Marriage is a Marathon, not a sprint
The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 B.C. during the first Persian invasion. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, Greece, and the Persian forces under the rule of the Persian King Darius. A fabled run of a Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, is the basis for the modern marathon, held in cities across the world, with the larger ones having tens of thousands of runners participating.
The marathon is a long-distance, foot race on the road with an official distance of 26 7/32 miles, requiring great strength and endurance. A sprint, on the other hand, is a short distance run, requiring a burst of energy, to run at one’s full speed. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint.
From the website www.MarathonRookie.com, I found the Top 10 Rookie Mistakes for beginner marathon runners, which apply to marriage as well. They are: injury, hydration, lack of knowledge, starting too fast, wrong goal, motivation, lack of belief, lack of support, and underestimate stretching. Let’s look at each one of these for why marriages are often troubled, and fail.
1. Injury. A couple comes into marriage, bringing emotional and spiritual baggage, and often many wounds. MarathonRookie.com says that many beginner runners “notice soreness in their shins or knees and ignore it. They keep running and BAM, it hits them. They’re done. Game Over. Be aware of the warning signs and how to treat them.”
If one person in the marriage is injured, then the marriage’s health will be affected as well. We need to realize that it is only God who can heal us and make us whole – not our spouse. Men love to fix things, but they can’t fix their wives. Vice versa for wives trying to change, fix, or improve their husbands.
Jesus is the healer of wounded hearts. Sometimes healing from deep hurts such as parental rejection, abandonment, childhood abuse, dysfunctional relationships in adulthood, abortion, drug, alcohol, or pornography and gambling addictions may require professional counseling, spiritual deliverance, and/or pastoral accountability.
Ultimately as we seek God’s face, study His word, and obey Him, we will receive our healing. Psalm 107:20 says, “He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”
2. Hydration. MarathonRookie.com says that runners get dehydrated because they underestimate how much water their bodies need during training. Married couples don’t realize how much they need Jesus’ “living waters” each day for their marriage to last. In John 4:10 (NKJV), Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
3. Lack of knowledge. When you’re dating, let’s face it, your fiance’ doesn’t realize what he’s really getting himself into! He doesn’t know that you’re a clean-freak, you hate to cook, and you aren’t a morning person. After all, you go out on weekend dates to the Japanese or Italian restaurant, where they cook the delicious food, wash the dishes, and after your talks and snuggles til midnight at his house, you go home and crash – and sleep in the next morning!
Couples may see some things that concern them while they date, but they often don’t really see with their “love blinders” on. They’re too focused on how wonderful this person is, and how they’re going to be happy for the rest of their lives. A longer dating period, asking probing questions, and paying attention to little details, will help you to get to know your fiancé better – and you will have less unpleasant “surprises,” such as him being a “messy” or her having a new shoes addiction – after saying “I do.”
4. Starting too fast. MarathonRookie.com says that beginner runners try to run more miles than the scheduled training. “If you feel really strong when you begin training and want to run more, PLEASE resist the temptation. By going the extra mile, you are substantially increasing the likelihood of injury.”
Going too fast in a relationship can increase your chances of being hurt, too. This is especially true in a relationship where there’s lots of intense chemistry. Lust will not see you through the years; commitment and love will! Take it slow, and get to know this person before the wedding day!
5. Wrong training program. In Luke 6:47-49 (NKJV), the story of the man building his house on the foundation of the rock, and it standing in the fierce storm, is a perfect picture of a good marriage that will last. Married couples will face many storms through the years, and having their marriage built on the principles of God’s word is what will get them through these storms.
Some couples had the wrong “training program,” in that they were never taught the truth of God’s word, and don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ. MarathonRunner.com says some runners choose a program that is more difficult than they can handle, and they wind up quitting. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NKJV) We need God’s help with our marriage problems. All we have to do is come to Him in humble faith, and He will give us all we need.
6. Wrong goal. Some runners focus on finishing the marathon quickly. This is the wrong goal, and increases the chances of injury and not finishing at all. The goal of the marathon for a beginner should be just to finish. This should be our goal in marriage, too, doing all we can to prevent divorce. It takes long-term love, mutual honor, commitment, affection, and open and honest communication to make marriage work over the long haul. A great sense of humor helps, too!
Some people go into marriage with a goal of the other person making them happy, and completing them. Only God can fill us up and complete us. We need to lay aside unreasonable expectations of our husband or wife, and not put that kind of pressure on them.
We may also have other goals that are quite selfish in nature, such as our own career or home-business success, to the detriment of the marriage and family – ambitiously spending all our time on personal projects to get “ahead,” while neglecting the very ones we love. Balance is the key. Time with our husband or wife lets them know we love them, and enjoy them.
7. Motivation. Just as in a run when there’s bad weather, an injury, illness, or work that can keep him from a run, and cause him to lose his motivation to continue, there are problems that occur in marriage which causes a husband or a wife to lose their motivation to continue the marriage. Financial stresses, the demands of children, relatives and friends who intrude, pressures at work, a nagging spouse, infidelity or pornography, addictions, fatigue, boredom can all play a part in one of the partners wanting to bail out of the marriage. Keep your eye on the goal; to finish strong. Never give up!
8. Lack of belief. In Mark 6: 5-6, unbelief hindered the purposes of God. People often give up far too easily and quickly today, and file for divorce. “Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.”
MarathonRookie.Com says that beginner runners begin training and have a hard time finishing their first five-mile run. After that, they give up, thinking they could never do a marathon. “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, NKJV) We need to have faith and believe that God will heal our marriages.
9. Lack of support. The world is far too eager to tell you that marriage is too hard, and it’s just much better (for your sake, for your children’s sake, for your career’s sake, for your sanity’s or checking account’s sake) to get a divorce. Many married couples do not get the support they need to help their marriages succeed from family, friends, co-workers, and even professional counselors and spiritual advisors.
If you are counseling with a professional counselor who tells you to divorce your spouse for any reason other than unfaithfulness, spouse or child abuse, or serious addiction where the spouse refuses any help, then RUN! Sometimes a couple may need to draw boundaries with people who are critical of their marriage, or are giving one or both of them ungodly advice. You might even have to cut off contact with them for a season, or permanently. Your marriage is your most important priority, under God.
As the marriage goes, the family goes. As the family goes, the community goes. As the community goes, the state goes. As the state goes, the nation goes. As the nation goes, the world goes! Successful marriages have far-reaching consequences!
God told Abraham that he and his descendants would be blessed forever, to all future generations! Because of Abraham’s and Sarah’s faith in and obedience to God, and due to their committed marriage, their children and all future generations were blessed!
Don’t you think their marriage might have been strained just a little when Abraham had sex with Sarah’s maid, and she became pregnant with Ishmael, after Sarah had years of barrenness? Yet Sarah stayed, despite her great pain and emptiness…and God rewarded her with her own baby boy, Isaac, which means “laughter.”
10. Stretching. Beginner runners often underestimate the importance of stretching, which gives them less soreness, puts them at less risk for injury, and gives them greater flexibility and a longer stride. Stretch out your arms to Jesus and to your husband or wife. Go all out in your love and devotion. Bend, cooperate, be understanding, show mercy and forgiveness. This will help your marriage to last.
Don’t be so rigid and set in your ways, insisting that you are right all the time, that you can’t meet your spouse half-way or more. Lay your life down for the sake of your marriage. Through the years of your marriage, you will learn that “stretching” yourself in faith and love will enhance your marriage relationship, and will create greater tenderness, affection, respect, and passion in your marriage.
A sprint may get you to the finish line faster, but a marathon has incredible awards. Go for the gold in marriage. Do the marathon, and win!
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” – Unknown
Need help and encouragement for your marriage? Click here to learn more or buy my book about my very troubled marriage, Stained Glass & Marriage: Reflections of Light & Hope by an Imperfect Wife.
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