The giant chasm yawned before me as I stood on the precipice. Layers of sedimentary rock fit together in a warped puzzle leading downward a dizzying steep descent. I was surveying one of the great natural wonders of the United States.
The Grand Canyon.
The Colorado River carved the canyon out of the surrounding stone over the past 5 million years through the slow process of erosion. If one lived at the Canyon, it would be highly unlikely that one would ever be able to observe this. Only with the vantage of time would one be able to look back and see the staggering effects. It was a vivid reminder of the slow but inexorable process of erosion in nature. It was also a reminder of what could happen in relationships, particularly a marriage.
I had spent years building my career, justifying to myself and others that God commands me to be a good provider for my household. Indeed, God does ask this responsibility of every head of a household and He has blessed me in this area of my life. Yet, this blessing should never have come at the expense of other relationships. For as much time and energy that I spent working on my career, I should have devoted even more working on my marriage.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)
Pastors, counselors, and well-intentioned brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ often quote this passage as the standard by which husbands should honor their wives and marriage. But what does it mean to truly obey God and live by this? The usual reply by a husband, including myself, is, “Of course I will honor and love my wife.” How do I demonstrate this? I provide for my family; I have never missed a major or minor event; we have shared tears and laughter. These are all important and vital to any marriage, but there is so much more wisdom that this verse is conveying.
Like the erosive action of the Colorado River, it was inevitable. Slowly but surely, the passion of the marriage was slowly ebbing away. There were no sudden or catastrophic experiences. It was the missed thank you for staying up late to complete a homework assignment with the children and not going to bed together. It was the shortened date night, interrupted by a late-night pickup for the high school dance. It was casual conversations during a romantic interlude being consumed with the recounting of an unpleasant encounter at work. None of these interactions, taken alone, would ever be mistaken or misinterpreted for something that would break up a marriage, but taken over time, the cumulative effect was an erosion of the passion of the marriage. The great Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, wrote in The Screwtape Letters, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” It was not something that could be observed at the moment, only with the vantage of time.
As I gazed upon the Grand Canyon, I was looking at myself in the mirror and I hated what I saw.
Erosion can be stopped and reversed but what takes years to happen cannot be instantaneously reversed. It will take far more time and effort to rebuild but it can happen. This is the true message of Paul’s admonition from the Book of Ephesians. Jesus Christ gave His life for His Church because He wanted all believers to know that the marriage relationship is at the forefront of all earthly relationships. He gives all believing husbands the power of the Resurrection to reverse the incessant erosion of sin and pride and rebuild our marriages. It can happen and will happen but only if I, as a husband, stop pretending that my career and providing for my family is a noble substitute for nurturing my marriage.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.