Maintaining Unity When it Feels Impossible
By: Anne Peterson
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. - Ephesians 4:2-3
I knew that unity was important in marriage. Mike and I learned it in a marriage workshop class we took when we were just newlyweds, but sometimes it was hard to feel unified when your ideas differed. Like the time Mike wanted to smoke a pipe, and then he needed two, and after that, he wanted a humidor – a box to store his collection. I wasn’t on board at all.
One night I told his aunt all about it, but she told me I should just go ahead and buy the humidor for him, as a Father’s Day gift. I knew if I was going to take her suggestion and buy him that humidor I would need God’s help. So I prayed.
The next time we saw Lois, I told her I bought it and that Mike has completely lost his desire. She smiled big - Lois knew something that took me a while to figure out. Many arguments are not about what we think they are about. Instead, they are just power struggles.
I would learn much from this marriage I had entered in. I would learn how important it was to put aside what I wanted and to think of my spouse. I would learn that I should dip my words in gentleness when I disagreed. And that it was important to try and see my husband’s viewpoint instead of just caring about what I wanted. That would be a hard lesson to learn. I understood more clearly how we are all like sheep who want to go our own ways.
God said we are to be patient with others. How much more with those we claim to love the most? Patient meant I would not try to finish my husband’s sentences, but instead give him the time he needs to communicate. I would also learn what it looked like to bear with Mike in love. That means no teeth-gritting, no toe-tapping, but instead to be kind. It’s easy to be hard-hearted and to hold grudges, but God tells us to be tenderhearted and forgiving toward each other.
I remember holding onto a grudge and telling the Lord that someone needed to pay. And God gently reminded me that someone did pay. Completely. And it was his precious Son. When a prison sentence was completed, the guards would stamp on the prison wall the word, tetelestai, which meant, paid in full. Jesus has paid for my sin, and for my spouse’s. So I need to forgive and be unified just as I am forgiven and have unity with God now.
God wants us to maintain the unity of the Spirit in our marriages. And we are to do that in the bond of peace. This is only possible if we submit to one another. As long as we let pride convince us that we are right and they are wrong, there will be no peace, just conflict and inflated egos. The world can get a little glimpse of what love looks like when those who know Jesus choose to follow God’s Word instead of replicating what the world shows us.
Jesus told us that he gives us peace, not as the world gives it. God’s peace is almost a mystery. It passes all understanding. It’s the kind of peace that the world needs but will never have apart from knowing Christ.
What a privilege to show the world what love looks like. Yes, maintaining unity in marriage is not always easy. Sometimes it may seem impossible, but praise God that the things which are impossible with man are possible with God.
Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. Anne is a poet, speaker, published author of 14 books, including her memoir, Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope. Anne has been married for 43 years. Sign up for Anne’s newsletter at www.annepeterson.com and receive a free eBook. Or connect on Facebook.
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Originally published Friday, 04 August 2023.