What God Has To Do With Marriage
By: Ted Harro
A Misunderstanding in the Men’s Room
The question came at me in an unexpected time and place. I was standing in the men’s room at a church gathering, washing my hands. I didn’t know the guy at the sink next to me and hadn’t really thought of introducing myself at that particular moment.
He had other ideas.
“Aren’t you Gretchen Harro’s husband?” he asked.
I was pretty sure I had the right answer to that question. “Yup,” I said, smiling back at him in the mirror.
“Did I hear that you two are going to teach a marriage class in a few weeks?”
“Yeah, we’re excited about that,” I said cheerfully, starting to dry my hands on a paper towel.
He paused. “I get why Gretchen is teaching. I mean, she’s a marriage therapist, but…” A beat, then “What’s your role in the class?”
I assumed he was joking, so I went for the snappy reply. “I just carry her bag.”
He looked puzzled, hands frozen above the sink.
“She has a really big bag,” I said, raising my eyebrows for emphasis.
An awkward silence settled over us. It dawned on me. He was serious! He was voicing a common belief in our culture, that the only credible people to address the challenges of being connected to another human in marriage are therapists and psychologists. That the only relevant books to read are by mental health professionals like Gary Smalley or Henry Cloud or John Gottman or Sue Johnson.
It hit me that a serious question deserved a serious answer. I took a deep breath and gave it my best shot.
The Relationship Genius (hint: it’s not me)
“We’ve been working with married couples for more than 25 years and we’ve come to believe that it’s impossible to have a great marriage unless you become the kind of person who is capable of being a great marriage partner. While psychology can help us understand part of the marriage equation, there’s more to it than just relational tips.
“There’s a major spiritual variable to the marriage equation since real change comes from the inside out. For decades, I’ve been a student of how people change and why so many of us don’t change as much as we’d like. We think that, in addition to being smart psychologically, we need to get smart about the inside out transformation that uniquely comes from partnering with God. Because of that, Gretchen and I insist on integrating spiritual transformation into our marriage work.”
I’m still not sure he got it. But here’s the deal: I’m a big believer in the usefulness of psychology and the input of marriage therapists as we work for more connected marriages. After all, I’m married to a marriage therapist who teaches other marriage therapists how to use the best psychology has to offer in service of couples! We like nothing better than a long discussion of our tiny little feelings. And by we, I mean Gretchen.
At the same time, Gretchen and I unapologetically believe that the smartest person in the history of the world about the human person, relationships, and the pathway to deep connection is not Cloud or Smalley or Gottman or Johnson – as brilliant as they may be. It’s Jesus. All truth is His truth, no matter where it’s found. But He is the source. We look to Him as our ultimate teacher.
So in our experience, God has everything to do with marriage. He envisioned it. He uses it to change us and the world. We encourage you – wherever you are in your spiritual journey – to test Him out and see if you agree.