some common threads no matter what the sport. When you’re at the bottom of the standings, nothing seems to go right come game time. You start the game optimistically, but part way through one mistake leads to another, and then the wheels come off and you find yourself wondering why you even suited up that day.
With marriage you’re guaranteed to not be at the top of your game every day, and there will be times when you feel like throwing in the towel. You’ll find some days you can try to say or do something to make a difficult situation better, and it will actually get worse, and then you’re wishing that you’d never even tried. This is where commitment kicks in, and “til death do us part” has to become reality.
True commitment is the winning attitude; no matter how hard things as a married couple may be, you have a teammate, a lover and a friend who has pledged to do what it takes to win. Unfortunately, in this era we tend to bail on our relationships and have a “next season” attitude. A committed marriage always keeps a winning attitude and views challenges and trials as opportunities to strengthen the commitment instead of reasons to quit.
So I had this friend. We didn’t talk much. Now we’re not friends.
Wait! Don’t skip to the next C yet. If you’ve ever heard anyone talk about marriage or read a book about it, then you know that communication is absolutely essential to a healthy marriage, or any relationship, for that matter.
One important thing to know is that there’s a huge difference between sharing (verbally) and communicating. A lot of us have friends with whom we share things that are no deeper then our likes or dislikes, the current happenings of our day or a funny story. Some of us grew up in families that had a nice sharing time around the dinner table each night, which involved a rousing conversation of “How’d your day go?” and a deep answer, “Good.” This is called "sharing." Communication, on the other hand, can be a lot messier.
Good communication is open, honest and will touch every area of your life. Yes, every area. And that can make things messy at times, but it can also be the biggest avenue of freedom in a marriage! The things that are hard to talk about are often the things that need to be talked about the most. If you’re married, think about things that are the hardest to discuss with your spouse. I’ll bet those things are the biggest struggles in your relationship, whether it’s finances, sex, fear, anger, unforgiveness … the list goes on.
When communication breaks down, so does a marriage. A common reason for divorce is “We just grew apart.” Under closer examination of that statement, you’ll find that there was either no real communication to begin with or the married couple allowed kids, career or other circumstances to put a wedge in their relationship and their communication. If you don’t have genuine, messy, honest communication, your marriage will not last. If this sounds important and scary, that’s because it is!
Last but not least, the foundation of the other two C’s is Jesus Christ. There’s this kind of youth group cliché that says if you’re living your life running toward Jesus, one day you’ll look up and see this hot girl/guy (I added the hot part) running next to you focused on the same thing and BAM … you’ve found your spouse. While overused and slightly silly, there’s a lot of truth in this statement. I met my wife while we were both on staff with Youth With A Mission. Our primary life focus at that time was following Christ, not wandering around looking for a spouse. After being married for two years, our primary focus is still to follow Him. Jesus is the absolute cornerstone of our marriage, and we’re still running toward Him, just together now.
However, there is a difference between Christ and ministry. Your relationship priorities should be as follows: #1 God, #2 Wife/Family, #3 Job/Ministry. People in ministry have a tendency to equate their ministry (what they do) with God, so the ministry relationship moves up above wife and family to the number one slot. God’s work becomes the "reason" a father is never home with his kids or doesn’t have time to take his wife out for a romantic dinner. Husband and wife need to draw boundary lines together so that their relationship priorities stay in order.
In looking at the first two C’s, the context has to be wrapped in a relationship with Christ. He’s the ultimate model of Commitment—He went to the cross for us. He’s the ultimate model of Communication—He spoke with the Father constantly. If commitment and communication are based on a foundation of Christ, you’ll wake up every morning thankful for your healthy communication, undying commitment and the hot spouse you’re running with.