The Proving Ground of Marriage

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This is a difficult blog post to write. In the logical part of my brain, the place where all my academic studies and research reside; and in the emotional or spiritual part of me where all my faith and belief exists; I know and understand, in the very depths of my soul, marriage is a proving ground. It is ordered by a loving Father in Heaven who wants for all his children to understand and know what He knows. He wants to give to all his children all He has. He wants us to share with Him the joy of eternal life — in families.

Family begins with a marriage.

As young girls we begin to dream and plan for marriage from early in our toddlers days when we play house and imitate what we see our  in mothers actions. We dream of a prince charming and see him in every Disney movie we watch. In high school we fall for some guy and begin to write his last name as ours. In college we look for Mr. Right, knowing full well in the depth of our soul — a soulmate exists for us. Add in some really good Young Womens lessons on dating and temple marriage and you have yourself a nice little package of dreams for what your future marriage will be.

 

The problem is — not every marriage fits into this lovely dream.

 

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We have come from Father into the lone and dreary world, where briars and noxious weeds afflict and torment man. By the sweat of our brow will we eat our bread the verses relate to us. We live in a world where the law of opposition is in full force. It is through this process we will work to fight the adversary and come to know Father’s plan for us and for our marriages.

My marriage is full of briars and noxious weeds. I have had to toil and sweat to keep my marriage together.

Gary Thomas, a Christian preacher asked a very appropriate question to this discussion. He said, “What if your relationship isn’t as much about you and your spouse as it is about you and God?

To those of us who are LDS, this concept would fit nicely with the eternal perspective we all try to live by. Life here in this me-centered world causes challenges when marriage is supposed to be other-centered and God-focused.

Dr. H. Wallace Goddard, his is book, “Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage”  said the following:

“When we have the eternal perspective on our marriage, everything is different. “Filled with faith, we might adapt Jesus’s advice as our mantra: “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not; fear not” (D&C 6:36)

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How do we hold fast in this battle between the adversary and marriage?

It isn’t God at the heart of this hurt and pain.

It is the adversary and the natural man that battle.

 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gives encouraging words of what not to do when he said, “Too often too many of us run from the very things that will bless us and save us and soothe us” (CES Fireside, March 1997)

Elder Neal A. Maxwell words couple well with Elder Holland’s, “If God chooses to teach us the things we most need to learn because he loves us, and if he seeks to tame our souls and gentle us in the way we most need to be tamed and most need to be gentled, it follows that he will customize the challenges he gives us and individualize them so that we will be prepared for life in a better world…” (BYU Speaches, Sept. 1974)

While Father has a customized curriculum for us to follow here in mortality, the adversary has an equally devised plan to pull our focus from Father; to destroy our faith in the plan; to take hurts, pains and suffering and the challenges of marriage, and to pull our focus from our mission and our covenants to Father to more world-like ways.

“As a loving parent, our perfect Father will help us in a multitude of ways to avoid ruining our lives and preempting our growth unless we simply defy Him. A vital part of the truth is that God can take our messed-up lives and transform them into our purposeful growth. Our choices in partners are not just random events in our lives. With our limited view, it’s reasonable to question if we might have bettered ourselves by choosing differently. Yet God is orchestrating our lives to a greater extent than we appreciate. Faith invites us to honor covenants and not jettison a relationship because of continuing troubles. God honors those who honor their covenants.” (Goddard, H. W., p.64, 2009)

If you were following along on page 64 in Dr. Goddard’s book you would next be introduced to a man who approached Dr. Goddard asking if he could now “quit his marriage.” As the story is told, his wife left the Church. His marriage was not good. This man’s story is mine, only in a different order and with many additional variables than membership in the Church. I feel this man’s pain.

And yet, I also know the gospel and the doctrine of marriage.

I know this promise too;

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts and expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God.” Orson F. Whitney

This proving ground that marriage is, requires an intentional disciple. It requires faith and strength beyond our own that can only be replenished by faith in Jesus Christ, by understanding His plan, and by being willing to do all that is required of us.

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No matter how difficult the course, no matter how severe the trials, the Lord is there with us. He will not forsake us or our  marriage. We make a covenant to him. When we do our part, we will succeed. It might feel like at times that we are not. Trust Father. He see’s the end from the beginning.

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