I had two marriage counseling appointments today. People don’t come in to see their pastor for marital advice because everything is going fantastically (though I wish they would!), so you can imagine that these are oftentimes difficult meetings.
The marriages that I see that end up having difficulties didn’t get there overnight. They took the vows of marriage seriously. They promised to love, honor, and cherish one another until death; their vows were for better or worse, for richer or poorer, till death do we part.
What happens, though, is that in the midst of the pressures of life they forget to work on their marriage. Little hurts build up, little slights get magnified, and pretty soon that spouse is no longer a person of good will in our eyes. They are the source of pain. We find ourselves on a downward spiral that Emerson Eggerichs calls “the crazy cycle.”
When I see this in relationships it looks more like a death spiral to me. I look at marriages in trouble and I always think of the scene in the movie Top Gun when Maverick and Goose lose control of their plane and crash. (CAUTION-a couple of curse words in the scene, some violence, Tom Cruise in his underpants and some bad 80’s hairdos…proceed at your own risk)
This same cycle can occur in our spiritual lives too if we are not careful. We come to Christ full of hope, but soon our fervor wanes. We let the little things magnify, and soon the luster has worn off our relationship with God. Other priorities come to the front, and soon we are no longer putting Him first. Our Christian walk becomes a set of morals, or we slowly slip away from the patterns and habits that brought us to Christ in the first place.
Thankfully the cycle can be reversed. Whether our spiritual lives or our marriage, there are very, very few cases that are so broken that they are beyond repair. If your marriage is in trouble or your spiritual life is a wreck, God always leaves doors open for you to walk through if you’re willing.
If you know someone struggling in their marriage, (maybe even yours), don’t just sit by the wayside. Help them get help! Call your pastor, get a counselor (a biblical one, please!) or whatever it takes.
Me? I want to stay out of the death spiral. That means we have to work on our walk with God as well as our marriage. In the Navy we were drilled in the process of continuing to improve, a process known as Kaizen. The term means “continuous betterment,” and the idea is to get off the destructive patterns and onto better ones.
So to make sure I am not going to end up in marital counseling, I am reading a marriage book this summer. (for me, it’s Every Man’s Marriage) Anything worth having takes time, and marriage is certainly no exception. So we need to work on them, because if we are not going forward we are going backward.
When we are in a healthy marriage or relationship, that is the time to work on it. That is the time to make it stronger and better and closer. The same holds true for our lives as Christians. Don’t wait for the world to end before you make it a priority. Don’t wait until your spouse announces the divorce; be proactive and work today to make it better.
Take it from someone who has helped people pick up the pieces a LOT: it is better to keep it from getting broken than to try to superglue it back together.