Last week, I shared a portion of the second of the seven practices shared in my new book, Elevate Your Marriage: 7 Practices of Highly Intimate Couples, today I want to share a little more of that chapter, on having intimate conversations in your marriage.
The Intimacy of Prayer: Joseph and a Pregnant Virgin
As we take the concerns of our marriage to God in prayer, He does not apply cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all solutions. Just as you would not go to the same doctor when you have an issue with your foot as you would for an issue with your eyes, God provides couples with specific wisdom for their specific challenges. Take Joseph and Mary, for example. God took their very specific concerns relative to having a child and spoke wisdom to them both. They were not the same concerns that my wife and I had when we expecting our son, or the unanswered questions that you may have had when you were expecting your children. Rather, they are very specific concerns with very specific answers because only God knew the specifics of Joseph and Mary’s relationship and the purposes to which He called them. But watch how God not only deals with them as a couple but also as individuals, connected to each other, as they share an intimate conversation with God.
God Speaks to Women in Prayer
Mary was six months pregnant when God sent Gabriel the angel to her in Nazareth. Not only was she pregnant, but she was also a virgin—two realities that by our knowledge of how things work do not make sense or even seem simultaneously possible. Just think about how confused Mary must have been. She is pregnant but has never had sex in her life. She is certainly being judged by those around her for getting pregnant out of “wedlock” and Joseph, her fiancé, is questioning everything he thought he knew about her.
God, What’s Going On?
Perplexed, afraid, and confused, this would be about the time in her life that she would really need to hear from the Lord. What was happening to her and in her life just was not making any sense, and I can hear her asking, “God, what is going on?” But when Gabriel, God’s angel, approached Mary, he told her that she was the “favored one” and that “The Lord is with you.”
These were words that could only be spoken to her by God or one of His representatives—words that model how, in the head-scratching moments of life and marriage, we need to talk to or hear from God. He is the only one that knows what is going on inside of us and who knows us better than we even know ourselves. He is the One able to tell Mary what is happening. Because, although she is confused, through her conversation with God’s angel, she is beginning to gain some understanding, from God.
But God, I Don’t Understand
Our communication with God is not just a one-way street. We are allowed to ask God questions; it is a true dialogue. When God sends Gabriel to speak to Mary, it does not initially assuage all of her questions. So through Gabriel, God states in Luke 1:30, and then restates in verses 31-33, His message in more explicit terms by saying, Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. Wow, that is quite a lot of information to lay on Mary in just a few quick sentences:
- Don’t be afraid.
- You have found favor with God.
- Name the child Jesus.
- He will bear all the character marks of the Most High.
- God will give Him David’s throne.
- He will rule over the house of Jacob, God’s chosen people, forever and His kingdom will be endless.
That is the step-by-step direction that she needed to be at ease with being a pregnant virgin. That is what God can do when we open up to Him about what perplexes us in our marriage. He does not change reality, but speaks what is needed to be known and understood for the reality we are in at that time.
So now Gabriel has made plain what is happening to Mary and what she should be preparing to do. But, what Mary still does not grasp is how it is even possible that a virgin is pregnant. So she asks God another question, How will this be, since I am virgin? Many husbands reading this are saying to themselves, Mary has a lot of questions, sounds like my wife (smile). It is a point of humor but also of recognition that God is both capable and willing to answer every one of her questions. Mary needs to know what is going on, and God makes sure He explains it fully. So Gabriel lets her know that the Holy Spirit is in control and God’s power will overcome her; therefore, the child will bear all the characteristics of God.
Again, Mary’s experience is not a cookie cutter example for us. Sometimes, God will give us a step-by-step answer like He did for Mary, and at other times He will not. The point here, for us, is that like Mary, we too may need clarity, and God is able to provide what we need for where we are. In the case of Mary, God’s response eventually brings her to a place of peace with what is going on inside of her.
God Speaks to Men in Prayer
So now, God has spoken to Mary, they have dialogued back and forth, and through her intimate conversation with God she is at peace with God. But there is another side of this story. Joseph, the man that Mary is engaged to, has his own questions—questions that only God could answer. Imagine how well the conversation might have gone if Mary had tried to explain to Joseph why and how she became pregnant? My guess is that it would have raised more questions in his mind than answers. Their relationship draws a parallel to your relationship in that there are some things that only God can explain to your spouse. I can’t count the number of times I have complicated my relationship by trying to explain things to my wife that I did not fully understand myself and I clearly should have left it for God to explain to her.
Joseph’s first concern, as a man, was that he did not want to disgrace Mary, so he planned to send her away secretly, according to Matthew 1:19. God then sent an angel to Joseph in his sleep and let him know first of all that it was OK to take Mary as his wife. As a husband, that is what was worrying him. Different from what the angel Gabriel needed to say to Mary about what was going on inside of her, Joseph needs to be assured that Mary is OK about getting married. I love this, because as a husband, I know that things will sometimes go on with my wife that I cannot interpret or understand for the life of me. Yet, in my attempt to make sense of what my wife is feeling and where she is coming from, I reach for my faulty wisdom that usually leads me to a wrong conclusion (which further confuses the issue). But here, God is giving Joseph what he needs to reach his own place of comfort and peace with what is going on. It is as if God were saying, “Relax, Joseph, it is not another man; I am at work here.” Furthermore, Joseph is reminded that what is happening to Mary is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 that a virgin will give birth to a child.
Look for the conclusion of this chapter soon…