DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR! How many times have you screamed that at some oblivious character in a scary movie? We know something is terribly, terribly wrong and that this is not going to end well. Sometimes we can’t understand why that person in the movie insists on investigating. They heard the odd noises, or they felt the evil presence, or they witnessed the strange circumstances. And yet for whatever reason, there is always one person in those movies who decides it is a good idea to open an ominous door. They slowly reach out for the knob, carefully begin to turn it, and the door slowly begins to creek open, and then…well, let’s just say it never ends well for that person.
When we have classes or sessions at my church about marriage, we almost always either begin or end with a marriage blessing which reads:
Lord, bless me to love my spouse as you love me. Let my love for my spouse be a reflection of my love for you. Help me to always serve and forgive, persevere and protect. Let me be a blessing to my marriage and ever blessed by my marriage. Keep me away from anything that would tempt me to dishonor my marriage covenant. We ask this blessing by the power of the divine name of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. (See the post from January 18, 2013 for more on the power of a recurring marriage blessing.)
Recently, a friend asked me to further define the line, “Keep me away from anything that would tempt me to dishonor my marriage covenant.” “That’s a really broad topic,” he noted, “Since men and women are different, what tempts me probably won’t tempt my spouse. And even temptations from one husband to the next or one wife to the next will vary.”
He’s right. Temptation comes in a lot of different forms. And one person’s weakness is not another person’s weakness. Regardless of what your temptation is, here are a few steps that might help you keep away from anything that could make you compromise your marriage covenant.
First, don’t be stupid. I know that might sound crude, but sometimes, it just needs to be said. I understand that people make mistakes. We’re human and we all make a bad decision from time to time. But if you continually stick your head in the lion’s mouth, eventually the lion will bite down. Don’t put yourself in a position that it would be easier to compromise your marriage covenant—physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, or spiritually.
The biggest mistake most people make is believing they are stronger than what they really are. “I can work late at the office with a co-worker I’m attracted to and not be tempted.” “A little harmless flirting is good for sales and it doesn’t mean anything.” “I can hold on to my self-righteous anger, but it won't change the way I treat my mate.” “I can watch this kind of video and it won’t affect my marriage.”
Just like the character in the movie, we need to be screaming at ourselves, “DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR!”
Then, deal with your differences, don’t bury them. No two people are exactly alike, and you and your spouse will inevitably have disagreements. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it is part of the beauty of how God created us. When conflict occurs, you have two choices. You can either deal with your differences, knowing that it might be uncomfortable and difficult to do so (depending on the severity of the conflict), or you can ignore your differences, sweep them under the rug, and just hope they go away. The problem with the second option is that eventually your differences will resurface—maybe through explosive anger, perhaps as deep resentment, or possibly as ongoing erosion in your trust for one another. Your differences can either become a wedge between you and your spouse, or they can become an avenue to spiritual growth and maturity.
Continually check your perspective. Focus on the positive characteristics of your spouse and the positive aspects of your marriage. If you focus on the negative, the negative is all you will see. The strange thing about perspective is that if you’re not careful your perspective can easily be twisted. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, until you cross over. Then it becomes a mess of brokenness, anger, guilt, shame, and loss. And, as you check your perspective, be honest about how much your perspective involves pursuing godliness in your marriage, and how much your perspective is motivated by self-centeredness.
Next, know your triggers. In Genesis 4:7, God tells Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” When are you most tempted to dishonor your marriage covenant? Are you tempted when you are alone and the opportunity is easily accessible? Are you tempted when there are high levels of stress at work, or in your marriage relationship? Are you tempted when life is going well and you feel satisfied? Do you ever find yourself asking, when is your spouse (or anyone else for that matter) least likely to find out? Knowing your triggers becomes critical in the next step.
Always put safeguards in place. What are realistic, concrete things you can proactively do to avoid opening the door to compromising your marriage covenant? Simple things like keeping the computer in a common room rather than a secluded space, open access between spouses to all technology (social media, email accounts, text messages), getting rid of magazines or catalogs that may entice your spouse, checking in with each other when you're apart, being attentive to intimacy so that your spouse doesn’t want to seek it elsewhere—there are so many things husbands and wives can proactively do for each other to protect the marriage covenant. Just honestly talk to each other, and help each other to honor and guard the marriage relationship.
As you put your safeguards in place, make sure you set up a system of accountability. You should be accountable to your mate, and you should also have a support system of same-gender friends who care enough about you to be honest with you, especially if you are acting inappropriately. Whoever you are accountable to, it must be someone you can confess to, and who will pray with you and for you regularly.
Also, always evaluate who you are getting your advice from. Is that person more interested in a worldly, superficial happiness, or is he/she more interested in helping your marriage? “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense. The lips of the righteous know what finds favor, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.” (Prov. 10:21, 32) Don’t be a fool by getting your marriage advice from fools.
And most importantly, pray. Please, please, please don’t leave God out of the process. Call on the name of God when you are tempted. We are all human, and we all make mistakes, but the more you center your life and your marriage on Christ, the stronger a foundation you will have for resisting the temptations that can harm your marriage.
If you want to protect and bless your marriage, whenever those temptations draw near, shout out to yourself (at least in your mind) “DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR!” I have yet to see a time when leaving the door closed didn’t lead to a happier ending.
What does God want from my marriage?
A Weekend Marriage Enrichment Retreat
Friday-Sunday, March 7-9, 2014
Edgewater at the Aquarium Hotel and Conference Center
Limited to 30 couples
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info
If you are in the Rutherford/ Davidson/ Wilson County, TN area and are looking for a great marriage small group, A Blessed Promise will meet every Wednesday night in September and October at 7 p.m. at the Smyrna Church of Christ. This class will help couples see their marriage as a wonderful and unique participation in the Kingdom of God. As couples study God’s Word they will see how His love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy are lived and taught within the context of marriage, and how a Christian couple’s marriage can be one of the most powerful witnesses of Christ to those around them. The class will be made up of several discussion-based small groups with people who are either already married or looking toward marriage. (Childcare for all ages will be provided through the Wednesday night Bible class program.)
Top photo image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_20532472_opening-door-knob.html'>sutichak / 123RF Stock Photo</a>