“…as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7 NKJV
In his book, “The Distinctively Christian Marriage,” Dr. Paul Olson lists three basic models of marriage, which can be inferred from scripture.
Using the illustration of mountain climbing as a description of the marriage relationship, he pictures these as plateaus or peaks along the way. From a distance we see the great snow capped peak representing the perfect marriage, but along the climb we hit these different levels of experience, which change our perspective of the goal and challenge our resolve to continue moving upward.
The first level of marriage is the “ME-CENTERED” category. Most marriages never progress past this plateau. Even Christian couples often decide that it is simply too much work to keep climbing past selfishness and personal gratification. The result of camping out at this level is often settling for a hopeless future of unhappiness and disappointment or worse, divorce. The secret to overcoming a “level one,” “Me-Centered” marriage is to surrender our personal marital demands and abandon our use of controlling methods to get what we want. Selfishness destroys your intimacy with your spouse, and directly contradicts the biblical model of marriage.
At “level two” the category is referred to as “WE-CENTERED.” In an interesting twist of events, many couples get trapped on this plateau not realizing that they haven’t arrived at the peak. Because it is higher than the selfish level, partners who live in this model of marriage are easily deceived into thinking that they have “arrived.” In reality, what why have done is simple settled for a common, ordinary, and average marriage. Everything serves the “couple” and their interests. Family is given high priority, and personal desires have given way to the higher ideal of revolving around those with whom we are vitally connected. The problem is that real communication and problem solving are never totally achieved. The couple has only settled into a place of “joint-satisfaction,” which still falls far short of God’s model and plan form intimate relationships.
Finally, at “level three” we can achieve a distinctively Christian, “GOD-CENTERED” marriage relationship. At this point, three particular thing begin to happen. First, our marriages become a living parable to the world of Jesus’ powerful relationship with His Bride, the church. Second, our children begin to participate in this parable, living in and around the virtues of a godly environment on a daily basis. Thirdly, both partners experience this living parable and find an unending source of fulfillment flowing from the Holy Spirit through relationship with their mate. Christianity has a breathtaking view from this perspective. Here we discover an endless array of peaks and levels of enjoyment for us to continue to pursue and explore. We can also look back and appreciate what we have come through, using our experiences to help others who are climbing behind us.
*this is an excerpt from Rocky’s book, “Everyday Preparation for Jesus’ Return”