Cathy and Jim had been married for almost 20 years. At the beginning of their marriage, neither of them took their Christian faith too seriously. An occasional visit to church was enough. Through the challenges of raising children, health scares and financial hardship, Cathy began to find support through women's groups. Over time, she developed a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. She regularly read the Bible and relied on God's wisdom in making life decisions.
The problem? Jim hadn't budged an inch toward God.
Cathy asked me a question that I've heard from many women:
Is it possible to spiritually outgrow your marriage?
At one level, the answer is "yes." You might be far more interested than your spouse in spiritual things. Like Cathy, you might want to make every decision thinking about biblical standards, while your spouse cares only about worldly things.
There is a deep sadness and loneliness that comes when you can't share intimate things of the Lord with your husband. He may roll his eyes when you excitedly share what God has been teaching you. That hurts!
But looking at it from a different angle, it is impossible to spiritually outgrown someone you are called to love.
I remember meeting with another woman who felt she had a much deeper relationship with God than her husband did. In her loneliness, she developed an intimate relationship with a man from her church who was also lonely in his marriage. In the midst of violating their wedding vows they prayed, attended church and read the Bible together. This women told me that God had brought this adulterous relationship in her life because he knew how spiritually lonely she was in her marriage.
Do you see the irony? The deception? The twisted thinking?
If this woman were truly growing spiritually, her empathy and unconditional love for her husband would have been the fruit. Instead, her self-righteousness and discontent led her into a dangerous deception. So was she really spiritually more mature than her husband?
The deeper you grow with the Lord, the greater your capacity to love your spouse—even if he or she is spiritually weaker. You will find yourself embracing your vows more fervently rather than questioning them. The true evidence of God's work in our lives is not spiritual superiority, but becoming more like Christ in his humility and obedience.
As Paul wrote, "spiritual knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."
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Juli Slattery is a widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional. She co-founded Authentic Intimacy, and is co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?