“Marriage can be a great stumbling block to spiritual growth.”
It is in the confines of a marriage, the daily living together, the total commitment that we made to our spouses on our wedding day, that our deep-rooted selfishness as individuals is exposed. In the first few years of marriage, some of us discover that there are many things we don’t like about the way our spouse behaves, their thought patterns, their habits, their character. They, in turn, discover that the same is true about us.
One of my biggest marital insights into the discoveries above was through the communion cup.
I had spent a few Spirit-filled days on a retreat, and on the last day, I walked into the little chapel where we had been gathering, with a sense of deep joy, to participate in communion. Prior to this day, I had never been able to drink out of a shared Communion cup and had always been grateful our church used lovely, civilized, little glasses for our Communion ‘wine’. The thought of drinking out of a cup filled with everyone else’s germs and backwash always made me shudder. I used to take the cup and pretend to drink from it, but my lips never touched the rim. The extreme guilt I felt from pretending to drink was never enough to make me actually drink from the cup.
The chairs in the chapel were organized in a large circle. Facing me was the minister, one empty seat on his right, and one empty seat in the middle of the circle. In front of the minister, was a little table and on it was placed one big Communion cup and the bread. I felt my heart sink.
As I stood in the doorway, I had a quick debate with myself – in which direction would the minister pass the cup? To the left or to the right? Somehow passing it to the right just made more sense so I went and sat in the chair next to him. My prayer to God was as follows: “Lord, this has been such a beautiful weekend. I have really felt touched by you. It would be so amazing if you would reinforce this joy in me. I really want to participate in the communion. Please make the minister pass the bread and the cup in my direction first. It would be such a wonderful confirmation that you do hear my prayers and a lovely end to the weekend!”
In a marriage that prayer would sound like this: “Lord, if you really loved me, please make my spouse a better person. Please change those habits and behaviour patterns that I find so difficult to live with. Please make my marriage happy, effort and sorrow free.”
The minister took up the bread, my phobia overtook me, and I started to beg God “please, please make him pass it to me first.”
He blessed the bread and the Communion cup and passed it to his left. I did a quick count… twenty-four people were going to drink from that cup before it reached me!
It was then that God revealed His Father heart to me, and it went like this: “If you are going to follow me, truly follow me – if you want to learn more about me then you are going to have to deny yourself and take up my cross and follow in my footsteps, walk where I walk. You are going to have to learn to take on the diseases and germs of the human race, to reach out and touch those who backwash, to share your life with those who are suffering because only in doing so will they see Me, will they know My love, reflected through you. And only in doing so will you grow in your knowledge of Me, will you grow in your relationship with Me”.
In a marriage, God would be saying: “If you are going to follow me, truly follow me you are going to have to deny your own selfishness. You are going to have to change your own behaviour patterns, pray for your spouse and ask me to bless them – not change them. You are going to have to develop patience, kindness and humility and learn to love your spouse as I love you.”
The twenty-fourth person handed me the cup with these words “this is the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ shed for you” and I took the cup from her hands, thanked her, looked deep into the depths of God’s love and took a huge gulp.
In the years that have followed this experience, and as I started to pray for my spouse—asking God to help me be a kinder, more loving and more supportive wife instead of asking Him to change my husband—I have been astounded how God has revealed that all the ‘faults and failures’ I saw in my husband, are in actual fact deeply embedded in me. As I have changed my behaviour patterns, as I have learnt to communicate more clearly and as I have sought God’s favor on our relationship, our marriage has grown into a deep friendship, and I find it a joy to be with the man that I once stopped loving after the honeymoon period.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” —Ezekiel 36:26,27