I’m excited and honored to welcome back Pastor Bruce Goldsmith, of Laurel Hill Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Va., to guest post on the blog today as he continues to share valuable insight on creating a Godly marriage. Our hope is that this series will help couples in forming a beautiful and strong foundation for their marriage built on God’s love – you can read all the posts in this series here. And I’ll turn it over to Pastor Bruce now:
Recently, I had a counseling session with a couple who is due to marry this year. They are young, excited, and have been dating for some time. So, as most people who know them would assume, they seem well-suited for each other. But experience has taught me to ask specific questions to couples, just to see how well they do know each other, which helps determine their suitability.
So, at our first meeting, I started with my usual comments and then asked them my foundational question: Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? Or better, do you have a saving relationship with Him? In this case, both people answered that they did have a saving relationship with Jesus. Just so you know, that means, that both agree the Bible is clear, that we all are sinners (violators of God’s Holiness) and deserve to spend eternity in hell. (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12) But, because of God’s wonderful mercy, He has saved them from His Holy wrath, by sending His Son, Jesus, to die in their place (and for all sinners) so their sins would be atoned for or paid. (John 3:16). By doing so, God has justly satisfied His righteous requirements against all who sin, and at the same time, made a way for all who put their trust in Christ and what He did on the cross, to be forgiven and cleared of their debt to God. Giving them, and all who trust Him by faith, an eternal home in heaven. (John 10:27-30) By the way, that is not just for couples looking to marry. Salvation is a gift from God to all who turn their lives over to Him. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
After that, I moved on to the next question, “How well do you know each other?” I asked. To which they both said, “We think we know each other pretty well.”. Because I understand how long it takes for couples to know each other (hint: a lifetime) I continued my inquisition. So, having some fun, we began to delve more specifically into their “knowing” each other.
As I have mentioned in other blogs, I like the work of Dr. Bill Harley and some of the counseling techniques he uses. One of the questionnaires he uses is called the “Emotional Needs Questionnaire.” In that questionnaire, Dr. Harley asks several questions designed to get a couple to think about their innermost emotional needs. For example, each couple is asked to rate their need for affection on a line graph. At the right of the graph is a high need for affection, at the low end is a low need for affection and then there is a middle, neither high nor low.
Usually, one person will have a high need for affection while the other will be lower. In this case, the couple was just that way. The young man vaguely identified his high need for affection. The young lady just smiled at him because she had no clue what he needed specifically regarding affection. I must stop here and be clear that Dr. Harley is not talking about sexual affection or the affection associated with sexual encounters necessarily, but other examples of affection such as the need for touch or hugs or time together or hand holding or simply sitting close together while watching a television program, etc.
When I asked the young lady the same question about her need for affection, she said, “I don’t have a real need for affection. I’m somewhere in the middle.” Again, because I have been counseling people for a lot of years, I knew this would make for interesting conversation. So, I asked the young man for specifics about what affection was to him. He quickly shot out, “I like hugs, kisses and words of encouragement,” which is closely related to a different question on Dr. Harley’s questionnaire. I knew we needed more clarity, because often, marriages go south, so to speak, because of a lack of clarity of what one person is saying and or meaning. So, I asked the young man to help his new wife-to-be, by telling her what his expectations were, on a daily basis, for his level of affection to be achieved or satisfied. Without hesitation he responded, “I expect to have five kisses a day, five hugs a day, and five verbal affirmations a day.” As he answered, my eye caught the look of the young woman, who seemed to be somewhere between a state of confusion and wondering how she was going to be able to meet those obligations. Her reply to him clarified what she was thinking. It was the guttural sound of something like, “Oooooookay! I, um, I can, I can do that.” – which sounded more like a “hope so” instead of a definite possibility. But then she looked at me and said, “Well not right now, because I’m busy with a lot of things, but after we are married, I will be able to do that.”
Please understand that I am not making fun or trying to cause problems for any couple when I ask questions like this. I really have their best interest at heart and very much want them to succeed in their marriages. So, once again, I pushed for clarity. I asked the young man, can you let your new bride-to-be know when, during the day, that you would like these various forms of affection to happen? He then said, “Once when we get up, then in the middle of the day and when we get home and when we go to bed,” and honestly, I sort of tuned out because I realized this was going to be a problem. In fact, the young lady said, I will certainly try my best to meet those expectations, but then came the obvious follow up question from the young lady. “What if I’m not able to keep up with those things every day?” To which he responded that he would be upset.
To be fair, the conversation was a good one, and we did have fun with it. But it does prove the point that often we have certain expectations that we want for our marriages, but we also need to realize that if those expectations are going to come to fruition, we need to be realistic and clear.
I’m so glad this couple and I had this conversation now. Can you imagine how difficult just that or those needs would be to fulfill, if the young lady didn’t know these things about her fiancé? There is a long way to go with this couple, but we are off to a good start. I think they will be fine together, because they truly love each other. But it is going to take some work, making sure they are hearing each other and being clear about their expectations.
The last thing I talked to them about was the need to be gracious with each other. These expectations will often go unmet, simply because the young woman will not be perfect, and her day and his day will be busy with life. So, I expressed to them the need for grace. Grace is a beautiful word that describes God. There is an anacronym that comes from the word grace.
G – God’s, R-Riches, A-At, C-Christ’s, E-Expense.
God is not only Righteous and Holy, but also gracious and forgiving. You might ask, “How can He be both at the same time”? In other words, to be Righteous is one thing, but to be gracious is another. Can both be accomplished at the same time? Well yes. God is never is out of balance. He is perfectly righteous and perfectly gracious, and one never violates the other. He is Righteous because He upholds His requirements for the penalty of sin to be paid, but at the same time, He has made a way for us to be forgiven of those debts we owe him. And the way we are forgiven is by accepting the truth that Jesus came to pay the debts we owe. That’s right! He knew we could never pay for our sins on our own. We don’t have that ability. So, He came to the earth and paid the debt for us, as I explained earlier. That way, His debt requirement is satisfied, giving Him freedom to show great grace and mercy to us. And in turn, we are forgiven of our debt to Him and receive an eternal reward of being in heaven forever. That’s the riches He provides through His Son’s expense.
And to be clear, if any person is going to enjoy heaven, they must, must give control of their life to Jesus. There must be a heart change, not an emotional or intellectual change. Our hearts must change by trusting in Jesus for what He has done and for who He is, Lord of all. When a person does that, they become children of God and/or followers of Christ.
What does grace mean in a marriage relationship? Our spouses or future spouses will never be able to meet all our requirements we set for them. So, we must be gracious to them and look to God to meet the needs we have. For the couple in our illustration, that means they don’t need to put so much pressure on each other for their needs or lack of needs for affection but look to Jesus to satisfy inwardly those needs. Not that He physically touches us like a person would, but that He gives us each other to enjoy and to help meet the needs we have.
In the end, God is the only one who can satisfy our needs. That’s too much pressure for anyone. I would encourage you to look to Jesus to be the One who satisfies your innermost needs, and give your spouse-to-be, grace, by showing them the kind of love you feel from Jesus. And if you have never placed your trust and hope in what Jesus did for you on the cross, do so today. Your marriage will be blessed, and it will be awesome!
Photography and styling by Sarah Darcy.