If you’ve ever traveled to different communities and cultures – even within your region – you know that roles within a marriage can vary greatly.
For instance, in the eyes of many, it’s the responsibility of husbands and sons to take care of jobs like mowing the lawn or taking out the trash. But, in a farming community, where husbands are usually out in the fields from before dawn to after dark, it can be very rare to find a man pushing or riding a lawn mower. Farm wives don’t think twice about getting out and taking care of that task, because that’s just the way life is on the farm.
There’s something attractive about that mentality. While yes, men and women are different and have different strengths, weaknesses, and natural inclinations, marriage is so much less about the “man’s job” and the “woman’s job” and more about evaluating the work and accomplishing it in the best way possible.
Marital Work of Faith
This approach, this balance, is what first comes to mind when I think of marriage in light of 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3.
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
A work of faith in marriage carries such depth and beauty. But, it is not something that comes naturally to us. Our sin nature gets in the way of this work, just as it does with anything else. There are several ways, though, that we can be intentional about this work of faith in our marriages.
A Marital Work of Faith is Active
Almost from the moment an engagement is announced, the jokes about “his” and “hers” begin. Whether it is assumed rights, responsibilities, jobs, expectations, or even possessions, it is assumed that the husband and wife will each “fall” into their socially expected places.
But as Christians, we are not supposed to meet social expectations. Instead, we are supposed to stand out, being marked as belonging to Christ because of our love for Him and for one another.
What does that look like in marriage? Well, it’s engaging and being actively at work in our marriages instead of just settling into our socially expected roles. It means that a couple makes an intentional choice about how they are going to walk in obedience to Christ together. An active work of faith does not act based on social expectations; it acts on God’s will.
A Marital Work of Faith is Unified
We often think of unity as total agreement in all things. Shall I let you in on a little secret? That doesn’t happen in marriage. Even though the biblical description of marriage is of two people becoming one, those two people are still different. They are still unique, and they approach life with different perspectives, personalities, and passions. That’s going to cause a little bit of disagreement and discord now and then.
So, what does it mean to be unified in marriage? Well, it means that we are in this together. It means we find ways to approach every aspect of marriage as a team, combining those perspectives, personalities, and passions to accomplish a unified goal.
That means, for example, that Mom isn’t the primary parent while Dad is the babysitter. It means that both are parents, even if a typical day has Mom changing diaper after diaper after diaper while Dad’s at work.
It is relatively easy for two people to marry, then successfully – and even happily – coexist, pursuing individual tasks, passions, and responsibilities and coming together for pleasure and relationship-building.
It is a little harder for two people to marry, then rewire their very selves to be able to maintain their God-given uniqueness while simultaneously joining together with another, probably very different, person to produce a brand new, unified workforce. But, that is what a work of faith is intended to produce in marriage.
A Marital Work of Faith is Together
The real kicker when it comes to living out the work of faith in our marriages is doing it together. In many ways, we think of togetherness as being synonymous with unity, but there are differences.
We can be unified yet still separate. We can work toward the same goal, merging efforts and energies to accomplish a task in perfect unity, yet still not be together.
Together means that we are not only unified, but we are partners. We step in as needed to encourage one another, pick up one another’s slack, accept one another’s help, and pour our effort into building one another up.
Togetherness requires action and it relies on being unified. But, it takes both a step further to greatly magnify our ability to accomplish the work of faith that God puts before us in our marriages, our parenting, and our goal of honoring Christ in all we do.
Togetherness in our work of faith means that we look at this journey through the eyes of a single unit – a unit bound together to accomplish the will of God above all else.
Active unity, manifested in true togetherness, will take an ordinary marriage and turn it into one that causes others to look at us as Paul looked at the Thessalonians, driving him to give “thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith…”
The beauty of marriage is the intimacy enjoyed when both partners are committed to togetherness. Intimacy is when two partners share themselves with each other. Most often, this is thought of only in the sphere of the physical, but true joy in the physical starts with a healthy emotional, intellectual, and spiritual intimacy.
In togetherness, couples share with ease the daily ups and downs as well as long-term hopes and disappointments. The busyness of family, kids, and homeschooling might create pressures, stress, and exhaustion, but couples who are together often fall into bed at night and spend hours talking through the events of the day in detail with giggles, concerns, or plans of actions.
Feeling the freedom to share your emotions with your spouse is a good indicator of togetherness.
In healthy relationships, couples view each other as equal, and this is often seen in intellectual intimacy. The conversations can be academic, philosophical, theological, or political. In any case, each partner views the other as one they can learn from, and ideas are shared freely without fear.
The deepest level of intimacy is when each partner, through trust and time, shares their most intimate thoughts. Conversations about personal growth in Christ, struggles, and hurts are frequent and without fear of information being used against them. As well, this level of intimacy includes the ability to talk freely about misunderstandings and hurt feelings, even pointing out wrongs that have occurred.
Happiness in life is often determined by the health of our relationships. Togetherness in marriage is the most vital.