Upon arriving at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, in the fall of 1978 I had a dream of the woman I would marry someday that continues to increase my understanding and appreciation of marriage. Most importantly, it continues to focus my attention on our Lord’s commitment to marriage and His personal involvement in this sacred trust.
I had enrolled at Graceland to take courses in preparation of attending the Colorado School of Mines where I planned to study metallurgical engineering the following year. As such, engineering course work, not marriage, was foremost in my thoughts at that time. So having a dream about marriage one of my first nights on the Graceland campus came as quite a surprise.
In the dream I saw myself standing with our Lord Jesus Christ and my future wife (whom I had not as yet met). As the three of us stood nearly shoulder to shoulder facing each other in this triangular arrangement, we reviewed and reflected upon our life together – meaning the three of us.
Although I appeared in the dream to be a head taller than my future wife, our physical stature was insignificant. The focus of our review and reflection together was on who we were in our hearts and minds and how we thought about and viewed each other. The review was not as much about our activities or accomplishments. Rather, our desires and motives and the methods we employed to achieve them were of foremost interest. These formed the backdrop against which all of our activities and accomplishments were examined in the light of Jesus Christ.
Standing there together with our Lord, our choices and our approach to life and how these impacted the other person and those who would come after us (future generations) were clearly observable and discernible to the three of us. Nothing was left unexposed or unexamined. Every aspect of our life together was brought to light and reviewed in keeping with scriptures like Luke 12:1-3, Hebrews 4:12,13 and II Corinthians 5:9-11.
It was impressed upon me that this meeting between the three of us would indeed take place after my wife and I had passed from this life. We would eventually be called to stand before and with our Lord to give an accounting of all our doings in a very precise and accurate manner and on a truly personal level. Along with this impress came the understanding that “now” was the time to prepare for this special meeting together (even before we met and began married life).
When the dream ended, I was also left with the impression that I would be wise to live as transparent a life as possible in the light of Christ so that there would be no surprises or compromising or unresolved issues in this future meeting. I understood it to be a call to live a life spent seeking our Lord together in all things such that no darkness could or would be revealed at the end of our lives on earth (thinking of scriptures like I John 1:5-10 and Hebrews 3:7-15 with II Peter 3:11,12).
This dream and the coming accountability it revealed have set the tenor for my relationship with my wife from that time onward throughout the many years we have been married. Perhaps at times I have been a bit too transparent. Yet because I am convinced this meeting will occur (and to some extent is happening each moment of every day), I have chosen to err on the side of caution.
At the conclusion of the dream I was left with the distinct impression that all peoples have similar appointments awaiting them. Therefore, by sharing this dream with you, my aim is to encourage you, dear reader, to consider how you also manage the various aspects of your relationships, in general terms and in the small and mundane details of everyday living. As you do, it is important to consider carefully how Jesus Christ is there to be a part of it all, helping and enabling you to live to the fullness of His presence according to His plans and purposes for you, whether as a married or a single person.
Jesus Christ is exceptionally capable; and He could do everything for us. Yet our Lord is intent on making us capable and responsible agents over the many designated aspects and elements of His creation that He has assigned to us, beginning with our own lives and the way we deal with each other. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and we are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).
Our Lord both enables us and shepherds us as we utilize the wisdom and resources He provides us to build up His kingdom and to establish His righteousness on earth (Matthew 6:38). Consequently, we can count on Jesus Christ to be our creator-coach and our Maker-Shepherd who befriends us and equips us for living meaningful lives in His kingdom. We can also count on Him to be firm with us, correcting us when and where needed so we can and will do our best and grow in our abilities to meet our responsibilities as agents before Him. For as it is written, He chastens those He loves (Hebrews 12:5-11 with Revelation 3:19).
Another insight this dream brought clearly into focus for me is the need to be in continual remembrance that marriage is a covenant relationship between three entities: myself, my companion, and my Lord. Further, it is a relationship that, like a tree, is meant to grow continually deeper in Christ so that our relationship as husband and wife may grow more expressive (fruitful) in the fruit of His Spirit as we live out our lives together (Galatians 5:13-26).
Make no mistake about it. The marriage covenant is a covenant relationship administered by the Lord and is meant to continually grow stronger by extending its roots (His words, teachings, instruction, counsel, commandments, ministry …) downward and deeper within us to provide ever increasing stability from which we may live out God’s plans for our lives. As it grows deeper and stronger within us, our covenant relationship will also grow to greater heights by adding new and fuller branches and fruit of expression.
Through multiplying and sending its roots deeper in the Lord while adding and growing new branches ever upward and outward, our marriages, like trees, mature and bear the fruit of the Spirit of our Maker. In doing so, others, especially children, may come to enjoy its fruit, the comfort of its shade, and the beauty of its presence.
Plainly stated, the marriage covenant relationship is not meant to be static – something we simply arrive at and then enter into with each other by going through a marriage ceremony. Rather, once married, we are to continue to grow in this special relationship by maturing and bearing God the fruit of His Spirit; for it is to this end that Jesus Christ works in us individually and jointly through our faith in His name (Philippians 2:1-16 with Galatians 5:13-26). In so doing we will bring glory to the Bishop of our souls (I Peter 2:22-25).
To keep our marriage commitments to each other strong, it was further impressed upon me that we must also actively guard against those things which detract from and can even destroy our marriage. A practical way to do this is to recognize what can and does lead to divorce, and then prayerfully take steps to guard against them and to address them head-on should they start to invade our individual lives or our life together. A quick search on the Internet of this topic brings up many common areas with which people tend to have troubles, such as: communication, money, fidelity, unrealistic or overly demanding expectations, lack of commitment (to our marriages), over-commitment (to work or extracurricular activities), addictions, minor things that get blown out of proportion, unhealthy societal norms and allowances, etc. (cf. Galatians 5:19-21). Each can be overcome by our recognizing them and then exercising faith in Jesus Christ according to His words and His ways.
Finally, I was reminded of how the Lord has said He will prove us in all things whether we will abide in His covenant (e.g. D&C 95:3c). This includes the marriage covenant. As such I was brought to realize that I would be wise to prayerfully prepare myself to be tested and tried by Him in all things pertaining to marriage. He reinforced this message with the words of Peter, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, who wrote:
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you,
as though some strange thing happened unto you;
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings;
that, when his glory shall be revealed,
ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
I Peter 4:12,13 (cf. I Peter 1:6-8)
(See also Romans 8:16-18 with Philippians 3:10)
He further reinforced this message with the words of Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, who testified that we will be glorified with Jesus if we suffer with Him.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;
but ye have received the Spirit of adoption;
whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,
that we are the children of God;
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ;
if so be that we suffer with him,
that we may be also glorified together.
Accordingly, all Christians should expect their marriages to be tried. They should expect suffering to be a precious part of their marriages (cf. Hebrews 11:39,40). For, as Paul has shown us, marriage between a man and a woman was established in the likeness of the covenant relationship between Christ (the Bridegroom) and His church (the Bride).
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother,
and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery;
but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself;
and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
Therefore, because Christ suffered, we too must expect to suffer by taking up our cross and following Him according to His travail for us.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples,
If an man will come after me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross and follow me.
And now for a man to take up his cross,
is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust,
and keep my commandments.
For even hereunto were ye called;
because Christ also suffered for us,
leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps;
Who did no sin,
neither was guile found in his mouth;
Who, when he was reviled,
reviled not again;
When he suffered,
he threateded not;
but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously;
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,
that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness;
By whose stripes ye were healed.
While these may be rather sobering thoughts, Paul provided the necessary encouragement when he wrote that there are no temptations that are not common to man. He then adds that God has provided a way of escape in all our circumstances – according to His timing and wisdom (I Corinthians 10:12,13). And that Way which He provides for us is Himself. As the Lord showed me in this dream, He would be fully engaged in our marriage. My wife and I would not be alone. Jesus would be with us to lead and direct, to enable and comfort, to inspire and to lead us in fellowship. Thus, in all matters and situations pertaining to marriage, Jesus Christ is the way provided for our escape (John 14:6). In the words of Paul, Jesus Christ is our life.
If ye then be risen with Christ,
seek those things which are above,
where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Set your affection on things above,
not on things on the earth.
For ye are dead,
and your life is hid with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear,
then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth;
and covetousness, which is idolatry;
For which things’ sake the wrath of God
cometh on the children of disobedience;
In the which ye also walked sometime,
when ye lived in them.
But now ye also put off all these;
filthy communication out of your mouth.
Lie not one to another,
seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
And have put on the new man,
which is renewed in knowledge
after the image of him that created him;
Where there is neither
Greek nor Jew,
circumcision nor uncircumcision,
bond nor free;
but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved,
bowels of mercies,
humbleness of mind,
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another,
if any man have a quarrel against any;
even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
And above all these things put on charity,
which is the bond of perfectness.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts,
to the which also ye are called in one body;
and be ye thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;
teaching and admonishing one another
in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed,
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands,
as it is fit in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives,
and be not bitter against them.
Children, obey your parents in all things;
for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger,
lest they be discouraged.
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh;
not with eye-service, as men-pleasers;
but in singleness of heart, fearing God;
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily,
as to the Lord, and not unto men;
Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance;
for ye serve the Lord Christ.
But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done;
and there is no respect of persons.
To Jesus Christ be all honor and glory now and forevermore!