How to Save Your Marriage
by: Al and Lisa Robertson
We believe in marriage. Especially now, after ours almost imploded all those years ago. Occasionally, we both shudder at the thought of what might have been had we not done the hard work of pleading with God to make us right before him, both as individuals and as a couple. God was gracious to us by illuminating our path in the midst of incredible darkness, and we are forever grateful.
So we are constantly digging back into our past, not to uncover old wounds and re-open them but to find the catalyst for what changed us — what took us from hopelessness in our relationship to a marriage that we had never had before or could even have imagined.
And we see the answer to that question (what changed us) all through scripture. One place we particularly see it is in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6.
Jesus’ prayer begins with a recognition that God is in a place so far above the earthly realm that we cannot even imagine its glory and majesty. “Our Father in heaven” is not a flippant nod of the head to God. It is an admission that he is all powerful, that he is supreme above all else. But it is more than that. It is also an admission that we are nothing when compared with him. And most importantly, it is a recognition that he is more to us than our creator — he is our father. And fathers love their children and desire that they live a life that is in the shadow of the father.
This is why the second part of the sentence says “hallowed be your name.” Hallowed means holy — worthy of total worship and praise. When we say “hallowed be your name,” we are saying that if we were to praise God with all of our being for thousands of years, it would never be enough for this God. Especially since he became our father.
It was important for us to begin here because of our past failure to make our marriage “work” by our own power or strategies. Until it all came crashing down, we didn’t know that good marriages don’t begin with “I do” but with us individually and together falling down on our knees before this holy and perfect God, asking him to be the centerpiece of our lives and our marriage. Until then, we thought it was about us instead of him. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
Until we begin to comprehend this, we aren’t ready for the rest of the prayer. Take “Give us our bread today,” for example. More than a request for food (Jesus said our Father knows what we need before we even ask him), this statement is a recognition of the fact that our Heavenly Father already supplies our needs. He doesn’t need our begging before he will do the right thing. We are the ones who need to go before God in the right way with the right spirit. When we are approaching him, we are approaching him as our heavenly Father. And my father knows more than I do what I need.
Let’s recap. God is our father, he is in heaven, we have made a mess of things, and God supplies what we need. We approach him asking that he mold us into people who are utterly dependent on him.
When we begin to travel that path, we are ready for the rest of the story.
“Forgive us as we forgive others.” Another way of saying this is, forgive us in the way that we forgive others. But until we know how far above us God is, we won’t appreciate the distance he had to travel to pay for our sins. Therefore, we will be inclined to hold people accountable for much less.
Forgiving our fellow humans is the natural response to God’s grace … forgive us of our sins in the way we forgive others? The reason it may be hard for us to plead with God to use the same standard on us that we use on others is because we don’t appreciate the size of the sacrifice that Christ made for us. We may think it no big deal because we don’t understand how big our sin was (is).
You may apply a little touch-up paint to your marriage (or other relationships), but until you find yourself before the cross of Christ — emptied of all dignity and self-congratulation — you will never know the power of God to make your marriage new.
We didn’t plan to be stripped naked before God, but until he took all of our fig leaves away, we didn’t find ourselves in a marriage that both glorified God and satisfied us. Until then, we didn’t know how naked we really were.
So the advice we give to everyone is, pray for God to humble you before him. Pray for him to lead you to a place where you are completely dependent on him. Until you are there, only point the finger at yourself. Then you will be ready for healing.