This is the third installment of Reflections & Lessons from 40 Years of Marriage. Here are some more survival principles learned from the wilderness of marriage. Check out the previous two days for the first four points.
5. Affirm one another – Look for the good in one another and communicate what you see. Remember the old Johnny Mercer song. “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”
That is great advice for the marriage relationship. This is especially true regarding your differences. Respect and affirm one another’s differences.
Encourage your differences! Encourage your spouse to be who God has created them to be. Encourage them to pursue their dreams. Encourage them to do the things they love to do, even though you don’t love to do them. Encourage them do things their way, even though you’d do it differently.
Do not allow a negative or critical spirit in your marriage. That spirit kills marriages. Set boundaries on your “constructive criticism.” Give it only when you’re in love, never in time of war. Give it only when you both have time to talk about it. Restrict it to things your mate has given you permission to speak into.
And restrict it to things you both have a reasonable hope of seeing improvement and change come out of it. Otherwise shut-up, suck it up, and get prayed up. God will give you wisdom. Maybe you need some outside counsel or help. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Come on, affirm your spouse and don’t try to change them. Your spouse is not a project. Don’t be a little god trying to make them into your image and likeness. How sad is that? How do I know this? I read it in a book… no, sadly, my own selfish, arrogant ways have taught me how misguided we can be when we try to do this.
6. Influence by example. Take the initiative to demonstrate the love of Jesus in your marriage. Be Christ to your spouse. The best way to influence another is first and foremost by example. Nagging doesn’t work. Believe me. Simply concentrate on being the spouse He has created you to be and you will see God work wonders in your marriage.
You cannot change another person, but God can use the changes in you to change them. Don’t wait for them to be the first to say “I’m sorry.” You say it. Don’t wait for them to be forgiving, you forgive. Don’t wait for them to be honest, you be honest. Don’t wait for them to be the peacemaker, you take the lead.
In difficult times if you want them to believe God, then why don’t you start by believing God? If want them to be strong, then you be strong. If you want them to pray, then you begin to pray. If you want them get involved, then you do it. If you want them to get some help, then you take the initiative to ask for help.
Funny story – early in our marriage, before I was in the ministry, Susan and I were having a heated discussion in the middle of the night. I don’t even recall what is was about, but I was trying to downplay its importance and had been procrastinating doing something about it.
Susan finally said “Alright, I’m going to call pastor right now and get some help.” “But it’s one in the morning.” I protested. “I don’t care.” Susan said as she picked up the phone.
That was it. I finally realized how serious she really was – duh – and I said. “No, No, don’t call him! Please don’t call him! You’re right I’ve got a problem. OK, OK, I’ll deal with!”
I thank God for a wife who continually inspires me with her Christ like example and commitment to be a woman of faith.
To be continued . . . more coming tomorrow.
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