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September 21, 2020 / BY Laurie Krieg

How Do Your Kids View God When They Look At Your Marriage?

Our oneness is a witness to the world that God wants to be one with them.

And our oneness is a witness to our kids that God wants to be one with them.

I reached for Matt’s arm, gave it a squeeze, and smiled. I was filled with deep thankfulness as I looked around the mall at the Christmas décor, remembering years past when Christmas seemed to unify us through pain.

Now there wasn’t as much pain. There was (and is) just normal, being-in-relationship-to-another sinner stuff. Matt looked over at me and squeezed and smiled back. He received my silent message and returned one. I love you, too. I’m grateful, too.

As we walked, I was surprised to feel a warm body on the other side of me.

It was our oldest daughter, Gwyn. She looked up and replicated the squeeze I did to Matt. I knew this move. When Gwyn sees Matt and I close—hugging, kissing, or arms around each other—something happens to her. She draws closer. She feels . . . safe. I asked her to see if my assumptions were true.

“Gwynnie?” I asked, hugging her with my left arm while still holding onto Matt with my right. “When Daddy and I are close, does it feel safe in your heart?”

​We’ve had this conversation at least a dozen times before, but her answer always amazes me: “Yes,” she said, unable to articulate the fullness I saw on her face. She snuggled closer as we walked through the holiday cheer. “Oh, yes.”

One of the purposes of our marriages is to be a witness to the world that God loves them.

It’s a visible, ongoing picture to the world that “As we are one with each other, so God wants to be one with you.”

As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” (Eph. 5:31-32)
 
It’s easy to put on our best faces at church, on dates, and in the mall, but when we get home, we let all of the marriage oneness fall apart.

Our in-home conversations are not for heart-connections, but to get things done.
Our in-home hugs are not soul-connectors, but are obligatory (if at all).
Our in-home serving isn’t to show the other we submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, but because, “I can’t live in this dump hole of a house anymore.”

And our kids are watching.

When Matt or I start walking with people—he in a counseling relationship or me in a discipleship one—one of the first things I do is ask them about their parents. “How did your dad treat your mom? How did mom treat your dad? How did each of them treat you?”

One-hundred percent of the time, relational interactions they had with their parents or guardians reflects how they perceive God.

Not every relational interaction with them is the same as how they view God, but there are often a few.

Dad was distant and cold? 
They see God as distant and cold.

Mom was unpredictable in her emotions, and they felt they had to placate her? 
They feel they have to tiptoe around God.

Dad seemed to demand perfection? 
They feel God requires the same thing.

Mom hit you if you made a mistake? 
They wait for God’s backhand when they fail.

Now, people may say, “God is love,” but their default perceptions of how they really feel about God, always resemble Mom and Dad. Unless they confront these misbeliefs, they will go on believing them.

So, how will our kids view God in adulthood if Matt and I are their first images of the invisible God?

Holy conviction, Batman.

When attraction is gone? 
Will we pursue loving the other to show our children how much Jesus loves us and how we are to love Him—even though we are not that cute and, in suffering, God doesn’t look that cute to us?

When we are fighting? 
Will we show our kids how to not be aggressive-aggressive or passive aggressive, but to be honest, forthright and work through pain as we are called to do with God (i.e. lament)?

When our spouse comes home from work and we don’t want to greet them kindly, but instead throw kids, food, and complaint onto them? 
Will we instead demonstrate how we pursue God through struggles—and how we are to be thankful in all circumstances?

Ahhhhhhhhh. This is hard, right? And not just when marriage is extra painful, but when it’s just normal, married-to-a-sinner stuff.

But how do we do this? How can we live out this oneness metaphor of God’s desire to be one with us? Where do we get our motivation?

Can I be straight-up honest with you? I’ve explored a decent amount of marriage materials, and so much of them revolve around the horizontal relationship-building. They address the above areas—attraction, fighting, the importance of kind greetings—but the reason (the motivation) they give for doing it? Because . . . well, we are supposed to love each other. Marriage is about sanctification. Holiness. It’s about becoming more like Christ.

None of what they are saying is wrong, but is sanctification and holiness the best and primary motivator for marital connection?

Maybe. For some people. But honestly? When I was ready to leave Matt, those reasons were not helpful. “Holiness? Pfft. I can get that somewhere else. Sanctification? Life is hard. I can get sanctified and go through trials elsewhere. So, see ya.”

But . . . but . . . when I saw the vertical reasons?

When I saw the grand, beautiful purpose of being a witness to the world (which includes my kids) that God crazy loves them? Oh, man. That had staying power. It wasn’t the only reason I didn’t leave, but it was a big one.

A problem, however, was I had no energy to make the metaphor happen. I now wanted to want to make the metaphor happen, but I did not have the impetus to do it. Matt wasn’t cute enough. I wasn’t sanctified enough.

I had to go somewhere. I had to go to the only place that gave me energy. The name for that energy is “love,” and the source of it comes from the One who has that name.

“God is love.” (1 Jn. 4:8)

“God, I want to show my kids how much you love them, but I am not feeling love for Matt. I don’t want to serve him. Hug him. Move toward him. But you do. You love him. You love my kids. You love me!”

There it was: the energy. I poured out my pain, opened my heart to God, and boom: I received energy/love—for me first. It took months. It took work (counseling, prayer, friendships)—it took removing barriers between my own heart and the Maker of my heart—but as I sought Him and seek Him, He gives it.

And that love is the only motivating energy to live out the metaphor.

There is more to this story (hence the forthcoming book), but I want to leave it here for today.

Our oneness is a witness to the world that God wants to be one with them.

And our oneness is a witness to our kids that God wants to be one with them.

This post originally appeared on Laurie’s website on November 11, 2019.


Laurie Krieg is a writer, speaker, and ministry leader whose mission is to teach the church how to approach sexuality with the gospel. She also serves on the board of directors of the Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender. Laurie and her husband, Matt, a licensed therapist, are the authors of the new book An Impossible Marriage: What Our Mixed-Orientation Marriage Has Taught Us About Love and the Gospel.  They live with their three children in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

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