In my first article in the last edition of TRC, I wrote about how marriage is a covenant with these seven elements:
- Two lives become one.
- There is a sign to remember which serves as a witness and a memorial.
- There is a change in name.
- There is a meal shared.
- There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
- There are witnesses to testify.
- There is a covenant partner to defend.
For this edition, I am going to focus on number five concerning friendship.
A Friend Who Sticks Closer Than a Brother
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. —Proverbs 18:24
Let’s start by defining the word friend:
- a patron
- a supporter
- an advocate
- an ally
- a person attached to another by feeling of affection or personal regard
- a person who gives assistance
Jesus Christ, the friend referred to in Proverbs 18:24, is all the above. He is the best friend we could or will ever have!
Friend is a covenant term and is beautifully seen in God’s covenant with Abraham. In 2 Chronicles 20, there is a marvelous account of God’s deliverance of Judah’s king, Jehoshaphat. Upon hearing of the enemy’s advance against him, King Jehoshaphat cried out to God, appealing to His covenant relationship with Israel and reminding Him of who He is and of His great power. 1
In contrast, here are some antonyms (opposites):
- an antagonist
- an enemy
- a foe
- an opponent
- a detractor
If you are married, your best friend here on earth should be your spouse. So who would you rather have for a spouse?
Someone who supports you or someone who is your enemy?
We all start out in marriage believing we will always support each other. At that moment, when we utter those two special words, I do, we love each other so much that we truly believe nothing will ever change between us. We are absolutely sure that our love will overcome any obstacle that comes our way.
Reality steps in: Jobs, our family and friends, financial problems, a new baby, and health problems.
These are the times when you need your best friend by your side so you can support each other. But if your relationship doesn’t start out as a friendship, it may be difficult to work through the tough times.
In my first article, I wrote that Rick and I met online. We lived about 600 miles apart so the bulk of our courtship was conducted online. We met in person four months after we started emailing each other, and two months after that, we became engaged. Five months later, we were married in a covenant ceremony. How could we possibly become best friends in such a short time and living so far apart?
One of the things Rick tells people about those months leading to our wedding is that, because we talked on the phone and emailed each other so often, we learned a lot about each other. It would probably have taken even longer if we had been able to see each other on a frequent basis. We shared our beliefs, ideas and thoughts through those phone calls and emails, and we were able to get to know each other well without all the physical “stuff” that often gets in the way.
Real life happened for us as we started to live together as a married couple.
The Honeymoon is Over
It doesn’t matter if you are in your 20’s, 30’s or older when you get married. You both bring to the marriage your pasts, beliefs, behaviors, hurts and emotions. Things happen to all of us as we grow up that color our thinking and actions, good and bad. In a perfect world, we are all brought up with wonderfully nurturing families. We treat our family members with utter love and respect. There is never an angry word passed among us, and all is right in our world.
Beloved, we are humans who do not always get the kind of family we would love to have. That “right” world?
Our earthly lives are filled with frustrations, anger, jealousy and a whole bunch of other not-so-nice emotions. We carry this baggage around with us until we meet that certain someone who is perfect for us. And because we are perfect for each other, we will never have any arguments or differences of opinion.
Oh, if it was only that easy! On this side of heaven, there will always be conflict. It is how we handle those conflicts that makes all the difference.
A marriage is made up of two imperfect people, each with their own idea of how things get done. You may be a very neat person who cannot abide clutter while your spouse is fine with the house being a bit untidy but does not do well with an unbalanced checkbook. You could waste time and emotion arguing or nagging about these things or you could find ways together to compromise so that neither of you is giving up anything.
If you are the one who can’t stand clutter, you might agree on an area in your house that is okay if it is a bit of a mess—such as laundry room, one of the bedrooms or the garage. On the other hand, if you feel a sense of panic when the checkbook does not balance, you could consider letting your spouse take over that task. These are only suggestions for compromise because there are many other scenarios that you could work out together.
So What is a Best Friend?
Didn’t each of us have a best friend when we were growing up? You know, that person who completely understood you and all your quirks but loved you anyway. The one who let you rant when things were unfair at home. The one who might disagree with you about something but never let that get in the way of your friendship.
Why can’t spouses be that for each other? We live together so why shouldn’t we be best friends?
Awhile back, I was listening to a talk show about marriage. I don’t remember the names of the husband and wife who were being interviewed, but the subject really interested me: how to have a good marriage in spite of the little things that irritate you about your spouse.
I was alone while listening to this interview, but I laughed out loud as the husband said something about how the cute and endearing little things that you love about your spouse while you were courting begin to grate on you after you’ve been married awhile. Two other things this couple said affected me:
- They compared marriage to being in a canoe. When you’re single and in a canoe by yourself, it’s easy to control your canoe. But when there are two of you in that canoe, every single movement from each person can easily cause the canoe to flip if both people do not work together.
- We too often grant a full cup of grace to friends and family who do not live with us, while offering only a partial cup of grace to our spouse.
If we consider our spouse to be our best earthly friend, why aren’t we treating them better than anyone else? We can get through sticky situations by talking things out and being open to compromise. If you love each other, it shouldn’t be very difficult to keep in mind what makes your spouse feel more comfortable about a situation.
Here’s an example from Rick and me. When we first got married, I used those air fresheners that you plug into the wall. I placed them in several rooms of our home. Some were not as visible as others, but the one in our bedroom was right under the window and easily seen. Every morning for about a week, I would find that air freshener plug on the floor under the outlet, so I would plug it back in. The first couple of times I thought Rick had unplugged it so he could vacuum in there, but after the fourth day, I began to stew about it. Why did he have to be so mean about something so simple? Maybe he didn’t like the fragrance I chose, so why didn’t he just tell me?
I calmed myself before I asked him these questions because I didn’t want it to be a confrontation. I just needed to know why. It turned out that Rick was worried about those being a fire hazard. When I asked him why he hadn’t just told me that, he shrugged and said he thought I’d take the hint after the first couple of days, and didn’t think it was worth talking about.
After I thought about that, I realized the reasons why he thought the air fresheners could be a fire hazard did not count. What did is that he believed it was a fire hazard, and that was enough for me. So we never used those plug-ins again.
My point here is that even though something might seem irrational or unreasonable to you, your spouse might have a perfectly realistic explanation. We just need to take the time to find out the reasons before we begin to accuse.
Beloved, marriage can be wonderful… or not so much–depending on how loved and cherished spouses make each other feel. Try to keep in mind that marriage triangle where Jesus is at the top and each of you are at the bottom looking up to Jesus to lead you together.
1 PreceptAustin.org: The Covenant of Marriage