It Takes Three

I read something interesting yesterday in a secular counseling book that is currently among my group of four books that I’m reading (yes, my ADD causes me to read four at a time). It is a statement that I hope no Christian will disagree with, and I am awed that secular research validates God’s design for human relational behavior. Once again, science validates God – go figure.

This quote is found on page 11 of Genograms, “two-person relationships tend to be unstable. Under stress two people tend to draw in a third. They stabilize the system by forming a coalition of two in relation to the third. The basic unit of an emotional system thus tends to be a triangle.”

Now, let that sink in. What is the implication of this statement for marriage? Success is going to be determined by the choice of the third party. I’ve seen married people choose a close friend – but that has the tendency to destabilize the relationship further because of allegiance issues. It is the rare person who is going to be able to remain perfectly impartial. Distrust will form or a fourth will be brought in which ends up fracturing the entire unit into two unmarried pairs.

A child could be the choice. Let’s stay married for the kid. That may work for a time, but what happens when the kid leaves the house, as he inevitably will. The purpose for the marriage will walk out the door with them. For impartiality a counselor could be a good choice. There would even be some wisdom to this, but not for an indefinite interval – that would lead to codependency. An unhealthy picture of reliance on a person who will fail sooner or later.

There can really be only one choice. Jesus has promised to be our rock and our foundation. He is partners with a Wonderful Counselor who is the mark of God on each of us. He plays no favorites. Each partner in a marriage can be assured that Jesus will have each of our best interests represented when He is the third member of the triangle of our marriage relationship. He wants us to be fulfilled in this most intimate of earthly relationships. And just in case we think He doesn’t understand all that is involved, He pictures His own relationship with the Church as a marriage. Seems like a match made in heaven.

I got to listen to Francis Chan speak Tuesday morning. He was fresh off his resignation message of the weekend and he was recounting the months of agonizing and wrestling with God’s call that both he and his wife had done leading up to the announcement this weekend. During his talk, he showed a video clip of his wife speaking during the service. Through tears she recounted how both she and Francis came to know that they needed to be obedient to the call of Christ and pursue ministry in the inner city. Throwing off comfort as a way of denying themselves and following God where ever he may lead.

One statement by Mrs. Chan in particular struck me, and this is my best reconstruction, throughout our marriage Francis has often said that he felt God leading him in a certain direction, and my response has always been, if you are convinced that is where God is leading, then I will wholeheartedly follow. But in this decision, God gave both of us the direction. That is the perfect picture of the marriage that has as the third member Jesus – Jesus who they can lean on and turn to during this time of inner turmoil and lack of peace and who is faithful to lead.

They had made the choice to live in dependence to the Savior. As Francis related this to the room of about 100 people (and I was literally 3.5 feet from him, looking him in the eyes), he told us that while he thought he and his wife were as close as they could get, this process of surrendering to the will of God had brought them closer than he could ever have imagined.

That’s where I want my marriage to be. Dependent upon Christ. Total surrender. Ever deepening intimacy.

As I have looked online for the clip of just Francis’ wife’s portion of the message, I have seen so much cynicism over this decision. Apparently people do not understand inner city ministry if they are equating big city with “bright lights and more fame”. My response to that is I think Francis and his wife make the rest of American Christians uncomfortable. Here is a guy with success as we would see it. Big church. Best selling book. Best selling videos. He’s a pastoral rock star and he is giving all that up out of obedience. That is hard for Christians who are comfortable and lukewarm to fathom, so the only possible response if cynicism.

While I watched, I saw a guy who was convicted. And I will pray for him, because he inspired me. For his decision, surely, but even more for how Christ was the Rock of his marriage.

Once again, that’s what I desire for my marriage. That’s what I’ve always wanted for my marriage and has always seemed so out of my reach. And it is. While it is my desire, it is a goal that my wife has to be involved with also. I can’t reach alone, both my wife and I have to reach together. While we both have to be involved, as I described in a previous post, I am learning how to lead us there. I am learning how to not abdicate my responsibility; to resist passivity; to correct inadvertently laying a burden of leadership on my wife for which she was not designed.

We’ve discussed and written down marriage goals for the year. It’s time to invite Christ to be our third and lead us to our goals and beyond. Hopefully each year when we do this I can echo what Francis Chan said about his own marriage – I thought we were close, but through this we are now closer than I ever could have imagined.

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