Being married, I pay pretty close attention to just about whatever I can find about marriage. Given that most of my friends are Christians and I myself am a Christian, much of what I read about marriage comes from a Christian perspective.
Honestly, I find this okay because really, most advice is pretty standard regardless of religious affiliation. One doesn’t have to be a Christian to know that honesty, trust, fidelity and love are important bedrocks to any successful marriage.
photo © 2007 firemedic58 | more info(via: Wylio)
But there’s one phrase that I have heard (or heard a variation of) in every piece of Christian marriage literature that I’ve read.
“Keep Christ at the center of your marriage.”
For years, I totally agreed with this and I would have said that it was true of my own marriage. We attended church together. We prayed together. We discussed spiritual things together. We played music in church together. Most decisions that we made were based on what we felt God was telling us to do.
Obviously that changed when Jason told me that he no longer shared my belief in God.
But lately I’ve been wondering if it was really God at the center of our marriage or religious ritual. And quite frankly, I wonder if God can be at the center of any Christian marriage or if it’s always the ritual.
To be clear, I think a shared belief is a very good thing. Not sharing a belief system has it’s difficulties and going into a marriage without it or it occurring later (regardless if one moves toward or away from God) can have moments of disappointment (sometimes profound disappointment) for both spouses. Common interests and goals are incredibly important to a successful marriage, and shared faith is something that is a beautiful bond.
I also want to be clear that I believe as Christians we should keep Christ at the center of our own lives. I find comfort and joy in my faith and my relationship with God is one that is dear to me.
I wonder if perhaps we need to be as wary of the advice to keep Christ at the center of our marriage as we are of cautioning parents against placing their children at the center of their marriage. I’ve seen marriages center around children and their activities and then when they’re gone, the couple finds that they’ve invested more in those rituals than in building a variety of common interests.
I never thought that faith was something that would change for us, but it did. And our marriage is not even a little bit unique in that. Advice like this can be hugely guilt-inducing on both members of the marriage if that happens. When we’re tasked with keeping Christ at the center, we become responsible not only for the working out of our own relationship with Christ, but also that of our spouse. And when you’ve already lost a common interest, that is a guilt one can live without.
I would much rather see a shift toward encouraging people to keep Christ at the center of their lives and keep things like love, respect, humor and trust at the center of their marriage. A focus on these things can help sustain a marriage even if there is the loss of another key commonality.
What do you think it means to have a Christ-centered marriage? When it comes to relationships, what ways can we know that it’s Christ-centered aside from rituals? And if you have no opinion on any of that, what do you like in the center of your donuts?