Marriage is (good) work

One of my favorite authors/speakers, Shauna Niequist, delivered a really powerful sermon on marriage this past Sunday. It opened with a song accompanied by a hauntingly accurate dance representation. The dancers so perfectly depicted the struggle that marriage is sometimes – the constant back and forth; the anger and hurt mixed with a desire to love and heal and fix; the internal war between the desire to embrace and lash out.
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I love my husband. I am even cautiously proud of the relationship we have, while simultaneously knowing I will never want to stop improving. Because as the saying goes, “the grass is greener where you water it.” We have certainly gone through these difficult times, and I’m sure we’re not alone. I think the majority of people would agree that they want to have the deep, meaningful, decades-long marriage Shauna spoke of.

She listed and described 6 ways to build that kind of marriage:
stronger in marriage

At the end, she gave us a chance to pick the one that really stood out to us, grab hold of it, and ask God to help us improve in that area. In no particular order, here’s what they meant to me:

4. Protect your marriage. The hubs and I have always had guidelines in place to protect our marriage – things like not being alone with non-family members of the opposite sex; neither of us keep in contact with Exes; observing common courtesy like communicating where we’ll be, who we’ll be with, and how long we’ll be out. If this seems like overdoing it, think about a time when you have had the opportunity to do something innocent with someone of the opposite sex, WITHOUT your spouse. Personally, if there’s any chance it could be perceived the wrong way, or even the slightest bit of mistrust could arise from it, I’d rather opt out. (Can I make a side note, wives? When you marry your husband, your body becomes his, and his body becomes yours [1 Cor 7:4]. Don’t give him any reason to pursue a body other than your own. Make an effort to satisfy him even when it is inconvenient for you. I promise you will not regret it.) We are by no means perfect in this area, but I do think we have a strong foundation.

3. Be a grower. From the time we were engaged, I’ve tried to grow myself to be the best wife I can by reading, listening, studying ways I can improve. What I’m working towards has shifted over the years, adjusting to the hubs, his needs, the addition of children, schedule changes, etc. So while I don’t think this one will ever be completely “checked off” the list, I’m confident that I’m developing in this area – especially through daily prayer.

5. Become expert forgivers. This is an area that I know we have each grown. At certain points in our marriage, one of us was better at it than the other – but I think we are both pretty evenly matched now. We both can be quick to anger sometimes, but generally we are gracious and forgiving overall. I’ve really been clinging to the phrase from 1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

3. Ask for help. When Shauna spoke of this, she was referring to professional help. She says she is a big advocate of counseling, even if you don’t have really deep-seated issues. At this point, I don’t see either Alex or I asking for professional help. I do, however, ask trusted friends for prayer quite often when I feel we need it.

6. Remember you’re God’s hands and feet. I know God has plans for us to move in His kingdom together as a couple – I just don’t think that season is quite here yet.

That leaves me with… 2. Invest your best time and energy. I knew this one was the one I’d cling to. Since I began reading and actually praying from the book “The Power of a Praying Wife”, I’ve already begun implementing this idea – that the relationship with my husband is the most important one I have to nurture here on earth – so why wouldn’t I invest my best time and energy? Shauna was accurate when she said that many times we just give our spouse the leftovers. I recognized that’s what I was doing, so I made a mental switch to be more aware of and more engaged with the hubs. It has made such a huge difference in our friendship and the love in our relationship – emotionally and physically. 

Shauna suggests two ways to do this: First, Memory-making. Make a point to have date nights together, spend quality time together, embark on new adventures together. Maybe revisit previous dates, trips, or anniversaries to rekindle the flame.
Second, Ask hard questions. It’s easy to slip into the habit of asking, “How was your day?” – but our days are so long and muddled, that question becomes difficult to answer. Instead ask questions like, “At what point today did you feel joy?” and “What frustrated you today?” More particular questions lead to deeper answers and a deeper level of KNOWING one another. (Side note: I tried this with my 6 year old at the dinner table, and I got a more detailed account of her school day than I ever had before!)

Which of these 6 do you feel confident in? Is there one you want to grab hold of or cling to?

Watch or listen to the entire message, including the excellent dance interpretation of the song “Say Something”, on Willow Creek’s media site.

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