Before reading this article, please read Romans12:9-21 to understand the character that is required in those who desire lasting and fruitful relationships, especially in marriage.
Just like a puzzle, a marriage is the union of thousands of pieces that when properly placed together portrays a beautiful picture of unity. The difference between a puzzle that you purchase in the store and the puzzle that you enter into on your wedding day is that the pieces of your marriage, though accessible, are not immediately available or at hand. Marriage is a union of two people with different and diverse backgrounds and experiences. These differences make up the numerous pieces of two puzzles (one male, one female), of which many are unknown to both spouses. Therefore, the pieces of each puzzle must safely and gradually be revealed to one another and then gently refashioned if the pieces are to be joined together with “smooth edges.” How is this done? At least four commitments will help you place the pieces of your lives into a meaningful and productive union.
First, commit daily to placing the needs of your spouse before your own. This commitment will keep you keenly open to and aware of your spouse’s likes, dislikes, hopes and dreams, strengths and weaknesses, and his or her joys and fears. Basically, this commitment ensures that your spouse has the opportunity to begin revealing the pieces of his or her puzzle to you. Without this commitment, that vital “other half” of the puzzle (union) remains in the shadows of willful ignorance and love remains immature (see Romans 12:9-21; Philippians 2:3-4). This brings us to the second commitment.
Secondly, commit daily to love, honor, and encourage your spouse. Oftentimes we make the mistake of assuming that the love we have for a spouse is mature and deep when reality should teach us otherwise. Love is not a feeling; it is a decision to do what is right for another person. And we cannot do what is right and best for a spouse if we do not have all the pieces of our loved ones life understood. This is why it is so important that each of us commits to knowing and understanding our spouses. In this way, our actions toward them will be consistent with their needs, that is, loving. A husband cannot express true love, learn to value his wife, or encourage and support her when he is unaware of her needs and concerns, her likes and dislikes, her strengths and weaknesses. As spouses continue daily to get to know each other, they gradually reveal to one another the individual pieces of their lives and, through their mutual love, work at joining these pieces together to form a more beautiful picture than had been developed the months, weeks and days before. Love grows in proportion to our desire to know the one to whom we promised our very lives. Work hard not to make the mistake of assuming that you love your spouse enough–most likely you never will. Pure unconditional love rests in the domain of the divine. The reality is simple: the less you know and understand your spouse, the less you love your spouse. The Lord is, therefore, our example and our motivation to keep striving to be like Him in the manner in which we love those whom He places in our care. This leads us to the third commitment.
Thirdly, commit daily to allowing your spouse to be vulnerable and honest at all times. This means that your spouse’s issues are your issues. Consequently, there is no discussion that is off limits. Everyone needs somebody with whom he or she can be completely honest, which means without fear of rejection or reprisal. In a marriage, those people are the two of you. Openness takes place only in a safe environment. It allows each of you to discover more pieces of your spouse’s puzzle (commitment 1), which then enables you both to mature and express your love for one another more fully (commitment 2). The result of this “vulnerability without risk of rejection” is trust which, if maintained, leads naturally to greater intimacy and oneness. Note that these commitments are interrelated—each works with the other in a revolving manner to deepen your commitments, reveal each other’s needs (puzzle pieces), mature your love for one another, and draw you closer together as a union. Remember that romance is the culmination of daily care; it is not a given and, often, it has little to do with sex. In fact, daily care should be given without an “end” in mind—at least most of the time!
Finally, you must commit to forgiving your spouse whenever he or she falls short of meeting any of the previous commitments. No relationship can survive without forgiveness, which is the truest and most sincere act of love.
Your union is one that has never existed before in human history. Its potential is unknown and limited only by the sincerity of your commitments to the Lord and one another. Stay committed and be patient! The most beautiful puzzles are not put together over night! In fact, the marriage puzzle is not a single snapshot; rather, it is a panorama of snapshots that begins on your wedding day and continues to develop throughout your lifetime together. The overall picture that the marriage puzzle reveals is worth a lifetime of memorable experiences, that is, if each of you is willing and able to make the pieces of your individual puzzles known to the other. Stay committed and love will get better and deeper and continue to get better and deeper.
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