Who is this guy writing all this crazy stuff about a marriage full of intimacy and passion and love? What are his credentials? In what way is he qualified to tell me how to make my marriage better?
I have come to be a champion for great marriages not through years as a professional marriage counselor or a degree in theology.
No, my journey has been through the heart of God. Yes, I’ve spent years rigorously studying what the Bible says about marriage. Yes, I’ve read extensively and studied the research on marriage. But my passion for marriage mainly comes from my conviction that God cares deeply about it; not just the institution, but about every marriage. My marriage. And your marriage.
Discovering the Bridal Paradigm
Although my wife, Jenni, and I always had what I consider to be a good marriage, about fifteen years ago (some twenty years into our marriage), I embarked on a a season of personal Bible study on the topic of marriage, primarily in an effort to get a better grasp my own role as a husband. I read every Bible passage I could find on marriage. In addition, I began reading all the marriage books I could get my hands on. (I’m still somewhat of a marriage book junkie – you should see my Kindle!)
About the same time as this study was going on I began to experience a great awakening to the way God actually feels about me personally. I had believed in God from my childhood and I had always known that He loved me, in a general sense, but the depth of God’s emotions toward me had never really gripped my heart.
I began to realize that His love for me is actually full of intense emotion, fiery passion, and unstoppable zeal. I began to see how much He delights in me, just as I am, weaknesses and all and began to uncover for myself what the Bible really means when it says, “God is love.” In this time of exploring the boundless, unknowable love of God, I was exposed to the concept of “the bridal paradigm,” the biblical declaration that we are the beloved bride of Christ, not only collectively as the church, but also me as an individual.
I stumbled into the realization that being a good husband starts with knowing how to be a bride.
Marriage has forever been in the heart of God
Although the bridal paradigm is simple in concept, its implications were what caused the pieces to start to fit together with all I had been learning about marriage. It was all becoming clear. God designed marriage to operate in a very specific way, and he gave us an incredible example in the marriage of his Son, Jesus, to the church, His bride. In fact, He already had the marriage of Jesus and the church in mind before he created the world, even before He instituted marriage way back in the Garden of Eden. Marriage is at the core of His plan for the world.
It is this bridal paradigm principle that affects my understanding of my marriage more than anything else. As I began to dig deeper into this notion that I am the much-loved bride of Christ, I started to see all kinds of parallel principles between my spiritual relationship with Jesus and my martial relationship with my wife. It’s marvelous how each of the two most important relationships in my life regularly gives me insight into the other.
In my reading I discovered that many, if not most, marriage books only touch on the bridal paradigm principle in passing, but I knew there was more to it than a trite metaphor. So, I started studying and writing on these themes as a way to get my head around this vast concept as it was starting to emerge. Soon after, I started blogging at my original website Journey to Surrender.
Here’s the bottom line: If you want a “marriage made in heaven,” you have to start with the understanding that marriage was literally made in heaven.
I have found that the key to a vibrant, passionate and enduring relationship with Jenni, is to allow my heart to be continually awakened to the love relationship that Jesus wants with me. I have discovered that a more intimate relationship between me and my wife hinges on my relationship with Jesus.
The Mega-Mystery of Marriage
I’m the first to admit that even though I’ve been unpacking the bridal paradigm for almost fifteen years now, I still feel I am just on the very front end of understanding what the apostle Paul calls “a great mystery” in Ephesians 5 (literally a mega-mystery in the Greek). Jenni and I are still exploring and learning what it means to have a bridal paradigm marriage, one that accurately reflects the relationship of Jesus and the church.
Though we are still on our marriage journey and far from the perfect couple (since such a thing doesn’t actually exist), many people, even strangers, have noticed and commented that there is something different about our relationship. I say that not to boast, but as a testimony to the truths I long to see infused into every marriage. I believe much of what people see in our marriage comes from our effort to live and love within the bridal paradigm.
Why a Christian Marriage Focus?
As believers, we have the privilege of knowing the Creator of marriage. We have the inside track! Marriages in the church should be a beacon of light for anyone seeking marriage advice. Our marriages should be such a glowing example of the relationship between Christ and the church that people should come to faith just by watching the way we do marriage.
Yet it isn’t so.
I am saddened by the divorce rate in the church and even more so the vast number of discontented and struggling marriages. My heart is burdened to see power of the bridal paradigm made known to every Christian couple. I believe this desire also burns in the heart of God.
I direct my ministry primarily to Christian marriages, not in order to be exclusionary or to offend non-believers, but because my faith forms the core of my understanding of marriage. I cannot separate the two.
In that way, writing to non-believers about the relationship between Christ and the church would be like writing a meat-lovers cookbook for vegetarians. Much of it simply would hold little relevancy. While I believe the truths of God’s design for marriage are universal, I also do not believe they can be fully grasped without a personal experience with our Bridegroom Savior, Jesus.
If I take the spiritual core out of what I believe about marriage, it completely loses its power and meaning. Will I limit, as a result, the number of people who read and follow this blog and read my other writings? Yes. Will I occasionally offend non-Christians by appearing to exclude them or by stating beliefs that they see as narrow-minded? Yes. Is it possible that by exploring here the love relationship between Jesus and his bride that some may be drawn to know this love in a personal way? That would be fantastic.
Where to From Here?
So there you have it. My journey into this thrilling thing called marriage ministry.
I have grand hopes for the future of marriage, which I believe to be very bright, both in this nation and around the globe, although the appearance may be to the contrary. I believe great marriages (and consequently strong families) are the solution to many of our societal problems. I believe God feels too strongly about marriage to allow the powers of darkness to continue to sew deceit and destruction.
We are due for a global awakening to the beauty of the bridal paradigm, and I’m excited to be a part of it.