Successful Marriage

For all those who live “Beyond the Honeymoon”

Some friends, some of them for 40 years and some of them for two, have been having difficulty in their marriages. I have been exercised in prayer for them and concerned for the health of their families. With a few, I have shared this short article that I wrote in 1991 when I was dissatisfied with my own marriage.

My wife never knew.

We had been married for six years. The previous year we had moved from California to Illinois to plant a new church in the Chicago Suburbs. It was going to be a “church-planting” church filled with a diverse group of Christ-followers that reflected the ethnic diversity of the community. Eventually, there would be people from 23 countries of birth represented in the congregation and it would help to plant seven other churches in its first nine years.

But in the summer of 1991, just before it had its first service, I was having a crisis. I was unhappy in my marriage. Fortunately, before the crisis reached a climax, God led me to His arms and to His word for guidance.

I ran to Him. I cried out to Him. And He, like He promised He would, guided me to His word. What I learned as I poured over His word in the wee hours of the morning eventually were worked out in the crucible of this thing called marriage and designed by the creator to shape us for His glory. Eventually, in the Fall of that year, I wrote this article.  

For a number of years, a friend of mine on the national speaking team of the “Weekends to Remember” has used it at the close of one of his messages. He has found it helpful in opening the eyes of couples to the joys of obedience to God. I hope it does the same for you. 

Difficult Truth

by Marty Schoenleber, Jr.

Two Years Before We Came to Illinois
Two Years Before We Moved to Illinois (My bride with Meredith and Marty III, Aubre came 3 years later.)

Loving our wives, particularly when it is most difficult, is the measure of our love for Christ. I hate writing those words. But the truth of them is irrefutable. Every man who has been married “beyond the honeymoon” has experienced the trauma and angst of his own inability to “love his wife as Christ loved the Church.” I have.

            I am married to a wonderful woman. She is wise, discerning, and sensitive. She is an excellent mother to our three children. She is a satisfying lover and a finely crafted helpmate for all of the gaps of my life. She sees the things that I don’t. She is attuned to the things that would drift by me unnoticed and unappreciated. She slows me down. She speeds me up. She is publicly proud of me (and there is no husband who does not value the beam cast by a proud wife’s smile). My wife is a unique and precious gift given to me, crafted and designed for me, by a Holy, wise and loving God who knew all of my needs and created her to help me become all that He wants me to be. She is the chief conduit of joy in my life.

            Some will read those words with envy.

            You are living with a woman who you deem is neither wise nor loving. The woman you are living with is seemingly bent on destroying every dream you ever had. You can’t remember the last time your love-making was satisfying. She seems more interested in Headline News and the Weather Channel than she is any kind of physical relationship with you and more and more frequently, you find yourself thinking that there must be a woman who will appreciate and respect and cherish you as an object of desire and pride. You’ve heard your priest or minister give sermons about “loving your wife” and how God wants to use your wife to complement and bring joy to your life. But, somehow, you missed out. You find yourself saddled with a woman who no longer communicates any passion or joy in your presence. Sometimes you cry. The pain and the loneliness of it all and the frustration over what to do, how to retrace the steps to an earlier time escape all your probings. She is the chief conduit of pain in your life.

            I know, — because I’m married to the same woman.

            That shocks some of you. The first paragraph and the second paragraph don’t fit. You wanted to meet the first woman; you’d do anything you can to avoid even one more interaction with the second. I assure you, I am not married to two different women. My beautiful and precious gift from God is sometimes (often?) a source of pain that borders on despair. There is no melodrama in those words. They are the sober, honest, unvarnished truth.

            I write them at close to one o’clock in the morning. I write them because I cannot sleep. I write them because I am frustrated at the growing gap between my wife and myself. I write them because of the frustration I feel at not knowing what to do. I write them in the hope that they will prove helpful to someone else in the future. I write them because I have learned that the wife of the first paragraph will return when I grow in the skill of loving my wife “as Christ loved the Church.”

            I write them because I am beginning to learn that active obedience on my part to the command to love my wife as Christ loved the Church creates in the woman I married, the ability to respond to me in the way that my heart longs to be responded to. I am learning that I am in the process, by the way that I love her, of creating the woman who brings either joy or frustration to my life. I am learning that if I don’t like the woman who my wife is becoming, I need not look any further than my own reflection in the mirror for the cause.

            My problem is not my wife. My problem is my disobedience. You see, I’m learning that loving my wife, particularly when it is most difficult, is the measure of my love for Christ. And it is the only hope we have for a fulfilling future in our families.

            It’s the measure of your love for Christ as well. A difficult truth indeed.

2016 P.S.
So glad for the whole of my life with this woman. I love her more today than the day I asked her to marry me. She is a treasure.

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