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Army essentials for marriage

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Majors David E. and Jean A. Antill joyously reflect on their 40 years of marriage.

Marriage is more than a legal arrangement to live together sanctioned by the government. The Salvation Army holds that marriage is a covenant relationship. This covenant is personal, public, and sacred. Jesus said that a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Marriage is the joining of two individuals into one new relationship.

Oneness doesn’t mean the two individuals become identical, forfeiting their unique personalities, or that one person becomes controlling and the other subservient. And it isn’t created by each individual bringing 50 percent of them to the relationship so that the total is 100 percent. Oneness means that a new relationship is created as two people give themselves wholly to its care.

Marriage is God’s gift to humanity. Jesus’ words originate in Genesis 2 where we read, “Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” We were created for relationship. We were created in the image of the Triune God, a God who exists in community.

Therefore, relationships are not optional. In his book The DNA of Relationships: Discover How You Are Designed for Satisfying, Gary Smalley writes,  “From the moment you’re born, you’re in relationship with parents. Soon, you’re in relationship with other children. Later you have relationships in the workplace, and you develop relationships with close friends. And eventually, most people develop a relationship with someone they deeply love.”

Marriage is the sharing of life at all levels.
However, the fact that relationships are not optional doesn’t mean that they are always easy. Good interpersonal relations do not always happen automatically, even among committed Christians, says Gary Collins, author of Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide. He writes, “The Bible and psychology agree that good relationships depend on the consistent development and application of skills such as listening carefully, watching, understanding oneself and others, refraining from unkind comments or emotional outbursts, and communicating accurately. All of this is learned.”

Married happiness does not just happen. It is achieved by mutual endeavor in living out Christian principles. Marriage is the sharing of life at all levels. Everything possible must be done to prevent a breakdown from developing, or to repair a marriage where a breakdown has taken place.

Maintaining an intimate relationship with God, the author and sustainer of relationships fosters a healthy marriage. And, because human beings are complex creatures with individual personalities and strong wills, says Collins, oneness in marriage requires that we learn to listen to each other, become willing to identify needs, make changes in our own lives, resolve conflicts, develop communication skills, love, forgive, manage our anger, honor and respect one another, and value our differences.

Healthy marriages require a great deal more investment than the “I’m committed as long as this relationship is convenient for me” mentality that is prevalent today.

The relationship between husband and wife, if both are saved, must be marked by the fact that they love the same Master. Each is responsible for the other’s soul when misunderstandings and frictions arise, which are difficult to avoid even in the happiest marriage. Additionally, we should willingly and quickly grant forgiveness, pray together, intercede for each other, perform little acts of love, offer pleasant surprises, and be ready to bear each other’s burdens. Married happiness is something that two people create.

— Major David Antill is the territorial
secretary for pastoral care & spiritual special

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