Thursday, January 31, 2013
When marriage hurts
Years ago, during a difficult time in her marriage, my niece called me. As we talked she asked if I ever had second thoughts about my marriage. I answered her with complete candor. “If I had known then what I know now I never would have dated him, let alone married him!”
My answer stunned her and she asked, “then why do you stay married to him?”
“Because,” I responded, “if I could know now what he will be like ten, twenty or thirty years in the future I may find myself saying I never would have wanted to marry anyone else.”
So often we get so caught up in the immediate world around us, tinted and splattered with dirt from the past that we have a hard time looking forward toward the beautiful colors awaiting us on the horizon…and that includes the beauty of marriage.
All of my children know one of the most important decisions they will make is who to marry. But I have also told my children that is just the easy, first decision. Each one of them, at some point after their marriage, will have to seriously decide whether or not to stay married.
It’s a test that all marriages must face it.
Some marriages and spouses will have to answer this question only once. Others seem to have to answer it on an almost daily basis.
The test, I tell them, isn't about whether or not they can get married. Any two people can do that. The real test is about deciding to stay married when things go bad...especially if they go really bad. When the immediate world around them gets dirty, when the mud from past decisions seems to cover their entire view, will they keep their eye on the horizon? Most importantly, when it’s hard to want to keep their promise to their spouse, will they keep their promise to the Lord?
There will be times when all of us will be disappointed by our chosen partner—deeply hurt, let down, offended or even ashamed. That is part of marriage. It is learning to deal with the deepest emotions of every kind, the good and the bad, when our hearts are so closely tied to the outcome.
There may be times—even long periods of time—when we don’t respect our spouse, don’t love our spouse, don’t even like our spouse. What then?
I love Proverbs 31, but verse 26 is especially poignant when marriages are struggling. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
It doesn’t matter how someone is treating us. What matters is how we treat them. When we are hurt, let us try to respond with kindness. When we are disappointed, let us try to announce our appreciation. When we are let down, let us find ways to give sincere compliments.
“Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm…even so the tongue is a little member and boasteth great things.” (James 3:4-5)
When the words and actions of our spouses seem fierce, unforgiving, even harsh; when we feel the storm is too great to pass through, let us remember to find tiny ways to verbally express our love and appreciation to our spouses. And let us share with others, and the Lord, the things we appreciate and admire about our eternal companions.
The power of kind, gentle and soothing words is immeasurable...and we may find it can eventually turn even the largest, most storm-locked ships.
Remember, Christ also used words when he calmed the raging seas. And what did he speak?