Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A strong and lasting marriage requires Christ at the center

Part 1 of an interview with Rob Green,
Author of Tying the Knot: 
A Premarital Guide to a Strong & Lasting Marriage
  
Advised by both tellers of fairy tales and harbingers of doom, many engaged couples don’t know what to expect from marriage. They may believe God created the institution, but many of the unions around them exhibit frustration or end in heartache. Other couples focus their energies on planning the perfect wedding day instead of preparing a relational foundation on which their lives together can be built. Veteran pre-marital counselor Rob Green provides young couples with a blueprint to follow in his new book, Tying the Knot: A Premarital Guide to a Strong and Lasting Marriage (New Growth Press). Green assures couples the joy, fun and love they hope for is not wishful, romantic thinking; it’s God’s plan for marriage. It’s also within reach for every couple willing to do the work needed to center their relationship on Jesus intentionally.

Q: You have been counseling married couples for years. What finally prompted you to put pen to paper and write Tying the Knot?

I was finding myself pulling material from different resources. I realized while that was OK for me, it was not as helpful for the couples I was serving. They had random pieces of paper with scribbles here and there, with very little continuity to what I gave them. They may have had several chapters from books that ultimately found their way to the trash. I hope this book will serve them well during the engagement period, but I also hope it is a resource for the future.

Q: One chapter is written specifically to mentors. How is this book also designed to be used by pastors, mentors or counselors?

Churches and pastors have a lot of ministry functions. I hope that for the pastors this resource gives them a “one-stop shop” approach to their pre-marital counseling, making this aspect of ministry easier.

The chapter can also be used by pastors to help train mentors. Pastors need people on their teams who are able to mentor young couples. It is part of the equipping ministry and the building up of the body as each member does its part (Ephesians 4:11-16).

The chapter explains what I do and what I focus on during the sessions. There is a give-and-take dynamic that cannot be taught merely by reading a chapter, but if they understand what I do and how I do it, it would certainly help with the equipping process.

Q: What sets Tying the Knot apart from other pre-marriage books on the market?

I set out to accomplish two things. Although there are other books that talk about Jesus being a part of marriage and using the Bible as a foundation for advice, I wanted Tying the Knot to be more focused on Christ than any other book I had seen on the market.

Second, I wanted to give engaged couples the right balance of teaching and applying. I have found some of the material available to be needlessly repetitive, while other material does not require enough from the couple. The exercises in Tying the Knot help young couples apply the truths of Scripture to their relationship. The reading and exercises take roughly one hour to 90 minutes per week. Marriage is a big decision with many life consequences, so I wanted to give them quality work without overwhelming them.

Q: You write that successful marriages are “Christ-centered.” What does a Christ-centered marriage look like?

A Christ centered marriage means two people, both as individuals and as a couple, are committed to fulfilling the mission God has called them to fulfill — to proclaim the greatness of God (1 Peter 2:9), to live for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) and to please him (2 Corinthians 5:9). This means the individuals and the couple will live and make decisions based on the will of God.

I tell my couples you were not created to be each other’s savior because that job has already been filled. You were designed to be a spouse. This truth is freeing.

When couples live for Jesus, they will live obedient to the Word, focused on prayer, dedicated to service, and willing to give of themselves for the betterment of others.

Q: How closely is our walk with God tied to the quality of our relationship with our spouse?

I argue they are inseparable. One of my New Testament professors in seminary explained he thought Ephesians 4-6 goes through a progression . . . from person (walk-worthy) to partner (love) to parent (teach and train). In other words, it is impossible to be a Christian partner without being a dedicated Christian person.

There are many moments in marriage where our commitment to Christ is challenged. What happens when:

·         I get home from work hoping my wife is ready and willing to serve me, and she is thinking she cannot wait until I get home so she can have some help?
·         one spouse wants to be intimate and the other is not interested at that time?
·         one spouse gets in an accident and the resulting damage will be $3,000 the couple has to pay out of their own pockets?
·         one spouse says something mean to the other? Will this result in a full-scale war? Will silence ensue? Will bitterness be the new norm?

One of these moments, and tens of thousands more like them, will occur in 50+ years of a marriage. How one responds to these moments will be rooted in the strength of their relationship to Christ.

Q: When it comes to roles in marriage, what are some of the non-negotiables, and what is up for debate?

I think the non-negotiables are the things God expressed in his Word. What is up for debate is everything else. For example, I believe a husband is required to love his wife as Christ loves the church; he is required to lead her in a Christ-centered direction, and he is required to live with her in an understanding way. Those are non-negotiables.

But who does the laundry? What about the finances or the cooking? These decisions are important because they describe how a couple does life together. The laundry does need done, the bills must be paid, and someone needs to cook. But how does that all work? The couple decides.

In our home, my wife does all the laundry. The first day I threw a red shirt on the pile of whites was the day my laundry days were over. On the other hand, I handle the finances, including paying the bills and planning for the future. Why? Because we have learned that is how we work best.

I encourage couples to enjoy the journey. As our family has grown and as our work situations have changed, the way we “do life” has also changed. So the way you figure out life in year one may be a bit different than the way it is done year 20.

Frankly, if we celebrate the gifts and abilities of each person, we will find not only unity but also blessing. For example, my wife is much handier than I am. Rather than fight it, I do what I do best — figure out how much money we have to spend on remodeling. With budget in hand, she heads to Lowe’s or Home Depot. Three or four days later something in our house is different. I did my part in keeping us from going bankrupt while she did her part to make our home more beautiful.

Q: How important is a church community in the life of a young couple?

It is vital. Young couples who are not connected to a church are often lonely and look at life through the grid of their family. While family is important, the Scripture says a friend who is close is a lot better than a brother who is far away. I serve in a university town, which means many young couples are graduate students and have moved away from their families for the first time. Loneliness can set in pretty quickly if the young couple does not find a community. God designed us to function together.

The Christian life is lived in community. We need to be taught the Word. We need to have godly friends who will encourage us in our walk. We need to serve others so we do not fall into the trap of merely thinking about ourselves. I love the community I see happening in my young couples’ class. They have meals, celebrate birthdays and have fun together, but they are also supportive of one another in the midst of pain.

For example, in one week, three of our men lost their jobs. Cards, calls, Facebook posts, and job ideas immediately went out. One man lost his job on Wednesday and had a job by Sunday. Another man gained two interviews even before his official “last day.” The other man was given tips and within two weeks had secured three interviews. Not every contact came from the church family, but many of them did. It was a perfect demonstration of the church being the church. None of those men or their wives felt like they were alone.

Q: If a couple has been dating for a while and are starting to wonder whether or not they should get married, what are the top three things they should consider before picking out the rings?

First, does the person I am dating have a growing relationship with Christ? Too often one person does not view Christian maturity as a crucial component to married life. I have encouraged my own children not to have an exclusive relationship with someone until they are mature enough in Christ to have that relationship.

Second, do I believe we could accomplish more for Christ as a result of being married? We all want our life to count for something. Would being married to that person help you do that? Some individuals have desired a life in ministry, and yet their choice of spouse ensured those desires were never fulfilled. Mission will be far more important than how attractive the other person might be. In my own life, I felt the call of God on my life after my sophomore year of college. I did not come from a ministry home, but I knew that to be in ministry you had to have the right kind of woman.

Third, am I ready to serve this person more than I will serve anyone else in my life? There are no guarantees in marriage. There is no guarantee someone might not be hurt, or a disease may not be found, or a difficulty may not be experienced. If those things occur, am I prepared to stay together? If a car accident changes my spouse or if a health diagnosis radically impacts our relationship, will I still be in the marriage? What happens if we have a special needs child? Are we ready to live for Christ and for each other in the joys and challenges of child who may live with us the rest of our lives?


Learn more about Tying the Knot and Rob Green at www.newgrowthpress.com.

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