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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“Mike, can I talk to you?” I remember it clearly—a phone call I wasn’t expecting during what had become a Saturday morning ritual of taking my son to the skatepark. What was usually a time for encouraging my son to push his limits and watch him fall and get back up was replaced with a 45-minute call with someone I knew for most—well, nearly all—of my life. He told me he was at a crossroads in his marriage. Before I go any further, I think it will help if I give you some context first.
Growing up in blue-collar town in western New York, my parents had a Christian faith that was loosely practiced at best. They would take my brother and I to church for the better part of our formative years until it seemed to be too much of a hassle to get us up on Sundays. After that, we only went on Christmas, Easter, or for a funeral. Needless to say, I grew up with a general knowledge of a guy named Jesus who was born in a manger and was kind of a big deal. I also knew there was a flood, a boat, some animals, and a guy named Noah.
The guy on the other line that day grew up having a similar experience. The difference was at some point we became adults and my journey included being invited to church where I ultimately developed a greater understanding to the stories I had learned as a child. My faith grew, and I came to discover just how big of a deal Jesus truly is and why the stories and the wisdom of the Bible is beneficial to so many aspects of my life. The woman I married shares these same beliefs. And it’s these beliefs and understandings that shaped the way I grew to be as a man, a friend, an employee, a husband, leader, and a dad. “How do you do it? Do you ever . . . ? Has she ever . . . ?” At the time of this conversation, we’d both been married around four to seven years (he and his wife had been married about a year more than my wife and I). At the top of a ramp where I could keep an eye on my son as he skated, I started to field the questions behind the heart of the call. We covered a gamut of topics—from simple and trivial relationship stuff that most couples go through to the serious aspects of resolving conflict and even frank, candid aspects of sex. While we hadn’t been as close as we were since either of us were in high school, we were both at each other’s weddings and had kept in close enough contact to see that the struggles he and his wife were experiencing were not the same as what my wife and I experienced. Now, by no means was my marriage perfect, but he did share that he admired my marriage and saw how my wife and I weren’t just committed to one another, but also enjoyed being around each other.
As we talked through the specifics, the answers and advice I offered gently to a hurting friend would reveal the one thing that made the difference between our two marriages: the faith my wife and I share and invest in. Differences were uncovered in how we show respect to one another (Ephesians 5:33), honor one another (1 Peter 3:7), submit to one another (Ephesians 5:22), communicate with one another (James 1:19-20; Colossians 3:19), commit to one another (Philippians 2:2—our marriage verse), and how we work through conflicts together (1 Peter 4:8; Matthew 18).
Now, it’s important to understand that unloading a dump truck of Bible verses on someone when they are hurting is rarely helpful. People do not care–and will not remember–how many Bible verses you know. What they will care about and remember is how you were able to listen and make them feel by your actions.
That day, I believe I was able to comfort my friend by simply sharing the practical ways the faith my wife and I share helps us navigate our marriage into a regular conversation, providing hope for someone who needed it. By the close of the call, I knew the hope he saw in my marriage had been a light to him.
While it would be great to say that during our follow-up conversation only a few weeks later I learned my friend and his wife had committed to search and apply the principles outlined in Scripture, but even though they’re still married, this hasn’t necessarily been the case. However, this doesn’t change how my wife and I feel. In fact, it motivates us more than ever to remain committed to living out the best marriage we can and be an example to whomever may call again—whenever it may come.
But that’s the thing . . . We can’t change people, only God can. But we can love people. We can be there for people. Even if someone doesn’t agree with your faith, live in such a way—and do marriage in such a way—that the results can’t be denied. You never know who is watching and when they will be bold enough, or desperate enough, to call and reach out, providing you the opportunity to share the hope that is in you.