As one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways drew to a close, one husband slipped me a letter. It summed up so clearly the despair many couples feel as they become isolated from each other over years of marriage:
We have both been born again Christians for many years. But despite an unbelievable amount of knowledge about marriage, we arrived at the conference with lots of scar tissue from emotional and spiritual warfare. The Lord has blessed both of us as individuals, but we have never grown as a couple spiritually. We have read books about marriage, attended other types of marriage conferences, and had numerous Christian marriage counselors without any lasting or meaningful progress.
At the getaway, however, this husband made a profound discovery: God has a plan that offers hope in marriage. He found the hope that comes when husband and wife commit to build their marriage off the same set of divine blueprints. No matter how far a couple has traveled down the road to isolation, they can still start on a road that leads to a "Oneness Marriage." As he said at the end of the letter, "We are leaving with the hope of Christ renewed in our relationship."
A Oneness Marriage is a husband and wife who are crafting intimacy, trust, and understanding with one another. It's a couple who is chiseling out a common direction, common purpose, and common plan for their lives. A Oneness Marriage demands a lifetime process of relying on God and forging an enduring relationship according to His design. It's more than a mere mingling of two humans—it's a tender merger of body, soul, and spirit.
There are three foundational components of a Oneness Marriage. King Solomon spoke of the mortar that holds a marriage together in Proverbs 24:3-4: "By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches."
A Oneness Marriage needs wisdom. Wisdom is skill in everyday living. It means that we respond to circumstances according to God's design. A wise home builder recognizes God as the architect and builder of marriages. As we ask God for wisdom and search the Scriptures, He supplies the skill to build our homes.
King David warns, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Psalm 127:1). For many, the architect and builder of their marriage is "self"—it's no wonder so many marriages fail.
A Oneness Marriage needs understanding. Understanding means responding to life's circumstances with insight—a perspective that looks at life through God's eyes. Understanding your mate from God's perspective results in acceptance of your differences and beginning to learn how God uses your mate to complement you. Understanding produces compassion for your partner. It will give you insight to lead wisely or to follow prudently.
A handsome couple in their 30s recently shared with me how they finally understood how their differences complemented one another. The husband explained, "My wife is a prosecuting attorney. I felt like she prosecuted from 8 to 5 and persecuted me from 5 to 8.
"In the year and half we have been married, I have found out she is a strong woman. I had hoped I could pressure her to change—if I persevered, I might be able to beat her down. But I have finally understood that I don't have to compete with her. I can let her be who she is, and not feel insecure about who I am."
A Oneness Marriage needs knowledge. Today we are an informational culture. We worship information. But information without application is an empty deity.
The point here is that Solomon is talking about "a knowledge that fills homes with precious and pleasant riches." It's more than mere information—it's a knowledge that results in convictions and application. It's a true teachable spirit that applies God's blueprints amidst the raw reality of life.
In order to apply what we've learned to our marriage, many of us need accountability. We need someone who will break through the fences we build and our crowded loneliness and ask us if we are applying what we're learning in our marriages.
At our Weekend to Remember getaways we encourage people to use both their spouses and their friends for that accountability. Many people have found that going through FamilyLife's The Art of Marriage® Connect Series with a small group can help them apply biblical truth to their lives. It is here in these small groups where they find the accountability they need.
One woman wrote to tell us of how a small group had been instrumental in rebuilding a relationship she thought was "forever torn apart." She and her husband were divorced after nearly 30 years of marriage. "Our life together had become practically non-existent," she wrote. "We no longer communicated unless it was to growl at one another. I hardened my heart toward him and he closed his mind toward me."
Trying to escape all the pain and memories, the woman moved to a new city. She also began attending a church where she gave her heart to Christ. Then she participated in a study, and "For the first time in 30 years I was able to understand what was missing from our marriage. We did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."
Through the study, the woman read the Bible and understood it in a way she had never experienced before. After she wrote to her husband to tell him what she was learning, he immediately called her and they talked for the first time about what God wanted to do in their marriage.
The next week he flew out and attended one of the sessions with her. They read the Bible together and answered as many questions in the study material as they could. That weekend they put their lives in the hands of Jesus Christ, and when he asked her to remarry him, she said, "Yes!"
Isolation can be defeated. Its disease can be cured if you are willing to make the right choices and then put the necessary effort into building oneness and lifelong intimacy with each other. As writer Brian Moorehead put it, "Love isn't an act, it is a whole life. It's staying with her now because she needs you. It's knowing you and she will still care about each other when sex and daydreams, fights and futures are all on the shelf and done with... It's when you're 75 and she's 71, each of you listening for the other's footsteps in the next room, each afraid that sudden silence, a sudden cry could mean a lifetime's talk is over."
A Oneness Marriage knows this kind of love—the kind that lasts until death bids you to part.
Adapted by permission from Staying Close, © 1989 by Dennis Rainey, Word Publishing.