Cathy and Jim had been married for almost 20 years. At the beginning of their marriage, neither of them took their Christian faith too seriously. An occasional visit to church was enough. Through the challenges of raising children, health scares, and financial hardships, Cathy began to find support through women’s groups. Over time, she developed a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. She regularly read the Bible and relied on God’s wisdom in making life decisions. The problem? Jim hadn’t budged an inch toward God.
Cathy asked me a question I’ve heard from many women: “Is it possible to spiritually outgrow your marriage?”
On one level, the answer is “yes.” You might be far more interested in spiritual things than your husband or wife. Like Cathy, you might want to make every decision thinking about biblical standards, while your spouse cares only about worldly things. You may feel a deep sadness and loneliness when you can’t share intimate things of the Lord with your husband. Maybe he rolls his eyes when you excitedly share what God has been teaching you. That hurts!
But look at it from a different angle: It is impossible to spiritually outgrow someone you’re called to love.
I remember meeting with another women who felt she had a much deeper relationship with God than her husband did. In her loneliness, she developed an intimate relationship with a man from her church who was also lonely in his marriage. In the midst of violating their wedding vows, they prayed, attended church, and read the Bible together. This women told me God had brought this adulterous relationship into her life because he knew how spiritually lonely she was in her marriage. Do you see the irony? The deception? The twisted thinking?
If this woman were truly growing spiritually, her empathy and unconditional love for her husband would have been the fruit. Instead, her self-righteousness and discontent led her into a dangerous deception. So was she really more mature spiritually than her husband?
The deeper you grow in the Lord, the greater will be your capacity to love your spouse – even if he or she is spiritually weaker. You’ll find yourself embracing your vows more fervently rather than questioning them. The apostle Paul wrote, “spiritual knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” True evidence of God’s work in our lives is not spiritual superiority, but becoming more like Christ in his humility and obedience.
Used with permission. Dr. Juli Slattery is clinical psychologist, speaker, and author whose books include Finding the Hero in Your Husband, No More Headaches, Beyond the Masquerade, and Guilt Free Motherhood. For more from Juli, check out www.authenticintimacy.com.