Marriage is hard. This is a true statement. This is not, however, a helpful perspective to live from. Not the empowering mindset that will lead us to the thriving marriage we long for. While “marriage is hard” may be true, it is not the whole truth; never a good place to stop and set up camp. Just as my identity in Christ is not that I am a terrible sinner but rather that I am loved by Him and made new in Him. To live fully and joyfully requires I shift my mindset. Likewise, to have a thriving marriage requires that we move beyond the “marriage is hard” mindset and move toward “marriage is a gift” to be cherished and enjoyed.
"To bend the will, you first must change the heart." - Sandra McCracken
So how do we begin to cultivate awe as a daily practice? How do we integrate touchpoints of this rhythm into our marriage? The truth is, every single day, all around us are endless opportunities for awe. If we practice noticing, practice offering our deepest gratitude, pray for eyes to see the extraordinary wrapped up in the ordinary, it will lead us to see life in a whole new way, to see our partner in a new way, as someone we just can’t help but marvel at.
What are some practical ways we can pull out the extraordinary from our ordinary?
Live a life of gratitude.
Practicing gratitude opens the door for the marriage we dream of. Each time we go out of our way to discover something positive about our spouse, each time we pause to offer a silent thanks for the gift we’ve been given, we are working to build a culture of appreciation, joy, and love where a strong relationship can grow. The more we practice looking for awe, the more we develop eyes to see it.
Look for magic.
Another restorer of awe is celebration—looking for magic in the middle of the mundane; going out of our way to find seemingly small things to celebrate. Reasons to celebrate are all around us, all the time, if we choose to see them. Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “[People] of our time [are] losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating, [we seek] to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. . . . Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.”,/p>
Magic is all around us every day. Ask God to give you eyes to see it. It could be a starry sky, the way the light hits your child’s face, catching your spouse’s eye in a meaningful moment together, savoring your favorite activity together. The sky is the limit. Each moment where we choose awe matters. May we savor each one and stoke the fire of awe for the beautiful gifts of life and of each other.
Pray for what you lack.
There is nothing more powerful than praying for what you lack. Talk about extraordinary masquerading as ordinary. We have been given access to the Creator of the universe, the Lord of all the earth, and most days, we pass prayer off as our last resort. Pray for eyes to see the awe, to see the extraordinary in your spouse. Before you go to bed each night, take just a moment to pray together, reflecting on the moments of your day with gratitude. Offer thanks together for the gift of each other and ask for strength to take the lessons learned today into all that awaits you tomorrow.
Take an awe walk together.
Yes, this is an actual thing. Just in case your spouse may call this a hippy, granola activity (ask me how I know), here is scientific research to further your cause. In a study conducted at the university of California Berkley, a group of participants who spent time gazing at trees in nature were contrasted with a group who spent time gazing at buildings. The study concluded that “those who focused on the trees felt more awe and later were more likely to help a person in need, show greater ethical decision-making, and report less feelings of superiority to others.”,/p>
So, leave your phone behind, grab your spouse, and head to the prettiest trails you can find. As you walk together, intentionally take in the beauty of God’s creation around you. Take a deep breath, smell the fresh scents of the trees. Awe walks have been scientifically proven to lift your mood, ease your worries, and draws you closer to one another.
Enjoy each other.
As we may have mentioned a few times, the point of this rhythm is to view marriage as a great gift from God. And as Tyler Staton says, “There is no better response to a gift giver than to enjoy the gift. There is no sweeter worship than to enjoy the life He has given you to live.”90 We serve a God who enjoys us and even delights in us (Psalm 18:19). When we delight in each other, it brings Him—and us—great joy. Don’t take yourselves too seriously. Stay playful. Enjoy one another. Delighting in one another and in the life we get to share lightens the load. What do you love to do together? What activities reignite your love for each other? How can you proactively make room in your life to enjoy them more often?
Continue to pursue one another.
Sex is one of God’s greatest gifts. No matter how many years we’ve been together, we should always be intentional to make sure that we’re still pursuing and enjoying one another. Recently I shared with a friend that sex is just as much a spiritual and emotional experience as it is physical.
Do you believe that? Maybe you’ve never thought about it that way, but it’s crucial that we understand this side of sex. Early in the book we talked about ruts. One of the areas we can easily find ourselves in a rut is in the bedroom. I’ve heard so many stories of couples who haven’t had sex for months or years, and that breaks my heart. Others might be engaging in sex more regularly, but if they are honest, it’s more out of routine then it is out of passion, and they definitely aren’t experiencing many moments of awe.
Take a step back with God. Check your heart and ask yourself, When was the last time I viewed sex as an opportunity for awe? What would it look like for you to take the opportunity to look in wonder at your spouse, to see sex not as a chore or duty but as a gift and a miracle every time you both say yes to each other?
May we choose every day to practice the rhythm of awe, and may it change the way we see our spouse and the great gift of life together. A shared life is a miracle. We thrive when we stay in awe of our spouse and of the gift of loving someone for a lifetime. When we live and love from that place, we’ll find our marriage coming awake and alive.