"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Thursday, February 17, 2011

God is on the side of your marriage (2)

     Someone gave me wise advice when my daughter was newly married. Like every couple, they had a few rocky patches at first and she called home a couple of times to vent a little and ask my advice. She was careful not to bad-mouth her husband but it would have been easy for me to side with her and assume he was the bad guy.    
     Thankfully, I remembered the counsel given me: Be on the side of the marriage. Not on her side, not on his side. On the side of the marriage.
     I must have done it right because a few months later when they had another dust-up of some sort, it was my son-in-law who suggested my daughter call me!
     God is on the side of your marriage. He wants you to be more than two ragged halves of a whole,  clobbered and bloody, bewildered and disillusioned, or empowered by bitterness, wondering why you're holding a certificate of divorce in your hand. 
     Only one catch. You  have to do it His way. Shouting back? No. Stalking out and slamming doors? No. And no pouting or sulking! A soft answer turns away anger. (If it doesn't, we're called to use one anyway.) No blaming or shaming. No manipulative tears. No resorting to drugs, alcohol, or over-eating. No back-biting. No affairs. No hitting below the belt, no head-butting, no rabbit punches. Keep it clean, keep it civil, keep it mature.
     How can anyone be expected to do this? You probably can't, not consistently. Lean on Him. Stay in close touch with Him. Keep short accounts with Him, confessing wrong when the Spirit prods. Consult Him frequently.
      First thing every morning (or even the night before) give Him your life, this day, your marriage. Verbally, symbolically, put on all the armor God has given you. You're in a very real battle. You need the truth wrapped around you to keep you from defending yourself, justice to protect your intentions, peace to keep you from running away, salvation to protect your thoughts, faith to keep fiery darts of condemnation from piercing your heart, and the word of God with which to come in the opposite spirit--kindness, patience, tenderness, forgiveness, mercy, and joy.
     If you remain sheltered in Jesus, as blameless as possible, keeping your shield up (not your fists), your spouse will have to deal with Jesus. Don't give your spouse ammunition to deflect the focus to your snide statement, your high-and-mighty attitude, your hypocrisy in some area of your life. It helped me to think of hurtful words as whizzing over my left shoulder, aimed not at me but at our Lord. I tried to stay out of the way and let Him handle them. (Oh, that's hard!) It helps too, to think of the enemy--big, hairy, dumb, and smelly--as standing behind your spouse, goading him to hurt you. Your enemy is not your spouse.
     One of your weapons is the name of Jesus. Because your enemy is God's enemy, too, you have God's authority to use His name to silence or rout him. Address the enemy aloud when you do this (God can read your mind; the enemy can't): "Satan, I forbid you to hurt me through my husband or to hurt my husband through me. I command you to leave in Jesus' name and go wherever he sends you. I forbid you to return or harass us in any way." Something like that. (Note the "us.")
     In my first marriage, Rick and I were exchanging verbal slugs when I completely lost it. I picked up the telephone and heaved it against the sliding closet door, shattering its mirror. Without even knowing he was going to do it, my husband commanded, "Violence, leave, in the name of Jesus!"
     Instantly I was standing there in my right mind, thinking, "What did I just do?"
     With the enemy out of the way, Rick and I were free to apologize, talk (instead of yell), and work things through.
     You say it's not fair that you do all the work, that your spouse doesn't deserve your love and respect. No. But isn't Jesus worthy of your love and respect--and worship? Can you do it for Him?
     A friend of mine stood for her marriage for years and years and years, long after all her friends told her to "get on with her life." Her husband left her and their children because another woman and her children "needed" him. Lorraine fought daily for balance between self-pity and vengeance. She eked out a living as a school crossing guard and took any bitter and vindictive thoughts, all the injustice of it, to the Lord instead of to her friends. It was the hardest thing God had ever asked of her.
     It was decades before her husband came home. First he visited, quick visits, superficial conversation. She asked how he was doing, asked after his new family, sobbed into her pillow alone afterward. He came and stayed longer, beginning to unravel and let her see glimpses of his shame and wretchedness for the choices he had made. She never rubbed it in but she didn't dismiss it as nothing, either. When the Lord pulled everything out from under him and he crawled back, the prodigal husband, she didn't gloat. She didn't resent getting the dregs. He had terminal cancer. Last I knew she was taking care of him with the tenderness of Jesus.
       You will miss blessings, insights, benefits, growth and intimacy with Jesus if you choose one of the many "wrong responses to pain." The pay-off, if you endure to the end, is so, so worth it.

Today I am thankful that maybe you are the one who is going to regain hope!

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