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About this series
Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage
Would you like a fresh breeze to blow in your marriage? Do you long for a marriage where intimacy and communication are a reality instead of a dream? Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage is a topical series by Chip Ingram that examines God's design for marriage, with practical instruction to help you make your marriage what God desires it to be.More from this series
Loving says I’m committed to you. Communication says I want to know you. I want to know all about you. I want to be a student of you. I want to learn your likes and dislikes. I want to be close to you so I need to know who you are.
And when you know them then that little phrase you learn is, I trust you. That’s what you communicate when you communicate.
You know? When you say, I really want to get to know you. If that choice says, I love you, this says I trust you. I trust you. Well, why do you say that?
Because I’m going to progressively take the zipper of my heart, of who I really am, and I’m going to keep lowering it. And I’m going to take my heart, with vulnerable stuff, that if you wanted to, man, you could hurt me very badly. You do understand, the people that can love you the most can wound you the most deeply.
And so it takes trust and so what you do is, little by little, you kind of put your heart out on that platter. These are my fears. These are my dreams. These are my struggles.
And how you handle those will tell me how I’m going to respond to you next time.
And of course, the how there is, we went over it, a weekly conference. I suggest I did them two a week. And we just said like, Thursday night and Friday night and the way we did it. Don’t make this, like, such a big deal.
But often, I had four kids so it’s not, and I pastored a church that ended up growing to a very large size. So there were lots of pulls.
But we ate dinner at a certain time, we structured it in. And after dinner, our kids knew we’re going to make a pot of coffee, and you know what, kids? You got homework, go do whatever you want.
Sometimes it was fifteen minutes, sometimes it was forty-five. But we sat at the table and, “Hey, how did your day go? Kind of, what’s going on with you?”
And we stopped and communicated and two of those nights and it just perfunctory. “Theresa, what are you concerned about?” And then she would tell me. “So, what are you concerned about?” What do you dream? What do I dream? What are you willing to do?
And we did that to the point where, I will tell you, we don’t use those questions anymore. We just share, unconsciously, when we get together what we’re concerned about. And now that our kids are grown, we find ourselves eating dinner and there’s no kids to shoo away.
“Hey, you want to run out and grab a cup of coffee?” “Yeah. Let’s go.” And you drive in the car. And you would laugh at what we think is romantic at times. There’s a little fast food place with no scenery and we find ourselves with a broken Chick-fil-a sandwich between us.
And sitting in a car talking about life and God and one another. Looking into the beautiful oversight to the back of a Home Depot. It just really, you know?
But you know what it is? It’s just taking a little window to say, “I want to be with you and I trust you.”
And our model is Jeremiah 33:3. This is how God feels about you. “Call to Me and I will tell you great and mighty things that you don’t know.”
I want to commune, I want to relate, please speak to Me! And if you’ll speak to me, if you’ll open up the lines of communication, I want to show you things beyond what you’d ever dream. And so He models for us the kind of relationship.
And for those of you that are going through a tough time and those of you that feel like you’ve been wounded and you really can’t get this deeply in communication. I have a wild illustration I want to share.
You can follow along if you want. It’s in Isaiah 43. God’s people have turned against Him. God’s people, they’re worshipping idols. They won’t give Him the time of day.
And in Isaiah chapter 43 He talks about, in verse 21, the people who I formed for Myself will declare my praise, yet…
He says, I thought that’s what was supposed to be. And in verse 22, “Yet you’ve not called on me, O Jacob. You’ve become weary of Me, O Israel. You haven’t brought Me the sheep of your burnt offering. No worship, no sacrifice. You haven’t honored Me with your sacrifices.
“I have not burdened you with offerings. I wasn’t after your money. Neither have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices. Rather, you’ve burdened Me with your sins and you have wearied Me with your iniquities.”
Some of you feel like that? I’m just weary of all the junk I’ve put up this long in this relationship. We all get there sometimes, right? How does God respond when that’s where the relational dynamic is? Look at verse 25.
I read this, the first time I read it I thought, are you kidding me? God says, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake. And I will not remember your sins.”
Do you hear what He says? This relationship is so important, even though you’re not coming to Me. Even though a hundred percent of the problem is on your side, I’m going to step in and communicate. And I’m going to wipe out your sins, not for you. I’m going to do it for Me.
I love you so much, our relationship matters so much. I’m going to take the initiative. Even though this is your issue.
And then listen to verse 26. “Put Me in remembrance. Let us argue our case together.” In other words, “Hey, let’s have a good fight! Let’s just get the words coming.”
State your cause that you might be proved right. This is the God of the universe.
Final one, He says, “State your cause that you may be proved right. Your first fathers sinned and your spokesman have transgressed against Me.”
And then, so He talks about some judgment that will occur and it’s all because they wouldn’t come and say, “God, we just want to talk.”
So, let me encourage you, if you feel like it’s we’re a little too far beyond all this, our model is a God who says, the relationship matters so much, do whatever it takes to restore it.
We’ve got the fuel of commitment, the oil of communication. Third: the tune-up of caring.
An adventure of lifelong friendship, fun, and mutual fulfillment. Circle the word “adventure” will you?
Everyone thinks it’s not the way it was when we were dating. It’s not the way it was because you’re not doing what you used to do. Romance is not, like, reserved for teenagers, newlyweds, and people who’ve been married for, like, six months.
Romance is reserved for people who do all the things that newlyweds do and people that are dating. Right?
When you’re dating, you call impromptu. “How you doing?” Up late night. “How’s everything going?” Flowers unannounced. A little note that says, “I love you.” Attention to detail. Right?
Now, the euphoria begins to wear off and we get into the grind. You know what? Your relationship has got to be an adventure.
But life is life and you have voicemails and emails and many of you have kids and then you have bills. Some of you have some dogs. Then you got work, then you got people that get cancer, then you got ministry at the church, and beem, bom, beem, bom, beem.
And pretty soon, you wake up and you look at one another and you say, “I really love you. And ain’t feeling anything, are you?” “No.” You know what? Get a tune up.
Block off some time and if you don’t have money and you’re young then swap out with another couple that’s young and doesn’t have money either. We’ll watch your kids this time, you watch our kids the next time.
And you know, when you count the amount, of coffee that people buy and the movies that they rent. You’ve got the money if you have the priority to get away for at least two nights and three days. And get retooled. And have some fun. Enjoy one another.
And you don’t have to wait for the big getaway but you could have talks and you can take walks and you can go on dates and you can have actual hobbies and you can do weekends away and you can get back into the notes and the flowers.
And like, buy a new nightgown now and then and have some fun together and say, I want to keep the pizzazz in the relationship. I want there to be an adventure.
But what we do is, under the pressure, same old, same old. Same old, same old. Well, life gets tired if you eat steak for forty-five days in a row, about forty-six days, not even steaks taste good, right?
You’ve got to have variety and you’ve got to have adventure. And there’s got to be some things that you’re looking forward to. A lot of it, too, is maybe you don’t even know what you’re going to, but you know, hey. We’re seven weeks away from our getaway.
Or, this year, this time next year, this is what we’re going to do. And you dream and you think and some of it, you let him plan and you think this is not exactly what I think is a great time.
But you know what? If he really likes it, I’m going to go along and have fun. And on the other hand, you do it and you realize, yeah. We’ll have some fun and, brothers, I’ll tell you what.
I have done that, “Yeah, honey. I’ll sit right on this bench. These shops are really nice. I’ll just sit right on here on this bench and you let me know when you come.”
And I used to do that. And then I got to where, “Yeah, I’ll walk around with you. Yeah, it’s cute. Darling. I’m not going to say that.”
But and you realize you just start getting engaged in some things that the other person likes. I do stuff now that twenty-five years ago, I thought, man, this is nuts. I would never do this.
And my wife is doing stuff now that she’s thinking, this is so sportsy. She did not grow up that way at all. And now, my wife, I’ll tell you what. Anybody has two tickets to an NBA game. Watch. “Chip, let’s go, baby, let’s go.” And I’m thinking she just went and we got close enough where she saw what it was like. She loved it.
And now I can go up to Lahdonega or whatever it is. And walk these shops. “Oh, that shop’s really nice.” You know, I can take about three, then I go get a cup of coffee and sit on a bench, and you know? But what’s it, you know what it says to her? Just says, you matter.
And put next to that, “I like you.” I’m deathly afraid there’s a lot of couples that are really committed and love one another. I’m just not sure you like each other anymore.
This is about being those best friends. How to do it? I put here a weekly date. Every Friday morning, we went out for breakfast. That was my day off because I had a Saturday night service and two or three on Sunday. But every Friday, my wife knew and I knew. That’s our little oasis. And we’d get the kids off, take a drive, eat breakfast, walk around, goof off, and didn’t do anything but just be with one another until it was time for the kids to go out.
Or maybe it was, we had our breakfast date and she wanted to do that and I wanted to do that. But we just knew there was a window of time built, you’ve got to structure it in.
When’s the last time you went on a meaningful date? When’s the last time you took a great walk? And someone else, you’ve got to initiate this stuff. And by the way, a good way to do it is just alternative.
If you get together and sit down tonight and talk and say, well, we really should do some of this. Okay. Just divide it up. I’ll be responsible for planning this week’s date. You do next week’s.
And by the way, just get out a calendar. And you know what will happen? It’ll be a hassle and some of you are rolling your eyes going, yeah right.
Tell you what, you put four or five weeks in a row together and you start having some fun, you know some of these other areas that some of you are real frustrated about? Fun covers a multitude of sins. That’s a Chipism. That’s not Bible.
The Bible is, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” That’s true. But fun does.
We spend so much energy working through all of our problems and issues. And you’ve just got to put some emotional gas into the tank of your relationship.
And, of course, our model is who? Jesus again. When His guys got tired and weary of the every day. “Come unto me, all of you who labor and are heavy laden. I’ll give you rest.”
This is Jesus. You know, so, some of us are Christian workaholics. He said, hey. Take a break. In fact, he says, and quit taking on so much responsibility. “Take My yoke upon Me and learn from Me. I’m meek and lowly in heart.” I’m not hard to please.
In other words, life has lots of pressures. Tell you what. Just like two oxen get together, I got supernatural power, I’ve got, I know all things. How about we hook up together and you just do the part you’re supposed to do and I’ll do all the part I’m supposed to do.
And why don’t you just take a deep breath and quit being more responsible for all the stuff in life that you can’t control anyway.
But come apart and rest. He invites us to do that, shouldn’t we invite ourselves to do that with one another?
Well, we’ve got C. First C is commitment. A lifelong choice. Another C, communication, a lifelong skill. That oil.
We’ve got the C of caring, which is, kind of, that tune-up on the car. And then the last C is the navigational system of a co-mission. This is a vision to impact the lives of others for Christ.
It’s a vision. Circle the word “vision.” It’s a vision. Everything needs a picture of a preferable future. Something that you’re aiming to toward one another. The mandate here is Matthew 28.
That wasn’t given just to the disciples then. Jesus said, “Go, therefore, and make Christ followers.”
He wants you and you and you and you and me to team up, not just individually, but as marriage partners and make disciples to see lost people come to Christ, to see them grow to maturity, and see them reproduce their lives.
He wants to use us in our neighborhoods and where we work. He wants to use us in our local churches.
Make disciples. He wants you to have a ministry. He wants you do some things together that aren’t about you or your family or your kids or your fulfillment but about other people with needs.
And I’ll tell you, I do not know exactly how this works. But God, when we begin to think outside of ourselves, an amazing thing happens in the dynamic of the relationship. We get close.
The rationale is to serve. It’s to serve. We love. We know. We share. And we serve. And when we serve, it says, I need you. I need you.
I was on a jury, I’ve been on a couple juries and how I end up the foreman, I don’t know. I guess I’m too mouthy.
But, it was a big drug case and the guy was in the country for the second or third time illegally and he had two bags of cocaine here and a big wad of cash and it was a stakeout and it was a part of California where they did a lot of drug dealings so they had a undercover guy-guy.
The narc was right here, they had two cars here. They do it and boom. They zoom in and they get him.
Well, I’m in a part of California that was very, very interesting. And so, I’m on this jury and this is like, duh. You got the, you got if we can’t convict this guy, we might as well tell the police for all the world, we can’t convict anyone.
So we got a couple, this one lady goes, “I just don’t know, um, there’s still a little doubt in my mind. And the judge said ‘reasonable doubt.’”
I said, “Lady, how much? Was the cocaine on him?” “Yes.” “Did he have a wad of cash?” “Yes.” “Yeah, but maybe like he said, someone gave it to him just before the guy walked up.” I’m going, “Hmmmmmm”
So anyway, we’re now, like, three or four days, right, in this jury. Arguing and da, da, da, da, da, da, da. And working these things through. And I was supposed to keep it organized. And it was just nutso.
And you eat your meals together and you’d begin to laugh and joke. And here’s what I want to tell you. The power. Here’s the power of doing something with even people you don’t know that’s bigger than yourself.
And the other issue is, man, this guy’s life on the line. You’ve got to be right. And you’ve got to, and we questioned the officers and we had the transcripts come back in and we checked everything out. But the power of doing something beyond yourself. What it does for your relationship.
I’m, like, in a Wal-Mart or a K-Mart or one of those big box stores. It’s, like, three months later. I’m coming around the corner of one of these stores. “Chip!” And I look at this lady that I don’t recognize and she comes at me like this.
And I go, “Uh-oh. I wonder what’s happening. You know? I wonder if my wife’s around.” And she just, she was a rather large lady and gave me a rather large hug and she just hugged me. “It is so good to see you!” And I said, “Oh, oh! Good to...”
“Yeah, remember the jury? Remember, that we served on? And wasn’t that amazing? And weren’t there…you know what? My son. I want you meet my, stay right here, will you?”
And she goes and gets her boy. And we just had this great time. And I had this warm, overwhelming feeling. And I thought to myself. I spent four days with that lady. I didn’t know her from Adam and three months later, she has that kind of affection for me. Why?
Because we teamed up to do something that was more important than her life and my life that was really important that was bigger than ourselves.
And the average married couple that does not have a ministry where you’re investing your lives together in the lives of other people, you are missing out on one of the most powerful dynamics of how God brings you together.
My wife and I were involved in a ministry and just, she found like she does, someone who was really hurting and they had done really well for many years and fell back into a meth habit and so now we got these two meth addicts.
And the guy comes over to my house. He was going to do a little help and that was part of his profession. And Theresa, this is wild. Theresa comes, “You know what? Do you have any idea, do you know what these are?”
And she has this little plastic bag with crystals in it, you know? And I said, “Yeah, honey. I actually do know what those are. And I think our friends aren’t doing as well as they’re telling us.”
And confronted him. And it was just, I just can’t tell you sitting across the kitchen table with two people addicted to meth who long to get out of it, in tears, and are like this in their marriage.
And then going to a Celebrate Recovery in the area, letting them know it’s going to be okay, sitting down with them, introducing them to the pastor, introducing them to other people that are addicts.
And then watching, over the next three or four or five months, God deliver them. And then God forgive them. And then God restore them.
And you know, more than a few conversations around our table were about: how do we help this couple? “And honey, yeah, you did this part, I need to do this part.” “Well, Chip, I think if you don’t call him, I don’t think he’ll listen.” “Okay.”
Can I tell you that as we, together, helped this couple, God did something that bound our hearts together.
How? Let me suggest you have at least a weekly or a bi-weekly, monthly, some kind of ministry that you’re involved in on a regular basis.
You’re not a car, you’re a marriage. But it needs – fueled by commitment. It needs – oiled by communication. You need the tune-up of deep caring and fun together. And you need the navigational system of, why did God put us on this earth with these gifts that He’s brought together to make a difference?
And then the final important remember is, I’ll give you this. It’s a little equation that I have because when I give this message, what I learned is the real hard charging people try and do all of this all at once and they go real crazy and they try and align all their life.
And they work, work, work, work, work. And then they get completely burned out in four or five weeks.
Here’s my little equation for moving forward. Personal time plus supportive friends plus renewing activities equals a fully alive you and a full battery to be a giver.
And this may sound absolutely crazy. But some of you realize you really need to focus on your marriage right now. If you’re a man, you need some strong men friends to go through this with you.
If you’re a woman, you need some strong women friends to go through this with you. Because, see, you’re going to have to make deposits in your mate and they’re not going to give back.
You need some guys that you’re close to and you love. And ladies, you need a woman or two that you can really share your heart with.
And this may sound counterintuitive. But whether it’s working out or whether it’s a hobby or crocheting or knitting or rollerblading. I don’t know what ladies do or whatever…
But you better, as a woman, have renewing activities built in that fill your own personal tank.
And as a guy, you better have those. Because you need supportive friends and renewing activities so that you come into the things you’re going to address to be a giver.
Because what I’ve watched is people will hear something like this and they’ll just get so focused on each other that all they think about and all they work on is their marriage.
And pretty soon, the guy wakes up and goes, “I don’t have a single guy friend. I haven’t worked out in three months.”
And she’s thinking, “Man, I haven’t been shopping in forever and haven’t even called my sister. And I haven’t been out with the girls in…”
You’ve got to balance life where you get what you need so that you can give what you need to give. And you need to talk about how much is appropriate. Because what you think you need versus what your mate may think you need might be one of those areas of conversation.