Friday, 18 November 2011

In the Scheme of Things

scales of justice
I have come to the conclusion that the ability to truly “overlook” what we consider to have been a slight or a minor injustice is a skill worth developing. Perhaps I’m coming to this conclusion because I have been reading a number of books that focus on eternity. Now I can’t begin to comprehend eternity, all I know is that if I’m unfortunate enough to live until I am one hundred eternity will be a gazillion times longer.

The gist of these books is that thoughts of eternity should shape my thoughts and actions in the here and now. So 300 years from now will it be important to anyone that I missed trash day; that I squeezed the toothpaste from the wrong end; or that I forgot to pick up the milk at the grocery store? Will those things even matter a year from now? I think not.

How many times do couples argue about things that would be considered frivolous in the grand scheme of life? The toast is too dark; the car is pulled in too close to the front of the garage; the dark clothes haven’t been washed; my car keys weren’t put back where they should have been. And the list goes on. Before we know it all these offenses have piled up and we have come to the conclusion that we have married the wrong person or at the very least that we are in a marriage that falls far short of what we expected it to be.

It is safe to assume that this is not the first time that these irritating behaviors have surfaced and most likely there will be a repeat performance of this or a similar behavior. It is also safe to assume that what couples argued about last week will come up again this week or the next.

For a moment imagine that you were married to a slob – sorry if that offends. There is a reasonably good chance that your husband/wife would not have won the Good Housekeeping seal of approval before you got married. Furthermore let’s speculate that you place a high value on keeping a home neat. Thus you are continually frustrated at your spouse’s disregard for organization and cleanliness. News flash, most likely your spouse will not change. Nagging is not a spiritual gift and it has never proved to be particularly effective form of motivation. We cannot change our spouse, they can only change themselves. What you can change is your attitude toward your spouse. Either learn to tolerate his/her messiness or pick up after them and do it cheerfully.

messy room
Sometimes accepting your partner for who they are can be a big step. Although you might want your partner to behave differently, practice loving your spouse for whom they are today. If you can’t convince your spouse to change, your energy may be better spent focusing on eternity.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Slip Sliding Away

Paul Simon popularized the song “Slip Sliding Away”. Unfortunately those lyrics also describe many marriages in the U.S. Often this drifting apart happens at an imperceptible rate. At some point the husband and wife come to the realization that they have little in common and no longer “know” one another. Mort Fertel (www.marriagecounselingblog.com) offers some good insight and advice.

When a marriage ends, it doesn’t come to an abrupt, sudden end. Instead, the relationship tends to slowly erode. At some point, one or both of the people in the relationship recognize that this erosion has occurred and the relationship may come to an end.


It is important to prevent this erosion from slowly and subtly weakening your marriage. Although all relationships change over time, there is a difference between growing together and growing apart. Sometimes couples stop spending time together, stop doing fun things, and start arguing more as the relationship erodes.

It can be a vicious cycle. People stop spending time together. The relationship erodes. As it erodes, they lose the desire to spend time together. Further erosion occurs. This cycle must be interrupted to stop the damage as soon as possible.

Preventing erosion requires you to frequently check in on the relationship. Take time to stop and reflect on how you see things going. Talk to your partner about it and start a conversation. Discuss what would make things even better than they are now.

In today’s busy world, people often don’t take time to slow down and reflect on how they are feeling about things. What could be more important than taking a few minutes to reflect on your marriage? Try to make sure to do this regularly and when you notice changes, reflect on those as well.

Also, think about the things you used to do together. It’s likely that when you were younger or first dating, you had more time and spent a lot of quality time together. Did you go hiking, skiing, cook meals together? Stay emotionally connected. Marriage can sometimes lead to people having conversations about their budget, parenting, and day to day activities. Make sure to also talk about your feelings, your hopes, goals and dreams. This can help separate your marriage from other relationships in your life.

When you notice that the relationship is eroding, develop a plan.
Let me suggest that God be part of that plan, after all the purpose of marriage is to glorify God. To that end begin praying together as a couple. Find a daily devotional that you can read together such as Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Get involved in your church in an activity where you can serve together. Join a small group and/or be in fellowship with strong Christian couples.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Lessons in Forgiveness

One of my favorite writers is Dr. Bob Snyder. In a recent blog (www.lessonslearnedonthejourney.com) he wrote on the importance of forgiveness.


Scientific research shows that when I forgive I will be happier and healthier. (Robert Enright Ph.D., International Forgiveness Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison) Studies by Dr. Fred Laskin at Stanford University also indicate that forgiveness can be learned — there is yet hope for me.

However, giving up ALL claims to revenge or punishment because of an offense is extraordinarily difficult. Extending mercy rather than retribution is an intentional act that does not come naturally to me.

However, more important than the scientific research and positive benefits to my health is the fact that Jesus told me I must forgive. Forgiveness is an act of obedience, requiring the work of the Holy Spirit in me.
Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors...For if you forgive men when they sin against you your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Heavenly Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:12, 14, 15 NIV)

Science confirms what Jesus had already told me ...forgive! Now comes the challenge of living out a life of forgiveness. Please join me.”
There are few things that are more important to sustaining a marriage than the willingness to ask for forgiveness and the willingness to forgive. It is critical for couples to keep short accounts, never letting some hurt or infraction fester. My wife and I tend to be avoiders – this is not good. However we are deeply committed to our marriage. We found that by setting aside a specific time and place once a week for the sole purpose of airing any grievance that we had neglected to deal with at the time of occurrence was most freeing. We knew that the real purpose was to keep us from ruminating over some imagined hurt, to keep our marriage strong and to keep the devil from getting a foothold. I cannot tell you that either of us looked particularly forward to these meetings but we placed a great value on them.