The Counsel I Often Give Young Married Couples

Have you guys had your orange juice moment yet?

This was a question my wife and I received over dinner with an older couple in our church. We had been married for a few months and were excited to spend the evening with an older and wiser couple in their home. This question, however, was a little bit of a shock to us. We had not received it before and certainly did not know what they meant. We stumbled a bit in our response and confessed we were a bit confused by the question.

They proceeded to tell us a story that explained the origin of this odd question.  Many years ago when they were a newly married couple, they ventured out one Saturday morning together to the local grocery store. After walking through various aisles together and placing items into their cart they finally came to the orange juice section.

Not a Pretty Picture

The husband reached out and grabbed a carton of pulp-free orange juice and proceeded to place it in the almost full cart.  The wife took keen notice of this selection. But instead of giving a passing approval like the previous forty items received, she followed up with a quick and firm rebuttal.

 “No, we don’t drink pulp-free orange juice.”

She then calmly placed his carton back onto the shelf and replaced it with one that contained pulp.  This unthinkable assault was then met with a quick swap of the two cartons by the husband. At this point, the DEFCON level was rising with every carton substitution. And finally the nukes were unleashed, right there on aisle sixteen in the back of the grocery store.

It was not a pretty picture.

Dying to Self

We were finally able to answer their original question. Yes, we have had our orange juice moment. More than one to be exact. Our moments did not involve orange juice, but we knew the real question they were asking.

Perhaps you can relate to this story.  Maybe the details of your story don’t include orange juice either, but an explosion happened nonetheless.  A small and insignificant item of disagreement turned into World War III. Sound familiar?

Fast forward now ten years. As a pastor who counsels often, this story is a perfect illustration that lends itself to the most common counsel I give to young married couples.  Here is that counsel: by God’s grace, die to yourself.

The Root Issue

The book of James pinpoints the root issue in these types of situations:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. (James 4:1–2)

We tend to elevate and serve our own kingdom agendas when we lose sight of the reality that we have been bought and transferred into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13–14).

That’s why we need to remind ourselves of the truths of the gospel and to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).  Instead of focusing on our own needs and interests, we should ask questions like:

  • How can I put the other person first? 
  • How can I put aside my preferences? 
  • How can I serve my spouse in this moment?
  • How can I seek to do spiritual good to him or her?
  • How can I put to death my selfishness right now?
  • How can we both grow in Christ-likeness through this opportunity?   

These are usually not the first questions we want to consider, but they are often the ones we need to ponder when confrontation approaches.

If it’s a serious topic, by all means, lean in and have a healthy conversation seasoned with grace.  But if its just orange juice, by God’s grace, die to yourself.  And since most of our lives are lived in the smaller everyday details, we have plenty of opportunities to practice and grow and to serve one another.

Have you had your orange juice moment yet?

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Sean Gould serves as Pastor of Member Care at The Church at Brook Hills.

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