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Notes from Just How Married Do You Want to Be

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Notes from

Just How Married Do You Want To Be?

By Jim & Sarah Sumner


Marriage is not a possession for people to “have.” Marriage is a holy relationship, not a commodity for couples to consumer.  Our commitment to each other is rooted in our commitment to Jesus Christ. We can’t give up on our commitment to each other without breaching our commitment to Christ.

The further they go up the triangle, the closer they get to God and to each other.

Oneness calls for conflict resolution, realistic expectations, truthfulness, vulnerablility, excellent listening skills, humble cooperation, and an ongoing willingness to forgive.

Ironically, when the leadership of the husband becomes a primary focus, the headship of Christ is virtually forgotten or ignored.

The challenge for Christian couples is to make it their priority to build a “one flesh” marriage with their spouse.

There is a big difference between a Christ-centered marriage and a self-centered marriage of any sort. Only when a marriage is Christ-centered can a couple maximize their marital oneness.

1        Unlikely Couple

2        Models of Marriage

3        Deeper Understanding of Headship

I am inspired by Christ’s headship. He uses His power to free me, so that I can give freely to others.

Chris’s headship is distinctive both from his lordship and his saviorhood.

Once we begin to see ourselves as belonging to Christ our head, we start to understand how much we all matter to God.

Married couples in the church do not consciously think of themselves as being member of each other---as being a head an dbody union tha t symbolizes Christ’s union with the church.

We are “in Christ” because we are Christ’s body. Our relationship with Christ is what fluctuates. We are responsible to follow Christ each day in order to practice oneness in our marriage.

Would it change my view of marriage if the word “head” were removed from Ephesionas 5?

Headship does not mean lordship. Husband and wife are to relate as head and body---not as body and lord. The Bible says a husband is the head of his wife not the Lord of his wife.

I cannot be responsible for my wife’s thoughts and actions because I don’t have control of her will. She has response—ability—the ability to respond—because she is created in the image of God.

No husband is told to act as Lord or Savor of his wife.

4        A biblical Model of Marriage

To be a faithful spouse is to be wedded to Jesus Christ along with being married to a person.

Christ alone is treated as the leader of the marriage because Christ alone is Lord.

When the Greek word head is defined by words such as authority or source married couples in the church tend to minimize the tragedy of divorce.  When head and body are used readers begin to see in graphic form why God hates divorce. It is a horrible bloody scene.

It is not so disturbing to envision a leader departing from his assistant or vice versa. And it is not that big a deal to see tow individuals, both equal and independent, choosing to move on their own ways.  But it is utterly disconcerting to imagine a physical body being wholly amputated from its head.

5        Practicing Oneness in the Grind of Daily Living


Being present.

Remembering One’s oneness.

Honoring Wise Boundaries

Helping Each Other

Building Strong Friendships with People of the Opposite Sex

The Husband’s Call to Cleave

The command to cleave is given by God to husbands. Some Christian men seem tempted to cleave instead to a worldly sense of manhood.

Submission and Sacrifice

Instead of being taught the biblical dynamic of oneness---in which the wife submits to her husband, and the husband sacrifices himself for the wife---most have been taught that the wife is to submit so that the husband can lead her. Take note: wives are to submit not so that the husband can lead her but so that the two can be one. To submit literally means to “come under.”

When a wife submits to her husband “as to the Lord,” she does not enthrone him as if he were her Lord. The husband is not the wife’s Lord. The husband is the wife’s head.

The wife submits to her husband by coming under him with her support. As the church supports Christ by laboring with him, so the wife supports her husband by laboring with him.

The wife is the husband’ helper. She was designed to give help. God created Eve for the purpose of being helpful to Adam. Adam is the one who need help.  Eve was created to be helpful not helpless. When God created her she wasn’t there to be rescued.

When a wife submits to her husband, she does not give up her will.  She exercises her will to conform her will to her husband’s. Submission is not forfeiture.  And the Bible says she is to do it in everything not just the impasse things.

Husbands are under the impression that the commandment to sacrifice for their wives counts only in crisis when he might take a bullet for his wife. But the Bible says to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  He did more than prepare himself to do something. Christ actually gave himself. He wasn’t merely willing

to sacrifice his advantage. He really did it. Husbands are to do the same.

6        Resolving Conflict

Sometimes forbearance is not enough. Sometimes what is needed is reproof. To reprove means “to expose” our of love for that person.  It does not mean to be judgmental. Rather it is to love someone enough to help them see a sin they might not see.

If you can’t seem to let it go without distancing yourself emotionally, or feeling sorry for yourself, or complaining to someone else about your partner, or retaliating vindictively in reaction, then it is probably time for you to confront.

Matthew 7:3-5 (ESV)Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

The person who feels offended must take the log out o his/her own eye.

Because biblical confrontation is itself an act of love, doing it calls the person to act from a heart of love.

Confrontation should come not from a self-righteous attitude but rather from a heart of humility.  Am I for or against my spouse in this situation. Am I harboring resentment against my partner?

To hold people accountable Christianly means to speak into their lies for their sake.  It means to be for them, not against them.  You are doing it for them, not yourself.

To reprove means “to expose.” It does not mean to scold or gripe at.

If your spouse is defensive it is time to apply the next step. The smart thing is to take one or two persons whom your spouse respects; the whole point is to help your spouse to gain the incentive to repent.

First. We are afraid to utilize the process given in Matthew 18, because we think our spouses might misunderstand and feel betrayed. They might think we’re against them.

Secondly. A faulty view of confrontation. A close friend of mine said when she hears the word confrontation, all she can think of is her dad raging at the rest of the family. To her, conftontation means condemnation.  It means putting someone on the spot.

Thirdly, it sounds too time-consuming and inconvenient.

Fourth, people are skeptical that others will change.

Fifth, most of us are missing the right peer pressure.  We don’t have a Christian culture that can place into practice Matthew 7 and Matthew 18.

Most couples are afraid to confront each other because they are afraid of being confronted themselves.  But it’s not God’s way for a husband to be afraid of his wife, nor for a wife to be fearful of her husband.

Marriage is about love. Love embraces the truth. Love wants to be notified when something goes wrong. Love doesn’t have to be afraid. 1 John 4:18 (ESV)There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

To know that your spouse will be faithful to reprove you whenever you get off track is to rest in the security of having a spiritual partner who cares about your character development. We count on each other in our war against sin.

All by myself I can’t remove the speck from my own eye. I wish I could, but I cannot.

Godly correction doesn’t look like condemnation. It is other-centered not self-centered. It is delicate like surgery but it requires great strength.

While, the process of being reproved in the company of witnesses is humbling, even even embarrassing, the effects of it are awesome and worthwhile.

It’s important for couples to be convinced that living out the Scriptures is not too big of a hassle, especially when we remember what’s at stake.

Our kids see the speck. Non-Christians see the speck. And because we seem to have no remorse, we are perceived as hypocrites.

The reality of different personalities is that we cope with difficulty differently. When reality feels harsh and overwhelming Jim would be pessimistic and cynical.  Sarah would become all the more optimistic and try harder to blast Jim out of his pessimism. To Jim the truth was that they were “worms.” “Worms” infuriated Sarah.

7. Defining Expectations

What I selfishly expect becomes that which I selfishly demand. If I don’t get my way I will react.

To react is to evade responsibility. To react is to dismiss—with irrational abandon—the opportunity to respond well.

We are often blind to the fact that we’re reacting to unmet expectations. We justify our reactions based on what the other person did. Consequently, most people say blind.

Selfish expectations are hostile to God because they idolize the self and its wants. Selfish expectations are rooted and grounded in greed.

People don’t always want what people think they want.  The behavior they demand may not accurately reflect what they truly desire.  I want to be known but the process may make me very uncomfortable.  I will demand the behavior that makes me comfortable.

Galatians 5:16 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Walk by the Spirit, so that you can be a husband, so that you can be a wife, who truthfully can say, The lord is my shepherd, I  shall not want.

Selfish expectations serve the self alone. Healthy expectations serve the community.

Holy expectations are limited to people who trust God.

Holy expectations make a person more emboldened and resilient.

Holy expectations are related to the hope we have in Christ. Holy expectations are unfailing because they’re anchored in the truth of God.

If we are to love our enemies---and expect nothing from them in return---how much meor are we to love our spouse?

Love doesn’t live by selfish expectations because love does not seek its own. 1 Corinthians 13:4

William James said happiness comes when performance lines up with expectations. We can increase performance or decrease expectations.  In Christ we can increase performance by serving others through love, and decrease expectations by dying to yourself. Galatians 5:13-16 (ESV)…through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Henri Nouwen: “Forgiveness is to allow the other person not to be God.”

In a sense we are naïve, and in another sense we are rebellious when we refuse to come to grips with the unflattering naked truth that life is hard. John 16:33 (ESV)…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

When we hesitate to accept that tribulation is inevitable, we thereby reject the joy that is supposed to be ours. Instead of being joyful in our earthly tribulations, too often we react in anger and self-pity.  Too often we react by venting our pain on our spouse.

Because Christ has overpowered all the evil in the world, we can rest assured that even in our grief, we can also be of good cheer.

These are holy expectations:

  1. Every person is a sinner. Sinners are going to sin. But there is hope. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
  2. In the world you will have tribulation. John 16:33 (ESV)…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” 
  3. People age as they grow older. 2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV)So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

(The Spirituality of Imperfection would work well here)

Holy expectations strengthen marriage by reminding us of the truth of our great need for Christ.  They allow us to humbly accept reality while clinging to promises.

8. Hot Button Issues

Couples will benefit greatly if they learn how to love each other in their hot buttons. It’s healing to a marriage if one can show compassion even when the other one is reacting. People need compassion often when they’re most difficult to love.  Spouses need compassion, even if it is at times they don’t deserve it.

Compassion literally means to “suffer with.”  If my spouse personalizes my harshness and interprets the situation with an eye to herself, she will probably react. But if she pauses long enough to find out what I’m facing and then makes a conscious decision to empathize with me and forego defending herself, then she can “suffer with” me by showing compassion.

The fire that fuels the flames of defensiveness can be smothered—but only by one thing: truth.

Truth alone can set people free. Compassion doesn’t have that power. Compassion soothes the pain; but it does not set people free.  John 8:32 (ESV)…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Truth without compassion though is not entirely truthful because it fails to represent the nature of God.

We must embrace the truth about our sin. It does come from our own hearts. Mark 7:15 (ESV)There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

Exercise the courage to turn away from the lie that’s in our head. We must realize that what we feel when our spouse speaks to us is a lie (that we are useless and no help)---take responsibility for reacting to that statement, or rather to our perspective that the lie was spoken by our spouse.

Both spouses have a chance to practice wisdom. The husband has the opportunity to confront rather than counter-attack.  The wife has the opportunity to receive a word of correction.

Enter into Godly sorrow.

Worldly sorrow is self-centered.  Godly sorrow is God-centered. Godly sorrow breaks human pride. It leads to repentance without regret.

Godly Sorrow Worldly Sorrow
Issue: personal holiness Issue: personal happiness
Begging for forgiveness Begging for life enhancement
Broken by the reality of your sinfulness Broken by the reality of your situation
Driven by humility Driven by pride
Dignity and oneness restored Depression and defensiveness remain
Compassion for who you hurt Contempt toward who hurt you
Refreshed feeling Drained feeling
Focused on truth Focused on rationalizing you own sin
Focused on confession Focused on circumstances
Justified by Christ Justified by demands for your rights
Ownership of your sin Victim of someone else’s sin
Overwhelmed b gratitude to God Overwhelmed by consequences of your sin
Produces abundant life Produces death
Sad for who you hurt Sad for yourself


People aren’t born with hot buttons. We develop them after being hurt.

Everyone has been sinned against by other people.

We dismissed each other’s pain instead of entering into each other’s pain. We missed the opportunity early in our marriage to help one another truly heal.

We’re guilty for having reacted, and we’re guilty for not having exercised love enough to have assured each other in our frailties.

We’re actually becoming nondefensive, and we’re finding new joy in salving each other with compassion.

We doubted each other’s integrity.  Trust between spouses must be cultivated; it doen’t just appear automatically. We’ve built trust by hashing things out, until each of us felt heard and accepted.  But primarity our trust is based on the fact that we have forgiven one another.

God is always true to his Word, always true to his nature, always true to himself. -God has not latent tendency to e selfish. He has no painful childhood, no insecurities, no hot buttons.

We are partners in forgiveness. Forgiveness is the method that enables us to venture through this humbling life as one flesh.

9. Building a Christ-Centered Marriage

A contract marriage allows each spouse to say, “if you fail to meet my changing expectations and felt needs, I will punish you or call off the agreement.”

A covenant marriage is rooted in a promise that two people make in the presence of God and other witnesses.

Each person vows to give their total being first to God and then to the other.

The covenant endures because the promise is a permanent arrangement.   A  covenant marriage requires each spouse to say, “Even when you fail me, I will love you.”

We guide the group to consider how their partner contritues to their relationship with God.

Saying that Jesus comes first in our marriage is not to say we put “ministry” before marriage. We are each other’s ministry!

Yet more basic than our ministry to each other is our individual relationship with Christ.  We are Christians first and a married couple second.

1 Corinthians 11:9 (ESV) Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

It would seem as though th eBible would say, “For this reason a woman should be joined to her husband since she was created from him and for him.”

But God gave the commandment to the man. He is to leave and he is to cleave.

The husband , as head, is told to cleave to his wife, not divorce her. He is instructed to leave his parents, not his wife.  He’s commanded to leave his parents’ expectations and obey God’s commandments instead. Thus marriage gives a couple a fresh opportunity to establish Christian patterns in a family.

Every time we have sinned against each other, we have first sinned against God. We turn away from God before we turn away from each other.

Clarity Loyalty Unity
Accountability Patience Refinement
Integrity Compassion Promoting a Sense of Peace
Facts Feelings Timing/Mood
Fix the Problem Forbear the problem Finesse the prolem
Self-righteous Self-serving Self-absorbed
Harsh judgment People-pleasing Image Management
Presumptuous/Prideful Guilty/Afraid/spin Deceitful/manufacturing

When Strategists fall below the line they become overzealous in their quest to champion truth and integrity. Thus they can tend to be harsh. They tend to be impatient and prideful. The often feel convinced that they know best, even before they listen to all the facts.

When Humanitarians fall below the line, their care for other people crumbles and corrodes into a fear of displeasing people. They feel guilty for holding on to their own perspective. They devote their best energy to appeasing oter people instead of helping other people to identify and repent from root problems.

When Diplomats fall below the line, they become self-absorbed.  Selfishly they use their refinement and charisma as a means of manipulating people.  They take advantage of other people by persuading them of their spin.

10. Every Couple’s Need for Christian Community


Janice interjected, “Have you ever cried together in your efforts to communicate? Have you ever been that vulnerable together before? Ray and I have spoken to each other through agonizing tears, so strenuous have been our efforts to try to hear what the other one is saying.” To be in a Christian community is to be relationally connected with other people who are connected to Christ, the head.

“Marry a person who isn’t entertained by your sin. Marry someone who isn’t fun to be with whenever you’re indulging in your favorite way of being unlike Christ. Marry someone who likes you best when you’re following God, and likes you least when you’re not. Otherwise, it will be too easy to fall into the trap of conspiring in sin with the person you want to marry while yet telling yourself that ‘we’re good for each other.’”

Sarcasm derives from the Greek word meaning ‘flesh.” The Greek word sarkazein literally means to rend the flesh. I was halted by Jim’s yelp in the car. My husband’s flesh had been ripped –by me.

I understand your intention.  Yet, all the words you say when you’re trying to protect yourself are hurting your wife and tempting her to pull away from you.  Your wife feels as if she’s being steamrolled by you right when you’re defending yourself. 

He saw her withdrawal as an offense. She saw her withdrawal as an act of self-defense.

I realized that my sarcastic defenses are aggressive offenses against my husband.

If every American Christian tithed a straight ten percent of their income, the church would accrue 143 billion dollars. The United Nations projects that it would take only 70-80 billion to meet the health care and educational needs of the entire population of poor people in the world.

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