I came across this quote from Arthur Pink today and thought it was worth sharing, particularly in light of the alarmist things I encounter in my social media feeds on a daily basis lately. It’s easy to find folks to blame for the problems in our nation. Folks post their outrage on social media, flock to politicians peddling easy answers, demand laws that will straighten up the world we live in, and pine for God to set things right. The problem with these solutions is that they are top-down fixes to a bottom-up problem. Decline and decay start in our own homes and churches. We must address our own messes before looking to those of others. In the 2 millennia since its birth, Christianity has changed the world, not through legislation and power, but through discipleship and devotion to the cause of Jesus. Fathers, follow Jesus and grow spiritually. Then, spend time with your families, loving and teaching them who Jesus is and how to follow Him. Devote yourself to your God, your marriage, your family, and your church (in that order). If you want this country to change, start with yourselves. Through prayer and discipleship, Jesus’ following grew to fill the world. It will only happen again through the same efforts.
I love my wife. I want her to love me and think I am a great husband. Heck, I want to be the kind of husband that makes my wife feel loved, appreciated, and treasured. Further, I want her to look to me as a source of comfort, assurance, and joy. Achieving this means courting her throughout our marriage. Sitting around and wanting our marriage to grow stronger without putting forth effort is unrealistic. I also want to be faithful to God’s command that I love my wife like Jesus loved the church. This means serving her. Over and over Jesus taught that love is demonstrated through service. Over the course of 18 years of marriage, I have learned through trial and error (lots and lots of error) that simply doing things for her is a start, but it is not everything. There are all sorts of things I, and lots of husbands, do to mess up the good things we do for them. We men can be thick-headed in regards to relationships and often act stupidly in ways that mess up what we are trying to achieve. Figuring out the big pitfalls and avoiding them is a huge part of courting our wives. Here are a few I have done or have observed in others.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nouris hes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:22-33
I love my wife dearly. I believe that she is a gift from God, who has made me a better man during the 17 years we have been married. I will confess that those 17 years have not always been a fairy tale where the young lovers live happily ever after. There have been more than a few frustrating days and fights. It’s strange how easy it is to be angry with someone who you care for so deeply. I often hear people say that they are far meaner and find it easier to be angry toward their loved ones than they would be toward strangers or acquaintances. Anger is powerful and can be dangerous to relationships. It is important to deal with it appropriately and effectively, lest it take root and grow into bitterness that poisons the whole relationship. The following are simple, Biblical steps to take in dealing with anger.
One of the biggest blessings I have experienced during my 2 years as a small town pastor has happened during my visits to the local nursing home. While there, I have met several married couples who have been together for decades longer than I have been alive. I have enjoyed watching couples eat together and spend time visiting. I am inspired by these folks and aspire to be together with my wife decades after we both said “I do.” To this end, I have been reading about the difference between couples who divorce and those who remain married for years. One of the interesting tidbits I came across in my reading was related to a decades-long study observing married couples. This study produced an interesting revelation regarding communication between spouses. Couples who exchanged insults or harsh words 5 out of every 100 verbal exchange tended to not divorce. If you increase the number of disparaging remarks to 10 out of every 100 exchanges, the likelihood of divorce increased dramatically. It hardly seems like a big deal, but careless words can take a toll on any relationship. Perhaps this is more so the case with marriage because husbands and wives make themselves vulnerable to each other as a part of their intimate relationship. In that setting, it doesn’t take much to wound each other significantly. The book of Proverbs makes a great comment on this matter: “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Poorly chosen words can injure us. For a spouse, this injury can result in a closing off of intimacy, and often more unpleasant words spoken in retaliation. In turn, this results in more injury, more closing off emotionally, and more harsh words. The snowball effect of a few careless words will have a dramatic impact. One of the biggest differences between married for life and divorced is how much insulting takes place, and the difference isn’t vast. One of the truly challenging issues related to harsh words is that these wounds are not always easily discerned. Hurt feelings related to careless words are often hidden from plain view. They are hidden in the heart and can continue to cause pain well after they have been spoken because they are remembered and replayed.
There are several basic steps that can be taken to overcome this sort of injury in a relationship. First, a real effort must be taken toward carefully choosing the words spoken in marriage. It doesn’t take a large reduction in unpleasant words as statistics bear out. Any effort will make an impact. Second, repairing the damage caused by previous negative exchanges begins with figuring out what injuries took place and apologizing. This isn’t easy because partners aren’t always willing to talk about injuries caused by words. It takes persistence and perseverance to brings these wounds into the open and repair them. This work may seem tedious, but a long and happy marriage is a more than adequate payoff for the effort.
I originally wrote this piece for the Mountaineer. It was originally published in 4/14.