marriage: contracts + covenants

There is so much out there about Christian marriages, I feel kind of disinterested in writing about it. I’m very thankful for five smooth years of marriage. At 20, I was practically a child bride and I know that young marriages don’t always work (heck, most marriages don’t), so I’m incredibly thankful for a healthy relationship. It’s something I often take for granted, and I know I shouldn’t.

Jonny and I were recently talking about covenant relationships vs. contract relationships. Contracts are the way the world operates: You do this and I do this and if you do this, then I do this and sign on the dotted line. Covenant relationships have a mutual understanding and commitment that says we’re in this together.

It’s popular in some Christian circles to almost get high off saying “marriage is hard” and “you have to work at it” and even “you probably won’t like each other.” We’ve had the privilege of seeing friends date and get engaged and get married, and if they hear this, this is the part of their pre-marital counseling that always terrifies them. It kind of drives Jonny and I nuts when Christian leaders seem to obsess about the “hardness” of marriage. My generation has seen their parents’ relationships erupt in divorce, or, at best, have witnessed their parents suffer in marriages that almost seem healthier ending in divorce. So we know relationships are scary and messy. We don’t have to be told it a billion times. We get it.

Okay, all of that to say that I felt compelled to write about marriage today. Because in my annoyance of over-talking about it, sometimes I’m blissfully ignorant to the hurting relationships around me. And lately, I’ve been seeing and hearing all over about marriages that seem shiny on the outside, but on the inside its rusting over.

It brings me down a notch. Maybe there’s all those marriage books and blogs and Facebook pages out there because a lot of people are wading through really rough waters.

And I think it’s terrible that people in a hurting relationship would just be told to slap a Jesus bandaid on it. Or maybe worse, not told anything because no one will acknowledge the secret ache caused by affairs, breakdown in communication, disfunction, addiction, abuse, etc. Jonny’s a pastor, and I’m not even talking about the relationships in our church family. We’ve seen all of this happen in our families.

I’m not a marriage expert, or a counselor, or anything close. And I don’t have the answers. But I do know that there’s hope for the hurting. We’ve had close friends go through tough stuff in their marriages, and only found out about it after the fact. And I feel terrible that I had no idea. So, if you are going through something right now, don’t hold it all inside. Talk to someone who loves you + can be a listening ear you can trust. If you need someone, I’m available for a cup of coffee or a long e-mail or a big hug. And if you’re having a really good season in your marriage, don’t be ignorant to those around you. Be present in others’ lives. Ask for eyes to see.

Something amazing about the Kingdom of God is that we’re in this together. We have covenant relationships with God and we can have covenant relationships with each other. We enter into one another’s pain. We can lift off some of those burdens and put them on our own shoulders to help carry the load. And the flip side? We can rejoice in each other’s joy. We can embrace and celebrate and dance in our victories just as we embrace and mourn together in our losses.

If you’re looking for a good series on marriage, my lovely friend Natalie is writing her 31-day challenge on young marriage, and it has been really good. Check out This Sweet Love: Little Tips + Big Ideas for New Relationships and Young Marriage.

Oh, and did you watch the video at the beginning of this post? Scroll back + watch it.

31 days of living the kingdom at home

Read more in this series.

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3 thoughts on “marriage: contracts + covenants

  1. Thanks for sharing that video, Kayla. I appreciate you reaching out to those hurting in their marriages, even if it isn’t part of your story. Because it is part of most of ours. I have a theory on the “marriage is hard” scare tactics used in relaying tools for building strong marriages. It is true. It is hard. For some of us that find selflessness, unconditional love, and serving difficult, marriage is torture. Or maybe it was never displayed, taught, or shown in love and truth. I get it. I believe what could be communicated more clearly is, if you enter marriage with any thought other than self-sacrifice, trust in Jesus, and never quitting, then you won’t make it. I pray their never be someone teaching that auto-pilot will get you to year 10, or that you don’t belong together if you have to fight for your marriage. Nick and I aren’t too far past you and Johnny, but if you asked us at year 5 how our marriage was it would have sounded completely different than if you had asked us at year 11. Because anything left on neutral will move backwards. Now, celebrating year 13 of our marriage, we can say that it is better than it has ever been. But there was a lot of healing, un-doing, and re-connecting that had to take place.
    I am blessed by your exhortation for us to get into the lives of those around us. Show we care by asking some questions. And may we all be brave enough to give a real answer.

    Grace and Peace,

    1. Wow, thanks for the thoughts, Typhanie. That’s a good reminder how things can go on autopilot so easily, especially with kids in the mix. We definitely can fall into that without even noticing.

      I think you hit the nail on the head with this: “if you enter marriage with any thought other than self-sacrifice, trust in Jesus, and never quitting, then you won’t make it.”

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