The third and final installment of Practice 2: Have Intimate Conversations from the new Elevate Your Marriage book.
Bilingual God: You are Speaking My Language
I have found their story (Joseph and Mary) to be a great point of reflection for my marriage. Not only did God satisfy their individual concerns, He also reached them in the way they needed to be reached. Mary was awake when Gabriel spoke to her, so she was able to dialogue, ask her questions, and have each of them answered. The message to Mary also needed to be personal and full of specific detail about what was going on in her body. On the other hand, Joseph was asleep when the angel came to him. The message to Joseph was more about direction: this is what to do, and why. So God told him what he needed to know, but there was no real dialogue or chance for him to respond. He received the information that he needed, but not all the details.
I can see the smiles on faces and hear the comments forming from husbands and wives as you reflect on how much it sounds like relationships today. Men, typically, just want the big picture. And generally speaking, women tend to want more details. I don’t know that the way that God spoke to Joseph and Mary should become a template for all relationships. But what is important to grasp is that God told each of them what they needed to hear, understanding both where they were emotionally and how they needed to receive the message. So, while men may be from one planet and women from another, God is a bi-lingual God who speaks the language of both husbands and wives. When we allow Him to, He cuts through the emotional wiring of men and women and connects us around our conversations with Him and then, He moves the relationship forward. For, after Mary reached a place of peace about the “what and how” of what was happening to her, and Joseph understood what was going on with Mary and what he was to do, they were able to move forward together. Their separate conversations with God are what connected them and spoke peace to them.
- Matthew 1:24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife.
- Luke 1:38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
This is an insightful and powerful illustration of how God can meet husbands and wives where they are and speak wisdom to them. We take the truth, not the specific scenario, of the story and look to weave that same intimate strength into our marriage. It is pretty safe to say that what Joseph and Mary faced will never, ever arise in your marriage. We don’t anticipate too many more pregnant virgins. But don’t worry: your marriage will have its share of unprecedented situations with even a few routine illnesses, financial challenges, and arguments mixed in, too. From the extra-ordinary to the ordinary, there will be plenty of opportunities to exercise your prayer menu and connect your marriage to God daily.
Where Prayer Becomes Intimacy
The challenges that life brings to our marriage form the environment in which prayer becomes intimacy,for everywhere that we have differences of thought, feeling, or opinion, there is an opportunity for God to remove what is between us and bring us close. But we are not going to catch up with God’s wisdom without first connecting to God through prayer. Joseph and Mary could not have reasoned or thought through what was going on. They had legitimate questions to which there was no earthly or logical answer. God had to tell them, and once He did, they could connect to each other around God provided truth and move forward together.
At times, I have heard from God as clearly as hearing a person’s voice. But that doesn’t happen every day, maybe only a handful of times in my spiritual walk. More often, I pray, and as I move through my day, something that I read in the Bible, or what I have been pondering and asking about in prayer, becomes clear. It happened recently while trying to select a good school for my son.
My wife and I had about four different schools to choose from. We divided up the school visits based on our schedules and then began to discuss what we’d learned. All the time, I was praying that God would make it plain, and He did. Of the long list of pros and cons with each school, God closed all the doors until there was only one choice left. Some of the schools were hard to get to because of traffic; others just didn’t feel completely right to us. One by one, the wide list of choices was being narrowed down. In the end it came down to two good choices, but only one of them made a space available for our son. That one available spot was our number-one choice all along! I am confident that it is the right decision, not because we liked that one, but because as we were talking and reasoning with each other, we were having a conversation with God. Eventually, through prayer God made the decision clear for us. An earlier version of my marriage would have argued over positions, especially when it came down to just two schools. My wife preferred one and I was kind-of liking the other a little more at one point. However, we were able to connect with God’s wisdom, get on the same side, and celebrate the ultimate outcome, as God satisfied both of our concerns.
Whether we talk to and hear from God individually first, as Joseph and Mary did, or whether we utilize a variety of ways to communicate with God, we can get intimately close through having consistent, great conversations with God. The specific prayer requests vary from relationship to relationship and from day to day. A praying couple connects with the wisdom of God and that opens up an intimacy unavailable elsewhere. I want to encourage your marriage to add one of the “Prayer Menu” items mentioned earlier to your marriage. That systematic contact with God will increase the emotional intimacy in your marriage. Your prayers will become a ramp that elevates your marriage.
Elevate Your Marriage (Couples’ Discussion)
- Why do you think that so many Christian couples don’t regularly pray together?
- How do you typically pray or communicate with God?
- In what ways do you think a stronger or more consistent prayer life would generate more intimate connections in our marriage?
- Talk about Joseph and Mary’s experience: how do we talk to and hear from God differently? How can we appreciate the ways in which we talk to God differently or deeper?
Growing in Intimacy (Action Steps)
- Choose one of the items from the “Prayer Menu” to begin to practice in your marriage. Begin to build your own Prayer Menu.
- Pull out your calendars. Now that you have options for how to talk intimately to God, what date and time is good for the two of you to practice speaking to God? Write the date and time on your calendar, and make it as important as any other meeting or event on your calendar. Safeguard that time; it is your time with your spouse and God.
- For the next week, read the Book of Proverbs in accordance with the day of the month. For example, if today is the 23rd, then read the 23rd chapter of Proverbs, then the 24th tomorrow, and so on for the next week. Once you agree on what you will be reading, you can read it individually. When you get to the end of the week, set up a time to meet for about 15 minutes and talk about what you read. Don’t have a Bible Study. Rather, allow your reading to start a conversation. Just share what your reading made you think about.