Y’all I am so excited to share the third in the series “Marriage Talks – Keeping God at the Center.” I wanted to find married couples who would share a bit of their story with us and give advice. The idea behind this series is to get a real look at real relationships and to provide lessons and information for people who want to keep God at the center of their relationships. In a world that promotes and admires teen pregnancies and not getting married, I want to share a message about why it matters to have Him in your relationship.
This interview is with Caleb and Martha. Caleb was one of the elders at my church in South Korea and they are both life group leaders. They are a wonderful couple who provide insight and a family atmosphere for a lot of us who were on our own. Their knowledge of the Bible was amazing and challenged some of my thoughts. I am so excited that they were willing to share with us. I hope you all enjoy their love story. ❤
- Tell me about yourselves.
We are Caleb and Martha Button. We are both in our early thirties. We’ve just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. We have a 21-month-old daughter named Ivy and a very small dog named Mumford. We have been living in South Korea and working as English Teachers since the beginning of 2010. Caleb is also the campus pastor at the international church we are part of. -Martha
- How did you two meet?
We met at Bible College – sort of. I had already graduated, but I was still working on campus at one of the schools extension ministries. As a student, he became friends with many of my friends that were still students and we ended up hanging out together a lot with our mutual friends. -Martha
- Tell me about how you set boundaries when you were dating
As for setting boundaries while we were dating, well for the most part we had a general set of boundaries that we verbalized and that were in place. We set those boundaries and to be honest while never completely throwing the boundaries out the window, we sometimes did a poor job of keeping those parameters. If I could go back and change our process I would. This is what I’d recommend to young couples, especially young couples who are already engaged, because some how it gets even harder: 1st.) Don’t just role your eyes and shrug off the warnings and advice you’ve heard from your parents or older Christians, providing the advice is coming from a godly source it is more than likely filled with biblical and practical knowledge from experience. 2nd.) Satan absolutely knows your weak points, he will absolutely exploit them, and absolutely will try to isolate you in whatever way he can to render you “ineffective” for Christ (even if that is only in your mind) So, set clear boundaries, have a game plan, don’t be foolish and think that somehow you will be the one couple that has supreme power of restraint. Because you don’t and you won’t. Further, have a strong understanding of why you are putting those boundaries in place, is it simply to appear holy or is it to TRULY be Holy, and to honor and love God through your obedience. Include God in your relationship, and although it can (though it shouldn’t) be more intimidating, include close Christian friends or family to be part of your safety net and your accountability. As I said before Satan LOVES to isolate Christians. SO, don’t be isolated, physically or figuratively speaking. 3rd.) And I believe this to be very important, please understand that while we should always seek to honor God, as individuals, as dating, engaged or married couples, that we will sometimes fail, because we are human, and we do not always walk with God the way we should. If one or both of you has failed to honor God in a previous relationship, if you fail in your current relationship, do not loose hope. Do not fear that all is lost and that God is done with you. All is not lost and God is not finished with you. In short confess, repent, rest in God’s forgiveness and move forward in a way that will honor God. **Verses related to this final point: Psalm 103:8-14, 1John 1:9, Romans 6:1-4 -Caleb
- What are some lessons you learned while dating?
I am not sure that I remember learning any specific “lesson” while dating, but lessons have been learned in retrospect so I’ll start there. 1st.) Don’t think that you are above failure 2nd.) Don’t think that you are above reproach. 3rd.) If a family member of your significant other has an issue with you, don’t flippantly blow it off, rather prayerfully and introspectively consider the “grievance” and if you in the end feel no conviction, then providing you are walking with God as you should, most likely the other person is being overly sensitive (or something) But, on the chance that through God’s Word and the Holy Spirit along with your introspective thoughts you are convicted of a certain thing, well then by all means, do not be stubborn and resistant, but rather confess, repent and be made right. -Caleb
- How did you know this person was “the one”?
“The One”… To give a bit of background, this is what I knew about myself and my circumstances, and this is who I was at 22 and to a degree who I am a decade later. Pragmatic and Prayerful… I knew I did not have the “gift” of singleness and celibacy, I knew for me personally it would be better for me to find a spouse sooner rather than later, though if God had other plans I knew/know He would have sustained me. So I looked at what I knew of myself and I looked at my social circle. I thought (more or less) I currently know/ am acquainted with and approximately 300 young, single, Christian women. I thought very pragmatically, this could very well be the largest “pool” of “potential spouses” (spouse) that I will have in my lifetime. For the sake of pseudo brevity I will say that a pragmatic approach lead me to consider Martha and then many hours and weeks and months of prayer and council followed. In short Martha and I attended the same church and had a handful of the same friends, we were in the same “circle” for all intents and purposes. But a year in prayer was spent before I spoke with her about how I felt and what I hoped for. (Side note, honestly don’t bother dating someone unless you are under the belief that you could/intend to marry that person, while God may have other plans, Marriage is a God Created Institution while dating is something very man made. In most western cultures we have done away with arranged marriages and thus dating has evolved, but biblically speaking the God Created and Ordained fulfillment of this type of Relationship is Marriage and not dating. Ok that is the start of something not remotely brief so I will stop there) to draw conclusion to this answer, Martha was very opposed to my declarations for the next 8 months or so. Strangely it wasn’t until the end of that time period when I felt that for some reason God had lead me on this nearly 2 year journey of growing and diminishing hope only to finally, close the door fully and completely in my face. I remember thinking and telling my best friend and roommate, “yea it’s over, there is no chance, I know that now, God has shown me the door is closed”! I accepted that, I sadly but willingly released my final specks of hope to God and said, “Okay, I will move on, I will see what you have for me, whatever that is.” Interestingly and “ironically” within just hours of this, God completely changed Martha’s heart and mind. Fast track a month later, after Martha was assured she was not crazy and that God had intervened, she confesses her changed heart and changed mind. This was met with nearly uncontrollable laughter (on my part) because I was “over it” I had closed the door in my heart and made peace with God concerning Martha. I think my reaction must have been both similar and dissimilar to the reaction Sarah had to God’s promise of a son in her old age found in Genesis 18. Sarah maybe laughed in disbelief, maybe in the irony of the promise. I think I laughed similarly yet my laughter was also with joy knowing that such a thing could only happen by the hands of God.
For us God was so clearly in our story, that there was no other explanation. “Dating” for us really was only a cultural formality, so family and friends would not be completely freaked out, we got “officially engaged” within 6 months and married 8 months later. -Caleb
- What tips do you have for the single person? The dating couple? The engaged couple? The newly married couple?
For the Single Person: Don’t ever believe the lie whether internal or external that a relationship/marriage is your “cure all”, your road to “true happiness”. Hint: IT’S NOT! But, accepting where and what God has for you and being obedient to Him, yes, that will give you peace and joy, but don’t confuse that with cotton candy and kittens or an easy problem free life, there not the same. Don’t bemoan your singleness, give your singleness fully into the hands of God, make the absolute most of your singleness realizing that in it’s restraints there are great freedoms you have, freedom to serve God in a way that only single people can, freedom to travel, explore and “do” in a way that only single people can. Seize your day, NO, Seize God’s Day for you, and be a good steward of it. I read recently in some article about having a healthy marriage, or something (and I don’t remember it’s author or title) but I remember this quote “the grass is not greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it”! (Mic Drop)
For the Dating Couple: You should be convinced or at very least feel confident that you could and want to marry the person you are with. If not, what on earth are you doing? Don’t play games; don’t try to convince yourself that dating is found in the bible. Hint: IT’S NOT! Understand that you don’t have to be dating a person to know whether or not that person is a godly individual that you could/would marry. Basically I don’t recommend, “dating”, but I understand in most western cultures that if you go from friendship to marriage directly you might blow most folks minds. Just understand that the qualities about a person that make them a suitable or unsuitable match can be determined in a non-dating environment/relationship. Again, don’t bother dating unless you are serious, because if you’re not, then what are you really doing? Understand that, sex and sexual behavior are meant for marriage. Now your body and mind might say otherwise, but you’ll have a hard time justifying that using the bible. Thank God that He is gracious and if you have had sex or are having sex or sexual behavior outside of/ before marriage, well God isn’t about to strike you dead or send you to hell. But, that’s not an excuse to abuse God’s grace. Help yourselves by not putting yourselves in precarious situations, set guidelines for yourself, and not the kind that dance on the edge of what may or may not be acceptable, because if you’re that close, let’s be real, are you really going to stop, and even if you do, it’s more stress than it’s worth. Keep God at the forefront of your relationship and have accountability partners. Guys get a close Christian brother in Christ and girls a close Christian sister in Christ to help keep you accountable.
For the Engaged Couple: Don’t wish the time away. It’s easy to, you want so desperately to be connected with this person on the next level (marriage) and it’s easy to wish the time away. Hint: that wish won’t come true… Also, you can miss entirely what God is trying to teach you in the season that you are in. The reality is that we go through all sorts of seasons in our lives, some easy, some comfortable, some difficult, tiresome, loathsome, you get the idea. Don’t wish seasons away, God has something in store for you in each season, ask Him what He wants from you and for you in this season and be obedient to that. You’ll never regret being patient and leaning on God, you’ll never regret having joy and time reflect, you’ll never regret being obedient to God’s Word and the Spirits leading. But, I can almost guarantee you’ll regret time you wasted wishing for the impossible or being bitter, angry or anxious over a season that you wish you could skip. As you prepare for marriage, lay yourself fully before God, put God at the forefront of your life as an individual, and as a couple. Shifting gears slightly, don’t have a long engagement if you can help it. Don’t break the bank or go into debt over your wedding, trust me you can have an amazing wedding and look great for only a few thousand dollars (we did it, and know plenty of others who have too) don’t let setbacks “ruin” anything for you. Plan early and get it out of the way, don’t wait. Go through a pre-marriage counseling course with a solid pastor. Don’t be surprised if people don’t RSVP, RSVP late, show up uninvited or any other number of things, just roll with it. Remember that your wedding day, while special, is only ONE DAY! Don’t let it become an idol…
For the Newly Married Couple: Keep God First. Have Fun. Be Spontaneous. Remember it’s ok to live like paupers if that’s where you are for now… Be patient with each other. Pray with each other and for each other. Talk about what you like and don’t like, but be loving and gracious in doing so, understanding that this is all new territory for both of you. Initiate good habit sequence… Don’t be hermits, be in Church, in Small Groups, have people over to your house or apartment. Be open and honest. Get rest, eat well, and exercise. Have a great time spending loads of time together, but don’t be afraid of alone time and don’t seclude yourselves either. Obviously you’ll need a bit of time to adjust and get settled at first, but once the dust settles… If you want to keep babies at bay, have a birth control plan and stick to it. Be smart about birth control, do your research… For the newly weds and beyond (mostly for the men, but for some women also) don’t make sex an idol. Men understand that your wives are different than you and their needs and desires will undoubtedly be different. Wives, likewise remember the same thing… Don’t be selfish and understand that sometimes for the sake of your spouse you may need to refrain or on the other side be willing to engage for the other’s sake. Don’t ever use sex as a way to manipulate the other. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest about what you like and don’t like, about what you want or don’t want etc. Be patient, be kind, be loving, and remember that this is a gift from God, it is not a “right” and it is not God/ a god… Don’t confuse porn or cinematic love sequences for anything normal, or to be esteemed or striven towards… Put all that out of your mind. If you’re married, and it’s only the two of you, and you both like it/ are willing, then it’s good, and God is pleased. Otherwise it’s not and God isn’t… Keep God first, even before your new and wonderful spouse… -Caleb
- How does keeping God as the center of your relationship work?
Keeping God at the center of your relationship is a choice. It’s something that you must strive towards. It won’t magically or accidentally happen. If God isn’t at the forefront of your own life as an individual He won’t be at the forefront/center of your marriage relationship. Be in Church, be in the Word, and be in prayer. Share and be open. Allow God to mold you and shape you both as individuals and as a couple. Don’t reject God’s leading even if it takes you someplace you never imagined or even somewhere you simply don’t want to go. Love and obedience is a choice, it is also work. So choose and work towards it together. –Caleb
- How do you think godly relationships differ from what the world promotes?
Godly relationships differ from what the world promotes because they are, well, Godly. The ultimate focus and goal is glorifying the Lord and doing His will and that influences all aspects of the relationship. As far as marriage relationships are concerned: anybody – believers or non – can make a decision to be committed to their relationship. I think a big difference in Godly relationships is that we know we have the responsibility of representing Christ’s sacrificial love for His bride, the church and the church’s submission to the authority of Him. A Godly marriage is to be a visual example of that relationship and that responsibility goes far deeper than the world’s commitment. –Martha
- Can each of you share one thing you wish you’d known sooner?
I feel like overall, I had realistic expectations of the reality of marriage, but maybe I wish I would have known that no matter one’s level of optimism, “life” can still seep in through the cracks, and that’s ok. When the “honeymoon is over” and the newness of the relationship has grown, evolved and matured into something different, when expectations aren’t met and when you’re coming to terms with the fact that what you envisioned for you futures isn’t what’s happening, when all you’ve got is the Lord and each other and you don’t have enough energy for cheerfulness or optimism, that’s ok. Because it’s still enough, and you don’t always have to be happy or happy about it. -Martha
I wish I knew or understood better that marriage is in many ways no different than “life”. In that I wish I understood that marriage like life will probably by in large be much different than what you expected. I wish I knew that earlier, I wish that I had also learned earlier and less painfully to be flexible and most importantly to relinquish myself, my hopes and dreams to God. Life in general and marriage are in many ways no different. If you come to a place where you relinquish yourself, your hopes, dreams and desires to God, and say “God send me where you may, and do with me what you will”, you’ll find that in the after math of broken dreams your heart will mend and God will show you His plan is far superior to what yours ever was. This is equally true in and out of married life, for the single person or the couple. -Caleb
- Share your favorite scripture.
There are so many scriptures that I find close to my heart, and that have played some large roll in the shaping of who I am today, as a son of God, as a husband, as a father, as a friend, as a pastor, as a teacher… One that jumps in my mind though is Psalm 103. The entire chapter is incredible, but I am very partial to verses 8-14. -Caleb
2nd Corinthians 3:5, I think it’s applicable not only for marriage, but also for any other area of life… -Martha
I hope y’all enjoyed today’s story. There is a lot of great information and advice in it! If you or someone you know would be interested in sharing their story, let me know. Hope everyone is having a great week! ❤