Excerpt for Unbox the Marriage by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Unbox the Marriage

by James D. Jones Jr.

Copyright © 2018, James D. Jones Jr.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the express, written consent of the author for any purpose, other than the inclusion of brief quotations in review.

Unless otherwise noted all scriptural references are

from the New King James Version of the bible.

Smashwords Edition

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Chapter One

This Thing Called Marriage

Who is this book for? Everyone. For the couple embarking on the journey of journeys called marriage, this is a map of the ground ahead and some simple rules for navigating what could be treacherous waters if they sail obliviously into them. For the couple whose marriage is already underway and seemingly working well, this is an opportunity to understand why what they are doing is working and maybe discover new areas of exploration and adventure to add that extra spark to their life. For the two who seem to be having difficulty bringing their separate lives into the transition that allows them to become one in marriage, it is a life line thrown to them by those who have sailed the rough waters and discovered the way to make the dream come true. Whether just starting out, seeking a tune up or needing extensive repairs, everyone benefits from going back to the roots of what makes something work.

Marriage is the union, or coming together, of two people for the purpose of sharing their individual strengths and creating one stronger, inseparable couple. Marriage is a design of God and thus, in many ways, inconceivable to the human mind. It is more than just two people sharing a life together. Roommates can do that. Two guys can do that. Or two women for that matter. But when a man and a women come together to share their lives on a level that allows them to intermingle their lives so completely as to obliterate the individuals they once were and become identifiable as “them”, something must take place on a level of consciousness and in a spiritual fashion outside of the realm of ordinary life. It is not an ordinary thing for a man or a woman to give up who they are to become one. It is an extraordinary thing. Two people becoming one.

Marriage is a complicated endeavor even for the best of us. Two people, coming together to share one life, carrying all the elements of their separate lives and wanting to build something that is both simple and yet diverse enough to make both happy. Something that is so inconceivably complicated that it has to be accepted instead of being understood many times. To the human mind it is an impossible process. How can two separate individuals learn to become one living and thriving couple? How can they move from positions of autonomy into mutually beneficial oneness? Our minds have trouble grasping these marriage descriptions. Is it any wonder, when we try to make it a reality in our lives, that we have trouble pulling it off?


Shouldn't it be easy? Others do it and have done it for years. Why can't we just say we are going to do it and then make it happen? No one said you can not do it. This book is not about some process or steps a couple can take to make a happy marriage a reality in their lives. Instead it is a true resource in a world of many false resources to help couples achieve whatever they have planned to achieve.

When I got married I believed that love was all I needed. The rest would work itself out. Like so many things in our lives I believed that if I wanted it bad enough I could work at it and keep trying things until I got it right. And, if we are very focused, that does work. Like climbing a high sand dune, if you keep trying you may slip backwards a few times but you can eventually get to the top. The problem is that we all have enough stress in our lives already and moving through a stressful transition such as becoming one in marriage does not have to be a back breaker or as in many cases, a deal breaker. There are little things we can do that make the job of growing closer and learning about each other easier. Or we can fight to carve out new ground and suffer the effects of our efforts.

We do not have to reinvent the wheel. God has already built it. He has already given it to us in a package that makes it easy to incorporate into our lives. Marriage is not new. It belongs to God. Marriage without God is an infringement of the designer's authority over His design. We would never tell the inventor of something he or she is not allowed to profit from their invention because that thought would be inherently wrong to us. It would also inhibit us from asking the inventor about how they envisioned the invention working. In many ways we have done this with marriage. God invented marriage. He designed it for a particular reason. When we ignore the designer we also ignore the reason.

In Genesis 2:18, God announces His intention. And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” It is God's desire that a man should not be alone. Why? Because a man is not complete without his wife. Adam saw the other animals and saw that they all had mates. Males and females of each species came together to reproduce and live in the harmonies of their kind. Adam thought it was strange that there was no mate for him. God saw this. And God did something wonderful about it.

It is important to note that God created all other creatures of the dust of the earth to be whatever species they were. But man he created in His own image, meaning with God's own heart for living. God is spirit, so we are not created in His spirit image. We have physical bodies. But God has a heart and we have been given His heart to live life to its fullest.

But woman was not created of the dust of the earth. She was taken from the rib, the protective covering of the physical heart of the man. You can not take something out of something without lessening the original. God had made Adam perfect, complete. In order to give Adam a mate, God had to take some of what made Adam complete from him and fashion it into the new thing that would now make Adam complete. A woman.

In verse 23 of Genesis , chapter 2, Adam says This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”

Adam recognized what God had done. The woman was taken out of Adam. She was not another creation, but somehow a part of him was taken out and she was that part that used to make him complete.

When God caused a deep sleep to fall over him and he removed the rib of which Eve was formed, Adam became less than perfect. At that moment in history man became incomplete without woman. And life has been a process of two becoming one ever since.

Adam was a totally complete person when God formed him of the dust of the earth. He was perfect, nothing lacking. God did recognize that man needed a companion, though. Someone to share life with. Being complete is good, but sharing that completion with someone else is essential. Someone who understands always enhances any experience.

Only God can exist in perfect completion. Man can not deal with the loneliness. The physical part of man cries out for a physical relationship to mirror the spiritual one we have with God. Because we were designed to love God we share that ability to love with others. Without others around, our physical man struggles to hold on to the spiritual part and the emotional part withers.

Unlike the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, man does not exist as multiple beings in one. Only God can do that. But in the marriage relationship God lets us peek into the mystery of the Godhead. A man and a woman existing as one. A small part of the power of the Godhead unleashed in the marriage picture.

This is the most fantastic concept in all of life. One man, Adam, being complete and then being made incomplete and then being made complete again. How? Marriage.

If Adam had remained single he would have remained incomplete. Eve would have remained an incomplete part of the image of God that was once complete in Adam. But together they become the complete image of God once more.

Of this process God says in Genesis 1:27 He, created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

In God's image. In completion. But not in ability to be multiple persons in one. Then He created the one in two when He pulled Eve from Adam. He did not recreate them. He merely finished the creation. A multiple being in one. Male and female.

Two males can not complete the package. Two females can not create the package. They can love as deeply as any other but despite every effort, they will never perfectly complete each other. When a man and a woman come together to create the marriage union, then, and only then, is the image of God reflected. God created man complete in His own image. Then He broke that image up into two parts, male and female.

Marriage is the union of one man and one woman in a bond as old as creation itself. In that bond is the image of God. What the perfect marriage is trying to become is the image of God. No wonder so many people have a hard time organizing the perfect marriage. If they don't want to look like God, to be fashioned in His image, they are fighting the very purpose of the invention. And the inventor.

The problem of marriage is easy to identify. The image of what we are trying to become (two people as one) has to match the Creator's image. Too many people either have no image of what they are trying to become or they have a faulty image. If we can not see the target, how are we going to hit it?

Get the image right in the beginning or change the image to match the original purpose and the marriage becomes what it was intended to be. The completion of two people in the image of God.

What can be said to those who refuse to acknowledge God as the Creator and the inventor of marriage? Good luck. (and I don't believe in luck) I am not trying to be hard here or unsympathetic. The fact is simple. Try to put a swing set together in any manner other than what the designer intended and it will not look the same and probably won't function as well or as safely. And there are always parts left over that get tossed out. Parts the designer had a plan and a use for.

We do not need to become fanatics on a crusade to save the world in order to acknowledge God as the Creator of everything. What we need is to be logical. This world screams of intelligent design. God is the designer. The only reason to fight the assertion that God is the designer is that we want to have another reason to do whatever we want with our lives. Because, if God is real, and He really designed marriage, then all that other stuff He says about morals and ethics suddenly applies, too.

Marriage without God is like a man buying a chain saw to cut down trees and then using the heavy, cumbersome chain saw without ever starting it up. It's designed to make the job easier, even pleasurable, but if we don't use it according to the designed purpose, (starting it up) then we sweat and toil to make our version somehow useful.

Instead of a picture of a noisy saw gliding easily through the trunk of a tree we get the fatalistic, frustrating picture of a man pushing and pulling a heavy piece of equipment back and forth (almost funny) until either the tree falls or he does. For some, this is an apt description of their marriage to date. For others, we know people whose marriages resemble this picture. A tree can be cut down with a chain saw that has not been started up. That is true. It can be done. But how satisfying is that experience? How jealous are we of those who start their chainsaws up and cut down entire forests, build a home and life, while we toil over one tree? (How many of us come to believe it must be the tree's fault, so we keep changing trees in hopes that somehow our way will work?)

God must be acknowledged in marriage or the picture we have of what we are creating and growing towards is wrong. Man was created in God's image. God created that image in two parts, man and woman. It is not complete until a man and a woman make it complete.

A good place to begin is with a personal look at the picture we have of marriage. Whether we are planning to get married in the near future or already married, we need to begin with wherever we are. What does marriage look like to us?

Sound simple? The question is. The answer is anything but.

In marriage there are six people involved right off the bat. That is before we involve in-laws and friends and other assorted relatives.

There is the guy he thinks he is. The guy she thinks he is. And the guy he really is.

There is the girl she thinks she is. The girl he thinks she is. And the girl she really is.

Those six people all have a different picture of marriage. Their pictures of that marriage must be forced into a common picture or nothing but bedlam will ensue. Yes, forced. Each part of us develops according to our experiences in life and how we react to those experiences. Life does not just happen to us. We are a part of it no matter how much we believe we were not in control of some parts. A person can hit me, but they can not make me hit them back or respond in any other way than what I choose. Forcing is another way of saying make a choice.

Why is choosing to force ourselves to come to terms with our separate views of marriage important? What are the dangers?

Every time an issue arises, he can choose to approach it from three different angles and so can she. This is the comfortable stance of most people who try to maintain a semblance of personal dignity in today's world. They hold onto these different platforms of their life from which to respond so that however they choose to respond has some historical base from which to operate in their lives. They hold onto a part of who they are as a defense against who the marriage is forcing them to become. Kind of holding a way out for every action they take. (Shamelessly noncommittal)

If there is only one mutually agreed upon picture of marriage allowed, though, then only one avenue will allow them to mutually seek the completion of that picture. We're not talking about some picture given to them by the church, their parents or some other authority. We're talking about a picture they create together for themselves, their life.

A mutually shared picture is important because the real issue is not the argument that may come from it but the separate feelings that may arise because of it. If he is allowed to go down one road while she goes down another every time they have an issue, then they are not really traveling on the same journey. They are roommates maybe, but not married. They may have a piece of paper, but they do not have the image of marriage. The image is a oneness that makes them complete in the image of God.

As long as they continue to operate on separate paths they will continue to be only half the image of God at best. Even if they are both devout Christians going to church every time the doors are open, they will still be lacking the very thing that makes them the complete image of God, a marriage reflecting the multidimensional personhood of God.

Marriage is not an institution or situation. Marriage is the ability to become one couple in the image of God. It is the term that names the process and the disposition of two people who have chosen – chosen – the be one person in the image of God. Anything – Anything – that hinders us from maintaining our relationship as two in one is a hindrance to the marriage.

Christians are well aware that their enemy, the devil, or Satan or the evil one is going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He has come to kill, steal and destroy. Sermons are preached about recognizing this fact throughout the year. Testimonies are given weekly about overcoming the designs the enemy has on our lives. Somehow, though, Christians fail to apply the enemy's attack designs to their own marriage defenses.

A husband and wife may recognize that the enemy is attacking them (as individuals) but they too often fail to see the attack as an attack against the oneness they share. This failure causes them to respond as individuals instead of as the image of God. There is a definite disparity in the amount of spiritual power they can access because of this oversight.

The enemy sees married people as one. He attacks them as a single entity. They need to experience it as a single entity attack and respond as a single entity. Attack his wife and you have attacked him. Compliment her and you have complimented him. Love him and you love her.

The enemy of God is also the enemy of marriage. Like his desire to tear down any ministry that is spreading the gospel of Christ, the enemy desires to tear down the marriage so that God's plan for sharing His completeness and multidimensional image is thwarted.

Why? Because the marriage union between a man and a woman completes the image of God on earth. The enemy does not want God's image to prosper on earth. The enemy hates everything about God. So, consequently, the image of God, and those who would try to complete it, are hated also. The devil hates marriage and, by extension, those who would embrace it.

Few people ever realize there is an active force working against their marriage. Because they try to do it all themselves (they see themselves as individuals still) they also take the blame for when it does not work. Or they blame the other one as an individual who caused the failure. They say, it wasn't meant to be or we gave it a shot or any of a hundred other sayings designed to alleviate some of the pain.

What would have changed about their approach if they had realized that a person they knew was actually doing things to make their marriage fail? Would they not have been motivated to try harder and to keep the intruder out of it? Of course they would.

A woman who realizes she has a competitor for her husband's attention makes adjustments to block the competitor and to increase her hold on her husband's attention. A man who realizes another man is moving in on his territory takes action and makes moves to stop the advances of the other man while increasing his own ability to capture and hold his wife's attention.

That is precisely what many marriages need today. A healthy dose of trying harder and getting the intruder out of it. Not fighting and screaming. Not drama. But real life action designed to save what we have built. Our marriage picture.

The intruder is an unseen enemy that whispers in our ear about the shortcomings of our intended partner in this venture of marriage. The intruder places stumbling blocks in the road trying to get us to quit.

What if we had a clear picture of that marriage and our partner's part in it? Then no whisper in the world could shake us and tear us apart. No stumbling block ever designed could make us give up. We would have a better destination in mind.

The only place where the whisper can get to us is in the areas where we are unsure of ours or our partner's commitment. The only way stumbling blocks can make us sit down and quit is if we do not believe the end result justifies the effort needed to get there. A marriage based on our separate ideas of happiness is not as binding as a oneness based on the image of God.

Couples need to try harder to make sure their picture of the marriage is as solid and complete as possible. Couples need to keep the places where the “whisperers” can get in closed.

Why? We argue about the things we hear whispered in our ear by the enemy. Even people who do not go to church hear the whispers from the enemy. Then they argue about what they hear. They use words like, “I think” and “I feel” but what they really are displaying during the argument is what they have heard “whispered” in their heads. And those arguments cause separation. That separation keeps two people from achieving the image of God. The enemy wins the battle.

The enemy does not care as much about churches as we give him credit for. He is worried about ministries that change the community. He is worried about married couples taking on the image of God. Any married couple.

Why? Because the church is the bride of Christ. If the marriage of a man and woman shows off the image of God (and the power) then the church that understands its place in the marriage with God will show off much more of the corporate power of the image of God. Entire communities could be taken back from the hand of a lying enemy if the church ever gets the idea of the full image of God contained in the marriage picture.

The enemy's job is simple. Stop the marriage. Change it so it doesn't represent God. Take God out of it. Anything, as long as the image of God (and the power He gives to His image) is not released.

In church or out of church. When the image of God is displayed the enemy must flee. He is resisted. He is not given a foothold, not given a place to set up shop. The darkness is replaced by the light.

The devil or Satan or the enemy can not abide being pushed aside. He wants to exalt his throne above God's throne. And he does this by tearing down what God has designed.

The marriage relationship is a battlefield. Where it is a comfort and a completion by God's design, it is also an affront to the enemy. A bold statement that he is being shut out. A declaration of war against the goals of the enemy. A challenge to become the image of God on earth.

In John 15:18 Jesus says, If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. This is a realization of the marriage theme. When a Christian comes to God and repents of their sins and accepts Jesus into their heart, meaning they turn from their sinful paths and seek the path that brings them into the image of God, then they become what the bible calls the bride of Christ. The church – the people, not the buildings – is the bride of Christ.

They enter into the same battle that the Lord faces. If the enemy is against God then he is also against those who would side with God. And taking on the image of God, as in the marriage relationship, is siding with God.

Marriage must be defined. A clear picture of marriage must be achieved. The marriage itself must be protected from the enemy who would seek to destroy it. God must be allowed into the marriage in order to get the picture right. Everyone must realize that the enemy is actively seeking to tear marriages apart.

Sound ominous? Sound challenging? Is it necessary? Is it real? Can we do this?

Philippians 4:13 says, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It is real or we would not need to know we can do it. It is ominous because we were created in the image of God. That is who we are. The enemy is trying to deny who we are for his own purposes. The challenge is to make the choice. The choice is to whether or not we are going to make marriage a priority.

We have this promise of assurance as we enter the field of battle. Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. The enemy knows this. He can not defeat us by a frontal attack. He must trick us into giving up. We must quit on the very thing that makes us greater than he is. We must give up the image of God and take up the image of something else for our lives. We must give up God's design for marriage and allow some other design to take its place.

Maybe you are a strong Christian. Maybe you are a new Christian. Maybe you are not a believer in God at all. The truth is that the reality is still the same. Marriage makes you a target for the enemy. You have something at stake. Your relationship with your spouse or intended spouse. The enemy wants to make that relationship so miserable that you both go your separate ways.

Divorce is the enemy's goal. Separation. No marriage. No image of God. The enemy wins.

If marriage is your plan then God's design is your plan. Just because you may not believe in the designer does not make the reality go away. Even if we leave parts out of our swing set as we put it together, it is still a swing set, no matter how it functions.

The enemy's hatred of the designer is your reality. To choose not to recognize the enemy is to face the attacks with fleshly weapons that have limited value. To understand the spiritual role of marriage is to empower God to work in our lives and guide us to a victory. The true victory is attaining the image of God in our marriage.

We were never designed to approach this marriage thing without God. God wants to be part of our lives. He wants to be with His bride. Us. As a married couple, the image of God as two in one, and married to God through the acceptance of being the bride of Christ, Christians can unleash a power on earth that can change things and improve life.

God says His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He is not putting us down. He loves us, so He is not putting us down. He is explaining that he has not left this thing called life up to us. He has made Himself an integral part of it and He wants to do His part. He wants us to join in the marriage relationship wholeheartedly and with purpose. His purpose. And He wants to be there every step of the way.

Chapter Two

The Picture of Marriage

The most important place to start is with a picture of what marriage is supposed to look like. There is no way anyone can tell another person what marriage looks like for them. Every person is different and those diversities make the actual picture of the bond of marriage as unique for each couple as the fingerprint is for each person. His strengths and weaknesses combined with her strengths and weaknesses will always – always – look different than their parent's marriages or anyone else they will ever meet. There are just too many variables to use a cookie cutter model as a viable approach.

Instead, we must understand the purpose of the marriage and seek to make our picture of that marriage look like that purpose. As with the individual personalities of him and her the picture each carries of what they see marriage as is different. Their first goal is to combine their separate pictures into a single vision of what they are embarking upon.

Whether they are just seeking pre-marriage counseling or been married for years, if they have never combined their personal views of marriage before, now is the time. There is no point going any further down this road of marriage if they are planning on traveling separate roads.

There may be many ways to get some place but, if they decide to go together, it is imperative that they also decide what path they will take. Including how they will handle obstacles.

Two people can hold hands and walk down a street together. But when they come to a lamp post they must decide which way to go around it. One can not go left while the other goes right and still hold hands. Neither can they stop and argue about it. Arguing implies no more forward motion. They've stopped traveling altogether.

There are many things to consider when combining individual pictures of marriage. An individual's background is important. Their family situation is important. If they come from divorced parents there is a broken marriage picture in their mind. Even if they come from a happy, two parent home they may have learned wrong ways to relate to their spouse. There may be fears assigned or assurances needed to move forward. There may be more questions in the beginning than there are answers. Either he or she may even be uncertain about what they think marriage should look like. There must be time to explore the ideas and the concerns of the two involved.

What is certain is that no one – no one – can decide what marriage looks like for someone else. They have to work it out for themselves, by themselves and with each other. Sure, they can seek advice and even watch how others are doing it. Nothing wrong with getting ideas from lots of places, especially successful marriages.

In the end, though, they must sit down with just themselves and decide what they want it to look like. It has to be their plan. If it is someone else's plan then they can walk away from it easily. If they built it, if they gave birth to it, then walking away is much harder.

The marriage picture should be comprised of their goals and how they picture the successes they are planning. Simple things like, how many children, where to live and work, where to go to church and other necessities of the marriage situation should be answered. More complicated things like, how he pictures her support of him and how she pictures his support of her should be addressed. That way they are both picturing and working toward the same thing. Common goals. Real marriage.

Any goal not pictured in a common or together way is subject to misinterpretation by either side. Whether they can work out the misinterpretation or not they begin thinking like separate sides again. To counter this there needs to be a process for how they deal with the things not thought about yet. That way, when a disagreement or an issue that they believe different things about rises up, they already have a plan of how to deal with it together.

All goals should be emphasizing what they are achieving together. Even if one of the goals is for one of them to achieve a degree in college it is never considered an individual accomplishment. He or she is doing it for some part of a plan that increases or promotes the rest of their marriage picture. That way when they look at it it is not he or she going to school while the other stays home. It is them working on the marriage picture that includes one of them earning that degree. She is just as much a part of his degree or vice versa.

It may sound Utopian to say and aim at such a picture but we must remember that the marriage relationship was created to cause us to shine with the perfect image of God. It is the things of our fleshly nature that taint the image of God in us. Not the plan itself. The Garden of Eden was Utopian. It was the sin of man that caused that Utopian setting to be taken away. The image of God is perfect, even if the setting within which we are trying to attain it is not.

There is only one goal in every marriage picture that should be the same. All other goals will have some similarities to those around us but because of our differences ours will look different. The one thing that should always be the same is that we are trying to achieve the image of God in our marriage. Having said that, it is also relevant to admit that each couple has to create their own picture of what God in their marriage looks like.

To a fifty year old woman, remarrying after her first husband has passed on, God may look like a stern, elderly gentleman sitting on a white throne and ordering the universe about. To a teenage boy God may look like the very picture of young love itself, always caring about his wife and showing it through an excess of polite interchanges and constant attention.

Now, without advocating such a union, or dismissing it, it is very easy to see how the older woman and the younger teen boy would have to discuss their differences before they got married, if they ever hoped to be going in the same direction. There is also no problem imagining all the other things that they would have to work out before such a union could stand. And most people would have no doubt that if they did not work out those issues before hand then down the road divorce would be in the cards.

The same is true of every marriage. There are no perfect matches. Only individuals desiring to become perfectly matched. Both participants need to hold the same picture. Maybe the differences in most marriages are not as extreme as the example of the older woman and the teenage boy, but they are still there. They still need to be worked on. They are still a danger to the cohesiveness of the picture if they are not worked out before hand.

What if a couple chooses not to believe in the God that designed marriage? Does that mean it can not work? Welcome to the real world. God did not design this world to function only for Christians. What he created worked regardless of a person's beliefs. Why? Because God believes in choice. If it only works for Christians, then it becomes a circumstance that forces people to accept God. That's not choice, that's coercion. God does not use coercion.

What must be considered is that the principles can not be violated no matter what. The couple must still prepare a picture of what marriage looks like and settle the issues over all the goals of their picture. They must still work at it like any Christian couple. The difference will be that Christian couples have an advocate against the enemy's attacks in their picture and the non-Christian does not.

Another consideration is that any couple who operates in the bond of marriage and works toward their common goals will be showing off the image of God no matter what they call it. As they work to bring their picture to life it will take on the image of God more and more. That is what marriage is designed to do, look like God.

If someone puts together a model airplane and follows the instructions in the box, then what they will have when they are done will be that airplane the designer created. If they choose to call it a sky flyer instead of an airplane it will still look the same. A rose by any other name will still smell just as sweet. It can not help it. The designer made it that way.

A third consideration is for those who deliberately seek to change the marriage image into something other than God. Not just changing the name, but actually trying to pervert its existence and form it into something other than the two halves of God's heart melded together in perfect union.

This could be a deliberate, violent and abusive marriage relationship where one partner dominates over the other and demands the other see the picture they create. Or it could be two people of the same sex coming together to prove God wrong. Whatever the situation, the same rules apply.

The marriage union is designed to be the coming together of two halves of God's heart in perfect union to show off His perfect image. It's like baking a chocolate cake. Change any of the ingredients and you do not get the cake to taste the same. Two people of the same sex do not have both halves of God's heart to put into the mix. A person perverting either half of God's heart to force their own way does not allow the other half to shine.

It's like putting bad ingredients or weak ingredients into the mix. Whatever is changed in the ingredients changes the flavor of the result. Maybe a chocolate cake was what was wanted, but if the right ingredients do not get added a chocolate cake is not the result. It may still be a cake but it is not the chocolate cake it was supposed to be. And if the wrong ingredients are changed it may not even be a cake when finished.

A bad marriage shows off what is wrong with the relationship. A good marriage shows off what is right with the relationship. God gets the glory for a good marriage because it shows off the image He placed in man and woman from the beginning. An image that can only be seen when they are doing it right.

A bad marriage does not reflect on God. It reflects on the way the two people in the marriage are picturing the marriage. It reflects on their mistakes. Like all of Christianity, when it is being done right, God is displayed. When it is being done wrong, the flesh of the individuals is displayed.

Mistakes can be corrected. Remember, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. A bad marriage can be fixed. And a good marriage can be ruined. Neither of them is a monument to stand forever. What they are is a picture of the dynamic lives of the people involved in them.

When those people are doing it right it is a good marriage. When they are doing it wrong it is a bad marriage. God is never to blame. He set up the process but He does not force or coerce our participation in it. Like the chocolate cake, we can choose to put all the best ingredients into it or we can choose to cut corners and do it our own way until it is no longer a chocolate cake or worse, it is something inedible.

Some may take exception to the fact God gets the glory if marriage turns out great but accepts no blame if it turns out badly. If we build a house according to a master set of blueprints and it turns our great, does not the designer and architect get credit for a great design? And if we cut corners or do it wrong do we expect the designer and architect to take the blame for our choices? God has given us the blueprints. What we build depends on us.

Where the picture comes from is as important as the picture itself. If God gives the picture it is pure and holy. If the picture comes from a source that denies God and wars against Him, chances are the picture is going to be considerably different from what was originally called marriage.

If God creates a chocolate cake using the best pure chocolate He knows of, so He can show off His chocolate, how can the enemy create a better chocolate cake? If he adds strawberries to it it is no longer a chocolate cake. It is a strawberry-chocolate cake. Still a cake but not a chocolate cake. If he leaves out the chocolate and uses vanilla, it is still a cake but not a chocolate cake. No matter what changes the enemy makes the cake is different, if it remains a cake at all.

Marriage is the same way. God decided what marriage was to be. He designed it. He determined what ingredients he wanted in this thing called marriage. He made it to be the union of two hearts, a man and a woman's heart, in the bonds of matrimony and for the purpose of showing off the completed image of God.

God made marriage with very specific ingredients. Change the ingredients and, like the chocolate cake, there is no longer a marriage. It may still be a union. It may still be two people living together. But it is not a marriage because a marriage, has as its purpose the goal of showing off the image of God. If what is put together does not show off the image of God then it is not a marriage. Call it whatever you want but it is not a marriage.

The picture must be right or the shot is going to miss the mark. Like a marksman told to shoot at a target beside a big red barn, if the barn is not in the picture then it is not the right target. The union may be two people but if the target is not to look like God and show off His image then marriage is not the goal. The picture is wrong.

Those who would try to tell people that marriage is anything people decide to call it are mistaken. People did not invent marriage. Therefore people can not reinvent it. When they do, it is a whole new thing. A true marriage is never abusive. No one abuses themselves. A true marriage does not try to combine two like sexes because they do not hold both sides of God's heart and can not, therefore, achieve the goal of showing off the completed image of God.

Those who would advocate such unions are well within their right to do so but equating them to what God invented is ludicrous. Man does not create holiness and purity. Only God does. What man does is tainted by his flesh, at best, and sinful at worst.

It must be determined where the picture a couple uses comes from. If it comes from God's design then it is correct. All other designs are imitations at best. Even if the couple does not believe in God they have a better chance at success if they are using the proper design.

A person may not know anything about building a radio. But if they go to an electronics store and buy a radio building kit they have a good chance of actually ending up with a radio when they are done. Why? Because they started with the right parts and put them together for the right purpose.

Two people may speak about their picture of marriage in the same terms. But it is quite possible, and almost a sure bet, that the picture their individual words conjures up for each of them is different. Anyone who has ever played the rumor game, where one person tells a story to another person, who tells it to another person, who tells it to another person and so on to the end of the line, knows that the story at the end of the line is different than the one told to begin with. Why? Because we picture the words we use differently based on our personal values, experiences and how we see things.

That is why a discussion of each others picture is necessary to get the real picture. It will not happen by accident. They must discuss what it looks like, not just say the words. It will not happen on its own during the course of the relationship. It has to be planned and worked at to make it a reality. To make it clear for both sides they have to come to an understanding of what their words mean.

He may say he wants a business venture of his to be successful for their marriage picture to be complete. She may even agree that she wants it to be successful, too and say she will support him in accomplishing that. The problem is her idea of success may be different than his.

He may believe success is a certain dollar amount in the bank or a particular level of operation. She, on the other hand, may believe that success is more about the time the two of them can spend together.

While he is reaching for that dollar amount he may ignore her pleas for time together thinking he is painting their picture for them. She may be arranging things to make the most of their time together and then growing resentful or bitter because he regularly ignores the things she thought they agreed to.

If they do not work it out ahead of time they are going to come to a place where the goal of the one differs from the goal of the other. An argument could erupt. A discussion will definitely be needed to clarify the difference of opinion. If the situation gets far enough out of hand they may have to bring in a third party to help them refocus and redefine their picture so both of them are headed toward the same thing. (Sometimes a cooler, outside voice can refocus those who want to be refocused.)

It is important to agree on what the real picture looks like. This applies to every area of their lives. Everything. What is red to one may be pink to the other. Clarification may be needed. Don't wait until it cause an argument. Clarify it as soon as it is noticed.

The picture a couple creates is important for many reasons. First, it gives them something to work towards. A common goal. They are going nowhere without it.

Second, it gives them a line of defense. That's right! A line of defense. When the couple create a picture they are both happy with and living in, they are showing off the image of God in that area of their life. Two hearts, joined as one, and living for a common good that invites the blessing of God upon them. Because of their agreement and common focus they are living ordered lives and exercising authority over their lives. God is present in both things.

The footsteps of a righteous man are ordered by God or arranged by God according to Psalm 37:23. It also says, God delights in his way, meaning that God expresses his joy in the path the good man has chosen. He actually does things in the life of the man who pleases Him by doing the right things. That translates as a couple who shows off the image of God within their marriage causes God to delight in them and to do things that make their lives even better somehow, to make their marriage show off more of Him somehow.

One of the intangibles of marriage is the thing God does to enhance and grow the marriage. How can two people grow closer together and learn more about each other, good and bad, and still love each other? What makes them draw nearer together rather than run from each other. This thing called love. What is it exactly?

It is not just emotion. It is stronger than a feeling. At times it makes more sense than anything else and at other times it makes absolutely no sense but it must be obeyed for some incomprehensible reason.

Love is not a rule because no one can isolate how it works. Why does a beautiful woman fall in love with an ugly man? Or vice versa. And is it really falling in love or is a conscious decision made somewhere? Is it an unconscious decision? How is an unconscious decision made? How does love grow? What does it feed on?

The bible tells us God is love. Love is the intangible in marriage and God is it. That is why God can not be taken out of the marriage. Without love the marriage is not necessary. Because of love the marriage is necessary. Without God the marriage is not necessary. Because of God the the marriage is necessary.

This is simple algebra. The unknown quantity is love. When the answer for love is provided, God, then we can plug the answer into all our relationship equations and achieve correct results.

God paints the love into a couple's picture. He provides the enhancement for their decision to come together. He makes it necessary. He makes it desirable. He makes it what seems at times unbearable to live without.

When she is hanging on every word out of his mouth it is because God has drawn a deep batch of love, Himself, into the situation and drizzled it all over the place. He is not that interesting. Her friends do not see what she sees in him. But God has given her eyes of love to see him through, which opens up a picture that includes both of them conquering the world.

The same goes for him. He's telling everyone he has married the most beautiful girl in the world. She's not the most beautiful girl in the world. She laughs with a squeaky voice and she has one ear that hangs lower than the other. But because God had filled him with Himself, love, he sees her as perfect. Her squeaky laugh draws him into her mystery and her one lower ear is a priceless treasure that only she can offer to him.

Together they live in a world of love that they chose and God helped them paint. They sat and worked out their picture of what marriage was supposed to look like. They got close enough for God to delight in their ways and throw in His two cents. Love flows and no one knows where it came from.

Some may claim to be in love even before marriage. Is this possible? Sure. Marriage does not start at some ceremony or licensing agency. Marriage starts at the time when two people start to imagine their lives together. They may be teenagers betrothed to each other and waiting until after college to start their life together. They may be a couple who met through a dating service two months ago and their discussions have been all about painting this picture of their life together from that day forward.

The circumstances do not determine the marriage. The marriage creates the circumstances. The couple draw the picture and God adds His flavoring to it. Why does He add His flavoring to it? Because the marriage is designed to show off His image. His enhancement of a couple's love not only makes the marriage better but it also draws the attention of others to question the couple about how they do it.

Love can touch a person at any time anywhere. That is why so many poems have been written about love. A major theme in our movies and books is love. It is the overriding focus of our lives.

People may try to ignore that true love comes from God. That does not change the fact that God is love. The one place where love can not be dismissed is in the marriage relationship.

The relationship exists because of love. It has no purpose except for it being an outlet for our love. It can not be explained but somehow the element of love in our marriage relationship makes it better, stronger, more satisfying. It just is.

That is the God factor. He is far above us in the area of making things wonderful. He created the Garden of Eden in all its purity and pleasure. This may sound crude but think about it. God created a perfect world where a man and a woman existed in nature without the need for any clothes. The perfect existence and no clothes.

How far could a marriage progress under those circumstances? Everything they needed was there for them. No labor. No toil. Nothing to argue about. Just natural abundance supplied by God. All they had to work on was their relationship, the joining of the two hearts of God in one picture of their lives. A place designed to allow the marriage to succeed.

One thing most people can not answer is why one marriage works and another one fails. Maybe they fell out of love. If God is love that means they stopped looking like God's image. That may be the best determination of a failed marriage yet. Yet the reasons they fell out of love – stopped looking like the image of God – may be as diverse and varied as the sands of the sea.

Chapter Three

This Marriage as His Life

Marriage for a man is different than marriage for a woman. Every woman who reads this is going to say something like, “NO KIDDING!” It sounds like a simple statement but it must be said. It must be realized. Two people are about to get married or else they are already married and the fact must be addressed. Guys do not have the same picture of marriage and life in general as women do. Let's look beyond the obviousness of the statement and see the impact of its reality.

While it may not be a revelation for many people, the fact that it needs to be said speaks volumes. Why? Because most people approach marriage as the coupling or union of two people.

It is not the union of two “people”. It is the union of a man and a woman, who both view life differently. What they want out of life is different. Whoever said opposites attract probably had marriage in mind. The strengths of the man combine with the strengths of the woman and produce a strong, unified marriage.

They do not get married because they have the same interests. There may be similar interests involved but the reasons they are attracted to each other are quite diverse from each other. They could both live in the same town their whole lives and work at the same place and like the same foods. But what will attract him to her are things that have nothing to do with the similarities of their lives. His heart is seeking out the heart of the one who makes him complete. (We will deal with hers in the next chapter.)

Guys see things differently. They process what they see differently. What they process comes out different than if a woman processes the same information. As a single man, his life is his own and it is the primary source of his satisfaction. It is not just about ego. Although, if allowed to develop without limits, a man's ego can become a stumbling block to his own development as well as future relationships. But it is specifically that ego that emanates from his heart and drives him to show off the heart of God.

A man with no ego is a rare and pitiful thing. Let's make sure we are talking about the same thing. A man's ego, when in control and operating properly, does not boast or make wild claims of fantastic proportions. But it does seek approval and challenges of self worth. The stronger the heart of the man, or more correctly, the more of his heart he allows others to see, the more apt we are to see his ego challenging others and seeking approval of his own manhood. God designed the man to love the idea of being a man. A man must embrace being a man or die a little bit inside every day.

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