How is your marriage story?
You probably haven’t been asked that question before. You probably haven't looked at your marriage as a story.
But it is.
Now, it could be a story that bores you to tears. Or it could be a story that fills you with dread and regret. Or maybe your story is perfectly fine.
But guess what?
Without knowing what makes a great story, at best, you're overlooking the good parts. At worst, you're letting your story become badly written without your input.
So….what happens when you see your marriage as a story?
The answer may not only surprise you, but it could change your marriage for the better.
But first….what‘s so special about a story?
Remember the last time you read a great book or watched an awesome movie? Did you re-read or re-watch it? Maybe you told other people to read that same book or watch that same movie? That power to compel us to retell and relive a narrative reveals why stories are so special.
Because a riveting story opens your eyes to the world and to yourself, it changes you.
Your marriage is one of the most important stories in your life.
If you're engaged or already married, what's one story that you're likely already being asked about?
Your engagement story!
If you're dating, you've probably been asked, "How did you two meet?" The quality and vividness of those stories matter.
That's one of the reasons couples put so much attention to their engagement: it's a story they will come back to again and again, whether they are telling it to others or, more importantly, to themselves.
A good story can remind a couple why they are together.
But if story is important before you get married, shouldn't it be even more important throughout your marriage? After all, whatever your marriage's life stage, you're already in the middle of a story.
What happens if you don't appreciate and shape your marriage story?
Have you ever watched a bad movie?
Most likely, you've long forgotten all about it.
You certainly don't tell people to go and watch it. It likely didn't change your life.
You don't go back to rewatch it when you need inspiration or entertainment.
In fact, if the movie were bad enough, you may have even left in the middle. Or considered it a waste of time and money.
This can also happen with your marriage if you aren't aware of and engaged with its story.
Without your own narrative, you will conform to the patterns of every one else, and may find yourself like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
A great story, on the other hand, is like an anchor for your soul.
It can make a reality what is hoped for. It can give you certainty for the things you cannot see.
So why are bad stories written?
Bad stories get written when the writer doesn’t know the key beats in every good story.
When this happens, the writer is flying blind.
You've also learned that troubled marriages are a lot like a badly written story: they both can feel flat, boring, forgettable, a waste of time, or leave you anxious and depressed.
Is it possible, then, that knowing what a good story is can help you to better appreciate and author your own marriage story?
That instead of flying blind till you get to the end and realize you've missed out, what if you could go all in fully informed and intentional?
Knowing the key beats of a good marriage story helps you in three primary ways:
One: Find meaning in, connection to, and purpose for each others' past.
Two: Have perspective of and persistence during your present.
Three: Apply wisdom, intention, and anticipation to your future.
Notice the similarity to basic story structure: there’s a beginning, middle, and end. However, as I will share shortly, those are not the elements which make for a great story.
Even the bad stories have a beginning, middle, and end.
In fact, you may even believe that those are the only key beats to your marriage story: you get married, you stay married, then the marriage ends.
If that's as far as you imagine a marriage can and will be, you're already missing out what it takes to make a great story.
So…what are the elements to a great marriage story?
What makes for a great marriage story starts with knowing where to look.
The first place to start looking is for the right kind of story.
There're all kinds of stories: drama, mystery, horror, or even comedy.
But what kind of story would you want for your marriage story?
A love story.
What I did is I looked for a love story which was not only the most widely read love story ever. I looked for a love story which actually caused people who read it to fall in love.
After I describe the key elements, I'll share with you part of this story.
But first, let's look at the key elements:
Don't the best love stories also seem to combine a sense of adventure?
Whether it occurs during in a storm at high sea or while racing through outer space to defeat an evil empire, an adventure takes the story and relationship to another level.
Do you have the element of adventure in your marriage and how can you inject more adventure in your life?
A love story where the two main characters don’t change how they see themselves, each other, or the rest of the world would feel pretty flat.
Great stories contain a revelation, often more than one, that transforms the characters.
Do you know how and where to look for revelation in your own marriage story?
If a love story were all roses between the couple, there wouldn’t be any conflict.
Not only would that be boring, but it would be unrealistic. But if they stayed in conflict, soaked in bitterness and revenge, it wouldn’t make for a good story.
Do you have a compelling and convicting model of true forgiveness to write this chapter in your story?
Love stories always face a moment of loss. It’s the point where something held dear seems to die. Where hope fades. Putting this moment into the bigger story not only helps you see the way out, but to appreciate it.
Many amazing stories have redemption at its heart. Often, one person redeeming the other is the spine of the love story. Sometimes the relationship, itself, is what redeems one or both of the characters from a pain in their life.
How deeply is the redemption ‘beat' woven into your own marriage story?
Maybe they don’t literally come to life as Neo does in the Matrix after a kiss.
But a love story has something once “dead” come back to life. Your story can have the same if you know to look for it and see that as an essential beat.
Even though love is about two people being together, great stories are also about freedom.
It could be freedom from social convention, family expectations, personal baggage, or even the past.
How are you experiencing freedom while being knit together in your marriage?
Are you ready to write your marriage story?
Here's what we’ve covered so far: we’ve learned that our marriages are like a story.
There are two choices you can make: you can either go into your story
totally blind to what makes a good marriage story.
You can learn the “beats” to shape your own great marriage story.
You can have a marriage story that's flat, aimless, or even writes itself into a dead end.
Your story can flourish with memories and moments you want to relive and retell over and over.
You learned the seven key elements to a great love story and why those “beats” can strengthen your marriage.
Today, I’m going to share with you how you can write Your Marriage Story.
Here is the big idea: the best way to write your own love story well is to study and model another great Story.
In fact, those seven key beats to writing your marriage story came from studying a love story that's been read by millions of people.
This story not only made them feel loved, but also made them fall in love.
Now, that must be a pretty great love story.
But before I tell you the actual story, I know that some of you won’t believe it's true. And that’s okay. That’s not required for you to reap the benefits so your marriage can be as strong as possible.
All you need to know is that it's a great story that you can study to write your own marriage story.
Are you ready?
This love story is about God and the human race.
They start out together in the perfect relationship. Then mankind breaks God’s heart.
They treat God as badly as you can imagine. Betray Him. Scorn Him. Ignore Him. Cheat on Him.
God forgives, but He also knows that if He cannot fix the broken relationship they will be apart…forever.
To save them, he sacrifices what he loves even more than mankind itself: his only, perfect Son.
He sends his Son on the ultimate Adventure: to go into the world and bring people back to God.
Meanwhile, the human race has been put into a kind of bondage by believing that the only way to fix the relationship is to be absolutely perfect by following moral rules to the letter.
That prison keeps them separated from God because all man-made attempts were failing from our natural imperfections, depravity, and brokenness.
God seeks their Redemption.
But this requires an unbelievable Sacrifice: his Son’s death.
The leaders on earth murder God’s son because they don't believe they need to follow anyone else other than themselves.
All seems lost.
Then....three days later...the son returns from the dead.
His Resurrection means he has the power to restore this broken relationship.
Because of this miracle, some people have a life-changing Revelation: that despite their rebellion against God, He still wants to bring them back to himself in a loving relationship.
Some realize: this what true love looks like.
When they decide to believe this story, they experience Freedom from their self-imposed prison of religious rules.
But here’s the shocking kicker: while you do shape your own marriage story, God is the ultimate author and editor.
For many of you, that could be a shocking statement.
But here’s why it’s valuable to hear it:
It's not just any story.
Yours is but one chapter in this huge, on-going saga about His relationship with all of human kind.
Imagine that: wherever you are in your own story, right now it’s part of a much larger story God is writing for everyone.
Here’s the amazing part: when God is writing your story, he can change it.
One man who cheated on his wife, proclaimed: “God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.”
So if you’re ready to write your own marriage story, here's how.