Realizing the fullness of a Christ-centered marriage
Chris and Elizabeth grew up in the evangelical church world. By God’s grace they both accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior as children. Passionate about Christ, they were active members of their church in Texas, serving as leaders in their singles group and leading Bible studies. They got engaged after a short dating period, and were married soon after. It is a lovely and fairly common backstory for many Christians in the United States. They did what many young engaged Christian couples do and went through premarital counselling, got married, and before long the Lord blessed them with children. As Christians striving to be faithful and wise, they were always proactive in regard to their Christian walk, but the Lord had plans to challenge them to an even deeper relationship with Him and with each other.
In 2019, having already been married for over 13 years, Chris still felt there were areas in their marriage he did not know how to address and felt he was unable to help the men in his church that were coming to him with struggles in their own marriages. Chris shared this with a pastor he knew, and he introduced him to Pastor Craig. Craig offered to disciple them and both Chris and his wife accepted the offer. In all his years of being in church, this was the first time Chris encountered what it meant to truly be discipled by someone. Unfortunately, this is the case for many Christians. While FDM’s focus on discipleship is not always the norm in churches, it is a vital part of the Christian life. Over the next few months, Chris and Elizabeth met with Pastor Craig who discipled them through the ‘Marriage is a Ministry’ discipleship books. Elizabeth describes how she was a little skeptical at first – after all they have been in church all their lives and married for more than a decade – can there really be anything new? Yet going through the workbook along with the clarity and encouragement she received, she understood the fuller meaning and purpose of marriage according to Scripture.
Understanding marriage as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church and striving to enact this relationship in your daily lives makes all the difference. Seeking God as a disciple, loving Him and understanding His love for you – this growth in intimacy with God naturally by the work of the Spirit spills over into the one-flesh relationship between husband and wife. Chris recounts how different this teaching is from what they have heard in marital seminars and conferences over the years. Often teaching about marriage focuses on certain aspects of it but never presents a holistic understanding of marriage as revealed in Scripture. Loving and respecting one another is of course a good thing, says Chris, but it’s not the whole picture and you are never going to do it if you rely on your own abilities.
This summer Chris and Elizabeth will celebrate 16 years of marriage. As a result of receiving this gift of being discipled in this important area, they speak of a real softening towards one another. They are now able to better discern between issues of spiritual matters and personal preferences, and know that the latter is not worth arguing over. It is now easier to seek forgiveness and to forgive.
Today Chris and Elizabeth act as a mentor for other couples, taking them through FDM’s workbooks. They describe this as a very humbling experience – to watch God knock down walls, soften hardened hearts, and heal and restore marriages. We praise God for Chris and Elizabeth, for their love for the Lord and their service to God’s people!