Wednesday, July 13, 2016

You can do it!

     In marriage, we often try to motivate our spouses. It doesn’t matter what the goal of the motivation is.  It could be anything from losing weight or paying better attention to physical health, to not giving up on a job search, to paying more attention to spiritual growth, to helping with household chores, to going back to school for a new job opportunity, to minding the way he/she communicates, or anything else.  The important question is, how do you try to motivate your spouse?  The way you try to motivate your mate says a lot about your relationship.  Respect, mutual submission, what you value, how you view your marriage covenant, and so much more comes into play.
     Sadly, many people try to motivate their spouse in negative ways. When you try to motivate your spouse, do you repeatedly point out her faults?  “I don’t have much hope that this will work because you never stick with anything you start.”  Do you compare him unfavorably to other husbands? “Leah’s husband helps around the house without her having to ask.  What’s wrong with you?”  Do you make her feel stupid or worthless with your comments? “Wow, if everyone thought about that like you do, we’d be in a real mess.”  Do you yell at him or try to shame him into a different way of behaving? “What kind of man are you!  A real man wouldn’t do that!”  Do you try to make her feel guilty?  “Fine, I’ve worked all day and I’m exhausted, but I’ll take care of it because obviously you aren’t going to do it.”  Typically, negative motivation yields negative results. Rather than making a change to escape the negative berating, many times a spouse will just dig in his/her heels and sink deeper into the undesirable behavior.
     Now and again, we do all need “a wake-up call” and more direct and straight-forward communication is required, but when you attempt to motivate your spouse, don’t forget three things:

  • First, the primary calling lived out in marriage is to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Since your spouse is your closest, most intimate neighbor, that is the place to start living out God’s love, graciousness, mercy, forgiveness, and kindness.
  • Second, don’t forget you are one flesh.  Don’t say or do anything to your spouse that you wouldn’t want said or done to you.  Words and actions carry an impact, so carefully guard how you choose to motivate your spouse.  What you say and do in anger or frustration can have a lasting effect.
  • And third, we all need motivation from time to time.  Marriage should be a place in which we are challenged; but make sure you are challenging your spouse in ways that will allow you to grow together toward holiness and Kingdom living.

     Next time you need to make changes in your life, I pray that your marriage will be a safe harbor of loving motivation.  Next time you want to motivate your spouse, I pray that you do it out of a selfless desire to better your relationship in Christ, not a selfish desire to make your spouse conform to your wishes.  I pray that we never allow anger, shame, guilt, frustration, or selfishness to become our driving force in helping our mates change for the better.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Resting in your marriage...

      Years ago, I was talking with a friend at church.  Lisa and I had just gotten back from vacation and my friend asked me how our trip went.  I told him Lisa and I had a great, relaxing time together.  A church leader overheard our conversation and commented that he "didn't even know what a vacation was."  He went on to say that he hadn't been on a vacation in 7 years.  Expecting to be complimented for an exceptional work ethic, I instead told him that I felt sorry for him and I especially felt sorry for his wife.
      God created us to need rest.  He set apart the seventh day, the Sabbath, and made it holy.  In the Law of Moses, to ignore and desecrate the Sabbath was a capital offense.  That’s how important this Sabbath principle of rest is.  Through regular rest, we renew our bodies, our minds, and our spiritual orientation as we affirm our reliance on God alone to sustain us.
It is obvious that in our 21st century American culture the Sabbath principle of regular rest and renewal has fallen by the wayside.  We are way too busy; way too addicted to noise and to a frenetic lifestyle.  In many instances, our worth is judged based on our busyness.  There is always someone or something standing at the door ready to take a piece of your time or your resources.  The results of our non-stop lifestyles are abundantly obvious; health problems, relationship problems, emotional problems, spiritual decline, and more.  If a Sabbath time is not prioritized, it will not happen.
But here’s the thing we sometimes forget.  Just as an individual needs regular periods of rest and renewal, so do couples.  Husbands and wives need to prioritize time together in which they can engage each other in a relaxed setting, share in intimacy (physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual), and renew and reaffirm their covenant relationship with each other and with God.  It needs to be a time of rest, play, and spiritual growth as a couple.  After all, God gave the Sabbath to Adam and Eve together (Genesis 1:26-2:3).  If a Sabbath time together for a husband and wife is not prioritized, it will not happen.
So what do we do?  Ongoing obligations and resources always have to be taken into account when planning a time of Sabbath as a couple.  I’d love to get away to a beach house in Hawaii with my wife every few months, but that is just not realistic.  Regardless of your limitations, find something you can do to have a time of Sabbath rest as a couple.  Set aside a day for worship together, take a walk together, read scripture together, play a game, take a vacation.  While time and money have to be taken in to consideration, you can find the means to have at least a few minutes of daily rest together.  But we also need more extended times—a full day of rest at regular intervals, longer times of rest such as a weekend getaway or a week-long vacation.  And please avoid the temptation to fill your time off with so many honey-do lists that it really isn’t a time of rest.  Find some way to just rest in the presence of each other as you rest in the presence of God.
        Put as much intentionality into your rest with your spouse as you put into anything else you do to better your marriage.  Put a regular "couple’s time of Sabbath rest" on the calendar.  Make it a priority.  Realize that without rest together as a couple, you circumvent God’s design for your relationship.