You never pay attention to what I'm saying.
We have to watch our words. Unkind words can tear people apart, and they can break a marriage. As Christian women we should practice using words that are constructive rather than destructive. We need to focus on building up instead of tearing down.
It's so easy to give out, but it's hard to accept censure, isn't it? At times, we can really dish it out, can't we? But if we are attacked by harsh words we are deeply offended. Both times the problem lies in the way we handle the situation.
We often go wrong by targeting the person and not the problem. We will say something like, "You never..." or "You always..." do this or that. Think of it from the other's point of view, if someone tells you that you never or you always do this or that, aren't you offended?
A well-meaning friend threw me out of balance a while ago. She criticized one of my habits. First I was offended and went into defence mode. Then I decided to tackle the problem. I made some progress but only with baby steps. No, I'm far from avoiding this particular habit. Honestly? Each time I sense that someone shows the slightest attempt to mention it I'm thrown back to the beginning again. Did I need to hear the criticism? Perhaps. Was it okay for her to attack me and not my problem? No. Did she intentionally use hurtful words? I don't think so.
Unkind and destructive words can come out in a flash. In some cases the offended person will eventually get over it. In other cases unfit words leave deep cuts behind. By all means we need to target the problem itself and not the person. Sometimes that isn't quite as easy to do, I know. Here are just two ideas how to attack the problem and not the person:
The toothpaste problem: Are you annoyed because the tube of toothpaste in your bathroom looks the way it does - all but nice and neatly squeezed? >> Don't get annoyed at the people using it. Get a toothpast roller (also called squeezer) to tackle the problem.
The laundry problem: Tired of having to collect all the socks and shirts off the floors and out of each room? Buy a few extra popup or foldable laundry hampers. They are available in many nice colors. Put one in each bedroom. Tell each family member that only the clothes that are in the hampers will be taken to the laundry room to be washed, dried, folded, and brought back to the rooms.
In my last post, Tough Decisions, I shared with you a story about one of my saddest times in my life. After reading a tract about marriage, divorce, and remarriage my husband and I had to face the question of whether we could stay married or if we would have to get a divorce. This is a follow up to Friday's post.
We prayed. We asked, no, we begged, we pleaded with the LORD for our marriage.
What are you supposed to do in a situation like that? Search for articles, read books, go online for help? How about asking your pastor, friend, or members of your family what they would do? For us the dilemma started after reading what a particular denomination says about remarriage.
I will not mention the tract in details nor tell you more about that denomination. This post is not intended to refute their arguments nor to belittle their denomination.
The whole point I want you to get out of this post is: Search the Scriptures for answers. I don't mean for you to pick and choose as you please (oh, I'm very much guilty of having done that before) but to diligently search for answers in the Bible.
Searching for answers in God's Word means to be ready:
Our marriage could have ended right there. To move forward we had to accept to do whatever He would require us to do. We had to lay our marriage on the Altar of God. All glory to Him, He had plans for us to remain married.
No matter what you are facing, in all you do, seek God's will first.
Emotional or spiritual turmoil fragments a marriage.
Both, men and women, long to have peace in their marriage. So why, at certain times and in certain cases, doesn't it work? Are there any "tricks" to make a marriage work?
1 One evening per week to work on problems.
Meet for a few hours, once a week, to discuss differences in your marriage and to workout solutions. This is absolutely not the time to criticize your man. Pray before and/or at the start of each meeting. Be patient. Remember problems that have a deeper root may take a good amount of time to get solved. Peace might not be restored all at once.
Beware that if problems are not dealt with they might turn into bitterness and pride. Don't let this happen.
Talking about working on problems, we have to watch our words. We know that. But we often forget to check on our thought-life. We need to do that not just once a week but daily. Readjust as necessary. Read and remember Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
2 One date per week, or at least one in every two weeks.
This is an extra special time you spend alone with your husband. Remember the days when you have just started dating? Oh the hours you could talk to each other about so many things. Drive to a nice cafe and enjoy a cup of coffee together. Sit across from each other. Talk, looking at each other, holding each other's hands. Be close. Plan a special meal together, take a long walk, or go on a day-trip. Be together to enjoy each other's company.
Yes, of course, it could also be a time of having breakfast in bed or a planned ahead time to be intimate. You don't always have to feel like it. Surprise him now and then! Put your man first and go the extra mile for him! Imagine him bending over backwards to create an amazing romantic time with you. (Think: candles, dinner, fragrance in the bedroom) How would you feel? Would you be convinced? Your man might not care for all of this but he will go the extra mile to show you his love. Treat him. "Think man"... let him know you are about to hop into the shower, just for him. Tell him that you are ready to meet him. Give him the assurance that he is your man, "the" man for you.
"We have small children," you say. Then take them to their grandparents for a few hours or half a day every other week or so, or hire a babysitter. Or bring your children to your close friends to stay overnight. And at another time you can pay them back by taking their children into your home. How about that?
3 Go For Success! Let him know...
In German we have a saying: "Liebe geht durch den Magen." In English: The way through a man's heart is through his stomach. That may or may not be true. But it isn't the only way to reach out to your husband. Men like to be praised. Don't focus on what he can't do or what he isn't. Instead, capitalize his strengths. Focus on what he is good at. Let him know his unique qualities that you so love. Let him know that you appreciate them, that they are precious and that you find them wonderful.
"He doesn't have any," you say. Really? What about the things you so loved when you first started dating? That's a long time ago... That doesn't matter. Surely you can recall one or the other quality. Go from there. Even if it is just one small thing you can praise him for. Tell him! Show him that he is your man. He will appreciate it when you are proud of him. Give it a try. You will see your marriage improve and your man grow.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all."
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.
(Proverbs 31:28-31 NKJV)
This is for you, my precious friend and beloved sister in Christ - and to you, girls, who are insecure whenever praises are directed at you.
Notice that the praises the woman of Proverbs 31 is receiving are not coming from herself, which wouldn't be right (Proverbs 27:2). Instead, her children, her husband, others, and her works are the ones who praise her.
This woman is a great blessing to her family, her friends, and her neighbors. Her children stand up for her mom and call her blessed. Her husband praises her for he is convinced neither his own nor any other daughter could ever keep nor make his house the home his wife does. His love looks beyond her charm and beauty; he acknowledges that because of her love to God she is able to help him in the way she does. Her works are praising her, they speak louder than any words could ever do.
Back to you, my precious friend. ...
Did you see that soft glance in your husband's eyes while you were sharing something about the good old days? Have you noticed how his shoulder moved closer to yours after you've taken your seat next to him? Did you hear his tone of admiration when he mentioned that dish you are cooking so well? How about your children? You may think you have failed in one or another way but have a good look at them! Not too close, my friend! Keep a bit of a distance to see them through the eyes of someone who isn't part of your family. You will see how comfortable they feel in your home and how much they love you.
Myself? At times, yes, I find myself having trouble accepting praise. That usually happens when I'm in doubt of deserving it or if I question the honesty of it. And, sadly, I do find myself desiring approval from others now and then. On the other side, whenever I read Proverbs 31:23, I become more and more aware of what is giving me the greatest pleasure of all (praise):
Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.
(Proverbs 31:23 NKJV)
Now, understand, this doesn't necessarily regard his place in the church. It might talk about his achievement at work or a position he is having within the community. A wife has quite an influence in her man's life: she can either support and encourage him and advance his reputation, or she can nag and drag him down. Remember, encouragement and praises mean a lot to your husband. I'll share some ideas about this in one of my future posts.
If you were to write down the three top priorities in your life, who or what would come first? God? Your daily devotions? Time spent with and for your husband? Being together with your children? Your work? Your home? Your friends? Your ministry?
If you were told that you were only to live another 6-12 months, would you change anything? Why? Why not?
Honestly? I struggle now and then, setting my priorities right. I believe that the following is the perfect order:
2 Husband and Home
The problems start, of course, if God doesn't come first in our lives, but also whenever the ministry takes a higher place than our husband and our family. I'm guilty of having given my ministry too much attention while neglecting my marriage.
1 Putting God first. I'm not talking about plain Bible reading. I want to know more about God's Word, of course, but spending time with my LORD is so much more than that. It's about talking, praying to Him, listening to Him (e.g. verses He brings to my mind or points me to while reading His words) and praising Him through prayer and songs. The quantity of time doesn't matter as much as the quality of it. That changes everything!
2 Putting my husband second. He needs to be only second after God. I remind myself that he has a very special place in my life - even before my child/ren and, yes, before my ministry which goes beyond my home. I include many things I can and should do for him: keeping our home running and in order, guarding his time (after working hours end), supporting him in his work and encouraging him, minding our child/ren while he is working, acknowledging him as the head of our home, telling him how proud I'm of him.
3 Putting the ministry in third place. I find this so important. We are tempted to put the ministry before our husband. But we need to remember that woman was made for man (1 Corinthians 11:9), that we should be keepers of the home (Titus 2:5), and that we need to teach our children diligently (Deuteronomy 6:7). So, for a good amount of years, our ministry lies in meeting our husband's and family's needs and keeping our home.
Heard a great sermon from 1 Corinthians 11 about headship and head covering last Sunday. I want to share a little bit about it and another sermon that was preached in the same church a few weeks ago.
We know the verses in Ephesians that talk about a man loving his wife as Christ loves the Church and about the wife submitting to her husband as the Church submits to Christ. This has always been the picture I have kept in mind. However, things changed after a I have heard a sermon on this a couple of weeks ago and a reminder of it mentioned yesterday.
Think of it, we have to submit to our husband as the Church submits to Christ. But does the individual local church always submit to Christ as the Head of the Church? So, if even the church slips I shouldn't feel that guilty if now and then I don't submit, should I? Well... You see, both preachers mentioned that, in God's order, there needs to be a "loving authority" and a "loving submission". Both of the men pointed to the words found in the first book to the Corinthians and in Ephesians but also to the fact of the relationship between God and Jesus: God being the "Loving Authority" while Christ being the "Loving Submissive" One.
That picture changed everything for me. God, the "loving Authority" sends His Son and His Son responds in "loving submission". I asked myself what would have happened, if Jesus would have said: "Up to this point, yes, but not any further. It's not worth it. Nothing will change by Me submitting anyway." I was shocked about my attitudes and the many situations before in which I doubted that submission was the right way to go.
Nope! I'm not the perfect wife. Not at all! I'm more desperately preaching to myself here. I don't willingly, lovingly submit to my husband all the time. All too often I put my wants, my wishes, my pleasures first. But I also keep reminding myself that God's ways are best and that His Grace enables me to keep my feet on His path.
By the way, in the same passage (1 Corinthians 11) Paul is talking about head coverings. I will not get into details about this symbol today but leave it instead for another day's post. So, if you want to find out more about it, please stay tuned.
Last week I have talked about the importance of taking the time to nurture our marriage. If we ignore this, things will get out of hand eventually. In the beginning we might still be able to downplay disagreements. However, sooner or later, a pile of problems that has not been dealt with will become a burden to the marriage.
Of course, keeping a marriage in good order is more serious than keeping a home tidy. Still, they are quite similar in some ways. If we pay attention and do not neglect them we can make things a bit easier on ourselves.
Think of this scenario: You receive a phone call from unexpected visitors, announcing that they are just around the corner of your house, planning to drop in shortly. All of the sudden, you are hard-pressed for time. You are in danger of losing it while running like mad through your home to put away at least some of the piled up clutter and cleanup what is absolutely necessary. Imagine how relaxed you could greet them at the door if you wouldn't have to worry about a thing before they'll arrive...
Now, let me say that a lonely home doesn't need cleaning, a family home does. We can't keep an occupied house spotless 24/7. There is no need to. It would lose the touch of coziness. Also remember that people are more important than stuff, so that a comforted child sitting on your lap is a greater reward than having a spotless bathroom.
Having said that, let me share just three things that will help us keep our homes clean:
The whole trick is to stay on top of things: accomplishing a little every day. That way you are facing no or a lesser burden during the weekly/monthly cleaning job and/or the cleanup before unexpected visitors arrive.
What does it take for a marriage to work? Besides love, patience and effort, one of the most important ingredients to make a marriage work is time. It is important to take time.
As a couple we need to spend quality time together: going for a walk, having a candlelit dinner, visiting places, spending time alone with each other and being romantic. True, it isn't always easy to do because our schedules are already filled with working hours, chores, fitness, hobbies and more. But it is important that we will take the time to build and nurture our marriage. Keep the marital bond healthy.
Divorce never happens over night. There must have been issues with the marriage before. Maybe they had been ignored again and again? Perhaps the couple has not taken the time to probe the causes of the problems? Unresolved issues and arguments are dangers that can sneak into any marriage. Beware of them. Be on your guard! So, another important ingredient to make a marriage work is communication. It is important to make the time to listen and to talk.
The best anchor of a working marriage is, of course, the LORD Jesus. We might face some similar issues and hardships in our married life than non-believers do. However, having Jesus at the helm of our marriage-boat will make things so much more worth it.
I have ordered a few books on marriage over the last two weeks. There will be some book reviews coming up shortly. Stay tuned for there will be some book reviews coming up in the near future.
But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor 11:3 NKJV)
Let's look at some of the facts about man, as found in Genesis 1 and 2:
Headship was established in the Garden of Eden. It is not a result of the Fall. However, due to sin, men now "naturally" struggle to lead while women struggle to submit.
Adam was to start his own household and to be the head of his wife. Nowadays, men could lead their wives in love and in wisdom, while women could humbly and in meekness follow their husbands' guidance. But, you see, that day, when Eve took of the forbidden fruit, she decided to go her own way. And Adam listened to her and followed her lead instead of obeying God's command.
Now, because of our fallen nature, leading and submitting have turned into something unpleasant, something we want to deny and escape. Men either do not want to rule their own households, or, if they do, they do so in a more or less selfish and abusive way. Women, on the other side, do not want to be told what to do and often take over the lead to rule over their husbands.
If she submits, will she not admit that she is worth less (than her husband)?
Think of different roles: Whenever men of different ranks are sent to war, are the lives of the men with the lowest rank worth less than the ones who have achieved higher ranks? Of course not!
Think of different ages: Is a twenty-year-old mother of less value than the one who is in her forties? Of course not!
Think of different sexes: Is a 4-year-old girl worthless compared to a 4-year-old boy? Of course not!
We, the women, have not been made to be trampled upon by men, nor have we been made to rule over them.
I love what Matthew Henry says in his commentary:
That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.
Two men had been asked to do something. One said he wouldn't do it but later on he did, the other said he would do it but in the end he didn't. Who would you rather be married to?
You look at Angela's husband and wonder: How could she stay married to him all these years? He is an unbeliever. Ever since she has come to Christ, he is giving her a hard time. Of course she loves him! Maybe not like on the first day of marriage... but she surely cares for him. It hurts her to see him in this stage, neglecting his spiritual health. She wants to help him, teach him, talk to him about her belief in God's Word - and she would love to do that all day long. However, the more she talks the more hostile he seems to become toward what he calls a senseless faith.
Now Violet's husband, he is a total different man! Straight away you will notice that he is very good in explaining Bible passages and teaching the the things of God. They are always in church on Sundays and throughout the week they participate in various studies and gatherings at the church. John had been called to faith first, then Violet followed.
"That sounds wonderful. Good for them," you say, "But you don't understand. I can identify more with Angela than with Violet. My husband is an unbeliever."
Been there! So let me point out, please, that the last thing you want to live with is a false convert. You don't want your husband to live the Christian life only to find out later on that he really never cared for it after all. True, it would make things much easier on you and the children and life could be so great in church, too. Yes, but only as long as he is playing his role well. But what if some hardships come along? What if some of his buddies convince him that there is "more" out there than being a Christian? What if he will meet "the love of his life" and leave? Or, what if he will get fed up pretending to be someone he really isn't? Even if he would continue on, eventually you will stumble across his false doctrines and he might defend them furiously. Then what? Will you be able to stand firm for Christ? Honestly?
I reasoned with my uncle once: "But why did you just lie to her?" My aunt had asked him if he had taken his medication, to which he replied, "Yes, of course I did!" His reason for lying? "Now she is all happy and will leave me alone." He explained that otherwise she will keep on bugging him all day long and he doesn't want her to do that. He just wants (his) peace.
Yes, I understand: You long for your husband to come to Christ. However, you want him to become a true believer, right, not one that will play his role to please you or so that you will no longer bother him about this?
If you turn to Matthew 21:28-31 you will find the Parable of the Two Sons where it says:
"But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second son and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" ... (NKJV)
Yes, being married to an unbelieving husband can be very hard. Remember, though, that nothing is impossible with God: neither for you to continue living with your husband (as long as he doesn't want to leave) nor that your husband will turn and call out to Jesus for salvation.
Wait. Pray. Trust in God's perfect plan and timing!