Monday, January 20, 2014

Marriage Part Dos

I'm talking marriage again today.  If you missed part uno, you might wanna go back and read that first.  

So many areas of life are not hard in the knowing, but in the doing. There are genuinely times when I don't have a clue what I'm doing.  But most of the time, 99% of the time, I have trouble in doing what I know.   

Marriage is one of them.  Why would I, or any of us, stop doing what we know benefits our marriage and start doing something else?  

Because we're terribly, awfully: Selfish.  And if you say you're not...then you're also a liar.  Because you are.  And so am I.  

And that selfishness is the prime reason we stop doing what we know we should.  And if you're particularly good at selfishness (which I am, so I know this) you've got some super-logical-justified reasons behind doing what you're doing or not doing what you should.   

So I said I'd share my one-and-only-devotional.  Again, that makes me laugh.  I cut/pasted...mostly cutting out my awkward introduction.  

 It's super long by my blog standards.  But in real life Italkprettyfast so...just read really fast, ok?  Or, you could read half and then take a nap and finish later.  I'm super helpful with suggestions today.

The Four Musts of Marriage (I'm kidding, it didn't really have a title)

   We know how hard it is to actually live out some of those good things we know.   And we all know that there’s just some things you only learn by living them out.   But the truth is also that no matter how long we’ve been married, there is always something new to learn, or something we need to be reminded of, or an area where God desires to bring conviction, repentance, and ultimately restoration. 

I came across a question recently that asked  something to the effect of “Who are the married couples in your life that you desire to be like?”  In other words, who in your life are you able to see do –life together and genuinely love each other and enjoy each other in a way that makes you say, Hey!  I want to be like them?  We’re not talking perfection, because that’s not possible when you’re dealing with sinful humans...but we are talking about people that seem to have a love and a one-ness that is supernatural.  It’s a hard question.  It’s one of those lump-in-your-throat questions if we ask it of our own marriage.  What does our own marriage preach of Jesus?   Because our marriages preach.  They do.  First to our children, and then to our extended families, our church families, our communities.  They preach. 

So, in case I haven’t  already made it painfully obvious, what I want to share today is not just for the bride, but for all of us, that we may all examine our lives before God’s biblical standard and His desire for us and see where we are thriving, and where we may need God’s help in improving…which is ultimately for His glory.  And please hear me when I say this isn’t a call for you to try harder and do better, but  rather that we would humbly submit ourselves to what God desires and ask Him to be the one that enables us to accomplish it.

Ok, so I said before that I read.  A lot.  Which pretty much means I’m not sure I ever have an orginal thought anymore.  So the list I’m going to give you is a mish-mash of all the reading…smooshed down and abbreviated into 4 bullet points for your discernment.  It’s not stuff I came up with on my own.  It’s not fluffy or cute…because I’m all about the practical, and what works. 

 It’s common-sense basic stuff.  It’s also mixed in with life, from 15 years of my own marriage as well as the fact that  I’m a pastor’s wife…which means that people often allow me to see into their lives from behind-the-scenes and journey through the mess with them, so to speak.  And what I’ve learned, is that while each marriage is unique…it’s also not unique at the same time.  Same problems – different details. 

   Let’s break it down. 

1 – Know Jesus.  And I mean know Him.  As in Personally.  And make Him #1.  Above you, above your  husband, and above your children (future children).   Have a saving knowledge of Him (and if you’re not sure what I’m talking about ask me or someone later) Know Him with your head, (His Word) and know Him with your heart, and by that I mean have a desire worship Him, follow Him, obey Him.  In a Bible study that I’m doing, I recently heard the speaker say, “If you are comfortable with the amount of Jesus you already have…then you should be concerned.”  Why?  Because the question reveals to us the condition of our heart.  If we are content with having “enough Jesus” then maybe He  is not really our Lord, but rather a pleasing “addition” to our American Dream Life. 

How does this help a marriage?  Well, God created us.  And marriage.  So it only reasons that we would want to know the creator of it and then do what He says works in regards to it.  Marc Driscoll says in his book Real Marriage, “The goal, center, and purpose of marriage is not self, spouse or children.  The ultimate goal of marriage and family is the glory of God.  Only when marriage and family exist for God’s glory – and not serve as replacement idols – are we able to truly love and be loved.”

It really doesn’t have to be complicated.  Are we always going to like what God says to do…like be submissive?  Are we always going to feel like putting our husband above ourselves?  No.  Is it hard?  Yes.   Is it impossible?  Without God, yes.it.is. 

 I’m not sure that anything in life reveals to us how selfish we are like marriage does.  (And parenting reveals how impatient we are, but that’s for a different devotional)  Back to my point.   It is said that Our spouses do not change us, as much as they reveal  us.  

And here’s where the gospel comes in.  We need the Holy Spirits power to overcome ourselves.  In life, and especially in marriage, we cannot possibly hope to live it out the way God has designed by trying to do it on our own.  We cannot muster up enough will power to be a great wife…it has to come from God’s equipping and empowering…which calls for a reliance on Him.  Christ through us.

What does that look like?  How does that play out?  We each, husband and wife need to have our own spiritual life.  No one can increase our faith for us.  It needs to be growing individually and together simultaneously.  Be a student  of God’s word.  Study it and talk about it.   And when you learn from it, ask Him to enable you to act on it.  Do not simply absorb it.  Be a doer of it.  James 1:22 says  But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

Place God as priority one.  Don’t squeeze Him out.  Husband’s and wives love each other best when they do not make idols of one another.  Our husbands are created to meet some of our needs, but not all of our needs.   Only one can meet ALL our needs, and that is Christ alone.  Pray for your husband and with your husband.  Worship together.  Serve together.  Tithe together. 

And all of that can sound like a to-do list, and sometimes our inner pharisee wants to make it a to-do list, if I check off all these things then yay for me, I get a good marriage!  But it doesn’t work like that.  God doesn’t work like that…I know, I’ve tried.   All of those are really heart issues…they reveal our hearts and require God’s  power to overcome.

2 – Be friends.  Be best friends.  Like each other.  When we are best friends, we enjoy each other’s company.  We listen.  We speak lovingly and respectfully.  We laugh.  We disagree, but we know whose side we are on.  We take turns doing what the other person wants, even if we think it’s super boring (ie I need to take up golfing) We make light of things, we give grace.  We look at our own sin and weaknesses and plank-filled eyes before scrutinizing our husband.  We laugh at ourselves and gain some perspective.  Friendship makes marriage fun.  Be friends.

3- Build Hedges.  And by that, I mean boundaries.  One of our favorite books  that we use often when counseling is called Hedges, Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect it, by Jerry Jenkins.   And we love it so much because so many couples we come across have no hedges!  And you need them…we’ve seen the tragic results of what happens without them. 

Hedges  are not a sign of a weak marriage, but of a strong one.  Jerry says “I have planted hedges around myself to protect me, my wife, my family, my employer, my church, and supremely, the reputation of Christ.”  So much of life seeks to tear marriages apart, it happens all around us to believers and non-believers alike.  If we think we are in a position that it would never happen to us, then we are also in the position of deceiving ourselves. 

Our marriages are often most vulnerable when our guards are completely down.  Hedges do not mean paranoia, they are wise…they really are loving your marriage enough to protect it.    We need to examine ourselves and our spouses and then set the hedges  in place.  Hedges help us to live above reproach, which in todays society is almost unheard of.  

So what do hedges look like?  Every marriage is going have different hedges, some will be higher and deeper than others.  I’ll give you a personal example…for Ben and I, we have made it a point in our marriage that there are just certain things we do not do.  Neither of us has good friends of the opposite sex, someone we confide in or complain about life to, because that’s what we have each other for ;)   And at different stages our marriages need us  to evaluate to see if the hedges need adjusting.  For example, when Ben became a pastor, we added to our hedges because now ministry was involved.  So, when there is a woman that needs counseling, I do that, or we do it together but never him alone.  Why?  Because it enables him to live above reproach.  It isn’t a trust issue, but a safety issue.  And, your hedges will be tested, because our culture sees them as trivial.  But our culture has also shown us the results of having no hedges.  Protect your marriage against the enemy…because he is seeking to destroy them. 

4- Communication.  It’s a big one.  We all know communication is important.  In fact I heard recently that couples that have divorced site a lack of communication as the primary break down of the relationship.  That’s ironic to me, because communication is something we can do.  Poor communication or a lack of communication does not just “happen” to a couple, it is a deliberate act on the part of both spouses.  

Learn how to communicate with your husband.  There are some basic principles, like being clear on your thoughts and feelings.  Avoid stonewalling, silent treatment, yelling, blaming, etc.  But there are also unique ways that each married couple communicates with one another, take the time to figure those out.  Communication is one of those things (kind of like parenting) where you can read a book, get a bunch of insight on what to do and what not to do and it seems totally do-able and reasonable.  And then real life happens and our husband says something totally insensitive.  Or we disagree with his decision, or we are annoyed at his lack of *fill in the blank* and now our feelings are involved…and our feelings can very easily over-rule any logical thinking we have on communicating effectively and lovingly.   Here’s where the gospel comes in yet again.  In our own strength we will fail miserably at communicating in the heat of the moment, but with Christ’s discernment and strength we can, in fact, control our tongue and listen and get to the root or heart of the issue.

Here’s some verses…

Verse on the tongue (Proverbs in literally chuck full of them): Proverbs 21:23

English Standard Version (ESV)
23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue
    keeps himself out of trouble.
Proverbs 18:21
English Standard Version (ESV)
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
    and those who love it will eat its fruits.
We can speak death or life into our marriages…


James 1:19 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  (read it again)

And I want to close today with a passage from Philippians…Paul is intending it for a body of believers, but I think we would be wise to also translate it into our marriages. 

Philippians 2: 1Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Then end. :)

Tomorrow I'm gonna post a list of the books that Ben and I have used personally as well as  helped with counseling other couples.  

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