Monday, November 12, 2012

The Golden Rule in Marriage

As a young wife, I had a mean side that loved to present itself during an argument with Mike.  While I don’t like to admit it, I’m sure I often used the “s” word (‘stupid’) with the intent of stinging the heart of my husband.  He soon shared how much he disliked my approach to fighting, which had the same effect as pouring gasoline on a flame.  Knowing how much my words wounded him caused me to use them to my advantage to “win” arguments.   How sad to look back and realize that I wasn’t winning at all, but pushing him away and causing him to withdraw.  My words and actions were causing my best friend to wish to be anywhere else but by my side. 

Over time, I learned that we could disagree and still speak kindly to one another.   I could express displeasure without using my claws on his heart.  The Bible teaches that I am to treat my husband in the same way that I would want him to treat me (Matthew 7:12), and that means I should keep my sharp tongue caged, to the very best of my ability, by allowing Christ to work in me.  My husband is not a stupid man; in fact, he is extremely gifted and intelligent.  If I could see those traits on a daily basis, why did I express the exact opposite during a fight?

It has become a high priority for me to speak kindly to my husband at all times.  Sadly, some friends and relatives who think that I am too passive have mocked me for this, hinting that I am not forceful enough with my man.  But here’s the thing:  I do not relate to my husband with a goal of winning the approval of my friends.  I relate to my husband in order to bring glory and honor to God.  Therefore, I do my best to pray before I speak and have learned that I communicate more effectively when I show him my constant respect.  By speaking with kind words instead of hurling insults, we avoid most fights, have a deeper understanding of each other’s views, and move toward faster unity.  

When we do disagree, I do my best to use phrases like, “I feel ___” rather than “You always _____.”   It is my aim to share my heart and the ‘how and why’ of my feelings instead of accusing him, which helps us keep our sights on our shared vision of unity.  Make no mistake, I’m no doormat and I don’t lay all of my wants, desires, opinions and knowledge aside so that he can always have his way.  Instead, I share my viewpoint with respect and kindness rather than making him feel foolish. 

At times when I blow it, and I occasionally still do, I go before the Lord and ask that He help me show honor and respect to my husband in abundance, not with a manipulative spirit, but to encourage and build him up.    

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB)


Monday, November 5, 2012

Lessons from the Front Lines - Part 3

Spiritual Battles Call for Spiritual Weapons…
praying together in marriage

While marriage it is one of the most rewarding and satisfying relationships, it is one of the toughest to navigate, and can bring heartache, pain, and confusion.  One practical thing that we can do to combat such feelings is to pray through them, and as couples, we must pray together. God’s Word teaches that we should not be anxious about anything (including our marital relationship), but in everything, by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, present our requests to God (Philippians 4:6 NIV).  In other words, through the teaching of the Apostle Paul, we learn not to worry, but instead, to pray.

Prayer is simply spending time with God, talking to Him, finding joy in His presence, and awaiting His leading as we seek His direction.  There are no special formulas to prayer and no special vocabulary required, yet many feel intimidated by the thought of having a conversation with God.  It’s no big deal to cry out, “help me!” when an emergency arises, but to set aside more than just a few seconds to spend with him may feel frightening and, well, maybe a bit silly.    We may think it an embarrassing thing to do in front of others, particularly our spouse! The thought of praying together as a couple is so foreign to some, we may scoff before we consider all of the blessing it can bring.

A little over a year ago, Mike and I found ourselves in one of the biggest arguments of our marriage.   Nearly 24 hours into the fight, it occurred to both of us, almost at the same time, that we were fighting a spiritual battle without our spiritual weapons.  Even after all of our years of learning together through God’s Word, we were duking it out, each trying to come out as the victor, and forgetting against whom we were actually fighting.  

Suddenly, in the midst of a long and painful battle, we got down on our knees and prayed together.  Each of us confessed to the Lord (and to each other), how hurtful we’d been to one another and asked for forgiveness (from the Lord and from each other).   If we’d stopped there, we would have put healing salve on the wounds we had each inflicted, but we continued and poured out our hearts to the Lord in even deeper ways. 

We asked for His wisdom and direction on how we should move forward.  We asked the Lord to soften our hearts toward the ideas and thoughts of the other.  We each presented a willingness to look at the situation from the other side, and a readiness to take a step closer to each other in the process.  In prayer, we realized that it really didn’t matter who was right or wrong.  What mattered was that we each wanted to agree with the Lord.  We wanted His way and we asked Him to show it to us.   We entered this time of prayer still angry and hurt, but came out with softer hearts, an ability to see the situation from new angles, and a willingness to walk together toward a solution.  

We’re still learning.  We continue to grow together, following the Lord’s ways of relating to one another.  We have not “arrived,” nor do we ever expect to reach a point where we know it all.  We do know, however, that when we pray together, we bear our hearts, allow total vulnerability, share complete honesty, and surrender it all to the Lord.  He has never let us down.  Each time we seek Him, we find Him.  He meets us where we are and ministers to us through our trials. 

If you’ve never prayed with your spouse, start small.  Devote just a minute or two to your first try.  It might feel uncomfortable and unbearably long, but do it anyway.  Each time you meet on your knees, the process will feel more natural.  Pray together for something on which you agree:  the children, a request for direction with finances, or an upcoming decision.  As you grow in your united prayer life, begin praising the Lord for how He is working in your life, confessing ways that you have fallen short of pleasing Him (particularly in your marriage), thank Him for blessing you in specific ways, and then begin to present your requests and needs.  Don’t avoid periods of silence, but use them to allow Him to speak to and minister to your heart.

Prayer is not optional; it’s a vital foundation to unity in marriage.  Make it your immediate, go-to source of strength rather than turning to it as an after-thought when all else has failed.
“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:12-13

This post is part of a series that details what we've learned over the last 25 years about honoring God with our marriage.  Click Here to see our last post.