Friday, 25 March 2011

Rejoice in the Wife of Your Youth

I was encouraged by a recently received FamilyLife “Moments for You” e-mail. The Scripture reference was Proverbs 5:18. The message was as follows:

We often forget that romance is far more than an after-hours activity we share in the bedroom. Simple, everyday expressions of affection are just as much a part of marital romance as sexual intimacy is--and they give our children a very real sense that all is right in their world.

I love the way an 11-year-old boy captured this sentiment in an essay entitled "What I Like Best About My Home":

My mother keeps a cookie jar in the kitchen, and we can help ourselves to it if it's not too close to mealtime. Except my dad can have some any time. When he comes home from the office, he helps himself, no matter if it's just before we eat. Then he always slaps my mother on the behind and brags about how great she is and how good she can cook. Then she turns around and they hug. The way they do it, you'd think they just got married or something. It makes me feel good. This is what I like best about my home.
I think our children liked seeing us be affectionate. I'd come home after work and lock lips with Barbara in a kiss that was just a little bit more than a quick smacker, and our children would groan and comment, "Gross!" "Go get a hotel room!" But they always said it with a sheepish grin.

So how about it? Hold hands. Open the car door for her. Kiss her on the neck. Come up from behind him and put your arms around him. Snuggle on the couch while you watch a movie. Let your children catch you in a kiss!

And don't forget to say "I love you." Out loud. Right there in the kitchen.

This is the best kind of "homeland security."

One of the best gifts we will ever give our children is to model a God glorifying marriage.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

In What Ways is Marriage Like a Garden?

Marriage and gardens both take constant attention and work. For some reason I became more aware this year of how much work goes into establishing and maintaining a garden. It started this spring when I attempted to plant a few rose bushes. After several swings with the pickaxe the whole was not much larger than a chicken nugget. Then there was the battle over the tomatoes that we planted. Fortunately my wife is smarter than the raccoon or we never would have had tomatoes. My wife spent hours throughout the spring and summer planting, deadheading, feeding and watering plants. We spent several man-days weeding. Obviously we get great enjoyment out of our garden or we would find better things to do with our time.

Marriage can be very much like gardening. We must weed and plant good seed in ground that is well prepared. Weeds come in all shapes and sizes, here are but a few marriage weeds:

o Selfishness. It is present in all of us because it is the DNA of sin. Perhaps there is nothing more destructive in marriage than this. It may well be the root of all the dumb and nasty little things we do to one another. Since none of us is sin free we all need to look for evidence of the DNA of selfishness shaping the way we think, desire, act, and respond in our marriages.

o Busyness. Marriage, too often, is what we do in between all the other things we are doing that really determine the content and pace of our schedules. But marriage doesn’t function very well as an in-between thing, and marriages surely don’t tend to thrive when we leave them alone and ask them to grow on their own. A marriage that is going to grow, change, and become increasingly healthy needs cultivation. Like a garden it doesn’t do well when it is being neglected.

o Inattention. Paul is deeply persuaded that many marriages get to an unhealthy place simply because they have been neglected. Sadly, many of us are better at responding to crisis than we are at working on prevention. It is too easy to take one another for granted.

o Self-righteousness. How active is your “inner lawyer” internally arguing in your defense, even as the other person is speaking? Have you tended to think that all the weeds in your marriage were brought in by your spouse?

The seeds we must plant are those that produce love. First Corinthians 13 identifies and describes those seeds. We will plant kindness and patience, a seed that is not self-seeking, a seed that keeps no record of wrongs and a seed that is not easily angered just to name a few. And what a beautiful, not to mention colorful marriage we can have.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Do's and Don'ts

In a recent blog Dr. Dana Fillmore offered some helpful advice to couples who are feeling disconnected. As I’ve said on previous occasions I usually find Dr. Fillmore’s advice worthwhile except for the absence of God. She starts out by asking some serious questions:

“Do you treat each other like polite (or not so polite) strangers? Does it feel as if there is a wall between you? Are you wondering if it’s even possible to reconnect with the person you once loved so much?”

She goes on to offer some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” that she believes will create positive change.

Her first don’t is don’t blame. “In fact, blaming is one of the most common mistakes that couples make when “working” on their marriage. They focus primarily on what the other person is doing wrong and take little to no responsibility for their part in the couples’ problems or issues. Focusing on blame only drives you and your spouse further apart. Instead, look for solutions: new behaviors and positive choices.” More specifically if you are the husband you need to ask, “Do I love my wife as much as I love myself? Do I love her the way she wants to be loved? Is she becoming more radiant?” If you are the wife you need to ask yourself “Do I respect and reverence my husband; do I notice him, regard him, honor him, prefer him, venerate him, and esteem him; do I defer to him, praise him, and love and admire him exceedingly?” This is what Scripture tells us to do.

Her second don’t is don’t nag. Why would anyone in their right mind think that nagging is an effective way to communicate? Can you hear the husband driving home from work saying “boy I hope my wife nags me the minute I get in the door. I love to feel demeaned and stupid, knowing I don’t live up to her expectations”. Or perhaps you’re the wife you can’t wait for her husband to come home and nag her about her inability to discipline the kids, keep the house clean, or prepare a decent dinner.

She says do have loving discussions, “… and by that I do not mean, holding hands and singing “Kum-by- yah” together – instead, I mean: be honest, open and (gulp), vulnerable.” First off we all know guys like nothing better than to be open and vulnerable - not. Secondly we are assuming the couple is not connecting. How likely is it that they will have this break through moment? I would suggest first going to the Lord in prayer. Tell the Lord that you have not been the spouse that He has called you to be. Then go and ask your husband/wife to forgive you for being less than what God has called you to be.