The Center of the Circle

By Greg Smalley
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Focus on the Family

The parallel between romantic love and God’s relationship with His people is a theme that runs all the way through Scripture, and it has a great deal to teach us about the spiritual dimension of marriage.

“Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?'” Matthew 19:4 and 5

Male and female. Two in one. This, according to Scripture, is what marriage is all about. The union represented here may be one of the greatest miracles in all of creation. But it’s also something more. For in addition to everything else marriage means for a man and a woman, it has a deep spiritual significance. At the very highest level, it functions as an unparalleled working image of the seeking and saving Love of our Creator and Savior – the Love that compels Him to unite Himself to His people in a bond of eternal fellowship and never-ending give and take.

That Love is the Heart that beats at the very core of the universe. It’s at the center encompassing everything that exists. Without it nothing was made that has been made. Apart from it there is no life, no goodness, no hope for things present or things to come. It’s the reality after which we all grope in our endless quest for ultimate Meaning and Truth.

Herein lies the real purpose of romantic love between the sexes and the marital bond in which it finds consummation. Charles Williams, friend of C. S. Lewis and member of the legendary Inklings, called it the mystery of co-inherence: the marvel of me in you and you in me. Williams’s term encapsulates how a love affair grows into a genuine marriage, and a genuine marriage becomes a gateway to deeper knowledge and experience of God Himself. “For we are members of His body,” writes the apostle Paul, “of His flesh and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:30).

Isn’t that something to get excited about? What a cause for celebration! Research indicates that couples who build their relationship upon a foundation of both true spiritual intimacy and a shared faith in God possess one of the most important predictors of marital success and longevity. These couples know what marriage is for and what it means. They’re part of a 3-cornered relationship that places God at the apex of the triangle. They see their own union being part of the greater Union towards which all things are moving. And they know that every love, however great, will eventually be united in the greatest Love of all.

Date Night

Remember, always act like you’re trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage we forget that we need to pursue and “woo” our spouse. So dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate – hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Remember to protect your date night from conflict by cutting off any arguments and/or administrating. Agree to talk about such issues at a later time.

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.

Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.

Step 2: Pick a date night activity designed to get you thinking about the deeper spiritual significance of romantic love and marriage.

Here’s a couple of ideas:

  • If there’s a good romantic comedy playing in the theaters, spend an evening at the movies. As you watch the film, give some conscious thought to the parallels between the typical “guy-gets-girl” plot and the biblical story of God’s pursuit of mankind – the greatest romance of all time. It might be a good idea to prepare for this by reading Song of Solomon or the Book of Hosea. Afterwards, talk about the movie, paying special attention to what it says about your love for each other and God’s love for you.
  • If there’s nothing worth seeing in the cinema, try planning your own drive-in movie night. First, buy or rent the DVD of your choice. Then, when the kids are in bed, make a big bowl of popcorn, take your laptop out to the car, put the movie on, and proceed as outlined above.
  • Do something together that you used to do back when you were dating – for example, attend a dance, go to a high school football game, get tickets to a concert, or take a long walk in a secluded and romantic location. Get nostalgic and remember what it was like to be young and in love. Re-live those emotions. Talk about why you were drawn to each other and recall the hopes and dreams you shared at the beginning of your romance. Have any of those dreams been realized? If not, have they influenced the direction of your married life in some measurable way? Have they inspired new desires for something bigger and better? Where does God fit into the picture? Has your love for Him grown or diminished as a result of the things you’ve experienced together?

Step 3: Relax and unwind.

The real “meat” of this date will become evident in the discussions that flow out of the activities suggested above. After your activity, find a quiet place for dessert or coffee to slow down and emotionally connect through good conversation. Ask yourselves what the apostle Paul had in mind when he said that, at the deepest level, his reflections and instructions on the state of marriage were really about “Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). Pray together and ask the Lord to show you what your love for each other might teach you about His love for you, and vice versa. Then spend some time answering the following questions:

What was your favorite part of the evening?

What is the one thing you learned tonight that you didn’t know about me before?

What are some practical steps we can take to cultivate spiritual intimacy at the heart of our marriage?

Step 4: Home Sweet Home

As you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Also, think about additional ways you can grow in your love for God and for one another in the coming week. Once you get home, however, it’s up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

© 2015 Focus on the Family.

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About the Author

Greg Smalley

Dr. Greg Smalley serves as the Vice President of Marriage at Focus on the Family. In this role, he develops and oversees initiatives that prepare individuals for marriage, strengthen and nurture existing marriages and help couples in marital crises. Prior to joining Focus, Smalley worked for the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and as President of the …

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