Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Commitment Just Isn't Enough

Last week I wrote about an illustration I had heard from Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott on what makes for a successful marriage. They gave a picture of a healthy marriage having three sides -- passion, intimacy and commitment, with commitment being the most important, foundational side.

A friend, who has experienced divorce twice before his current marriage, gently reminded me through email that even if a man (or a woman) holds to commitment, if the other partner doesn’t, then one person’s commitment to the marriage will not be enough to preserve the marriage.

I have walked alongside several men recently who have undergone divorce and they had done all they humanly could to preserve their marriages but to no avail. Tragically, their former wives did not share their commitment to the marriage.

So, if I wrongly communicated that one spouse’s commitment was sufficient to hold a marriage together, I apologize for that. Clearly it takes both partners to make a marriage work no matter how committed one of them may be!

Besides this, on another level, I believe commitment is not enough to hold a marriage together. This is something I also failed to communicate last week. Throughout my spiritual journey I have learned to distrust my will power to be sufficient to produce any lasting behavioral change in me.

At seventeen, for the first time, I came to realize that I had previously been trying to live the Christian life in my own strength, under my own power. It wasn’t working for me. Before that time I had falsely concluded that the Christian life just didn’t work. What I discovered, was that “Christianity” without Christ was just “I-anity” and that sure doesn’t work!

I discovered that “I” died with Christ some 2,000 years ago and that He now lives in me. He is my power source. (see Galatians 2:20) I still put forth the effort (commitment) but it is with trust in HIM who is at work in me as I do it (dependence). That has radically changed how I see the idea of “commitment.” Commitment is important but insufficient. And I don’t know of anything better than marriage to really help me learn this truth.

For example, I can “commit” to love my wife as Christ loved the church, sacrificially and unconditionally, but can I really pull this off? No! As my oldest daughter would say, “Are you kidding me right now?”

But I can commit to that truth, or maybe better, submit to that command knowing this takes me beyond my natural human affection for my wife. As I do this, I depend upon the Holy Spirit and trust Christ’s power to work through me.

I have discovered that it is not my "willfulness" but rather my "willingness" that He is looking for in my marriage, parenting or anything that demands me to do what does not come natural for me to do.

Because of His commitment to us, Jamie

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Anonymous said...

Jamie-Thanks for making the the distinction between willfulness and willingness. Marriage is difficult at times, any way you slice it. Paul was onto something when he cautioned those going into the institution. Keep the good pieces coming.


Anonymous said...

Jamie-you & I have had many conversations concerning your subject. There was a time where I was extremely embarrased to tell others I was on my third marriage when some marriage (like yours) have lasted all these years. But I can honestly say that it wasn't until i hit rock bottom (2 divorces, two children in two different parts of the country)that I submitted to the Lord. He wonderfully gave me a Proverbs 31 woman who the love and cherish unconditionally. God is the God of second and third chances :)