Lots of us have heard or seen this triangle illustration for marriage:
It’s an image of how marriage should be lived. It’s clear and concise; unfettered by the realities of life. The arrows portray simplicity of how each of the relationships work: The white arrow expresses unity of the relationship between a husband and wife; the black arrows show that each spouse is growing closer to God, at the same rate. Fitting for the wedding day perhaps, when life is still utopian.
Nice picture on a flat page. Not based in truth or reality. Offers no practicalities.
This image leaves out one important factor: Sin.
The Black Arrow
God is after relationship and He wants us to be like Him; as perfect as we can be, as created beings. This takes practice and our relationships are the arena. But to see a relationship with God as separate and distinct; in a vacuum detached from others (as the triangle above illustrates), is the part that just isn’t helpful.
Let’s face it, to be in relationship with God is easy. It’s easy to want to grow closer to Him, isn’t it? There is absolutely no work on our part. He’s always there for us and never lets us down. It doesn’t matter what sin we commit, what mistake we make.
He always offers unlimited love and unsurpassed mercy and grace
We humans … not so much
Look at what He brings to the relationship through His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (just to name a few). And what do we bring to game day? Nothing. Seems like a one sided relationship.
This is where the black arrows fool us. If I base my relationship with God on this black arrow that travels between me and Him, it’s not accurate; it makes me only a taker which is unbalanced. I don’t get to say how much I love God by taking all that He offers, while the relationship with my husband demonstrates anything less than love to that of a brother. Jesus said it cannot be one without the other.
To love God includes loving people.
The only way this marriage triangle works is when I grow in what God brought to my relationship with Him: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
God states that He loved us first and that makes it possible for us to love Him. Loving my brother is how I return God’s love to Him:
It starts with God
Flows through me to my husband
And ends with God
There is no white arrow