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The Priority in Marriage

Sherri and I recently attended a conference that hosted a number of speakers on a number of topics. So, when we settled in for the first speaker – Sinclair Ferguson – to speak on marriage, I looked forward to whatever reminders he would bring. After all, I’ve led marriage conferences, heard countless sermons, and… well… I’ve been married for 40 years! What new could I learn, right?

As he tenderly entered Genesis 1 & 2, he began to unfold the passage as it was written. In the process, his first major point was to show the first priority in the creation of marriage. It’s found in God’s declaration: “It’s not good for man to be alone.” Marriage was first and foremost created for companionship. Not sex, not to be co-laborers in the Garden, not even to have children.

A husband and wife really are to be first and foremost “companions.” Oxford defines this as “a feeling of fellowship or friendship.” As I pondered this highest priority in marriage, I began to reflect on the ramifications this realization has for withstanding the assaults on marriage that I’ve counseled over the years. Things like:

If a couple has prioritized each other as best friends, then communication will come more readily. One doesn’t resort to outside friendships who “get you” because your spouse works so hard to understand and respond in kindness and support. If you’re truly friends, you don’t yell at or demean the other. When no one else is, your best-friend-spouse is there.

When a couple is in true fellowship, they will respond in mutual support when it comes to all the challenges of raising children. Investing time, sharing values, practicing discipline, sacrificially giving one’s energy, and all that goes into successful parenting… ALL is a labor of love that is shared.

When spouses are deeply connected as companions, they will inevitably enjoy a much more satisfying sex life. Companionship and sexual satisfaction are inextricably connected. And if, for whatever reason (age, disability, etc.), sex is diminished or even eliminated in a marriage, when strong companionship is achieved, marriage can still be deeply satisfying.

When “two agree to walk together,” true companionship goes even deeper. Each shares what they are learning, how they are praying, what challenges they are seeking to rise above, and mutual encouragement is given. Having a companion is good; having a spiritual companion is excellent!

When building anything of worth, the foundation is vital. From God’s Word, then, we read that the first and most fundamental quality that must be found in a spouse and then nurtured throughout marriage is companionship. While we will undoubtedly have other friends, we simply must grow in becoming true and enduring friends with our spouses. This applies in how we converse with one another, how we serve one another, pray for one another, and even in how we argue with one another. And just to clarify, I’m not talking “friendly,” for that can become distant in a real hurry. The challenge is to do the work it takes to achieve true companionship and become true friends. Then (as some might say in the deep south), that’s when marriage gets gooder and gooder!