I was not married very long before I realized that marriage would challenge me like nothing else I had ever experienced. The intense emotions that marriage brings, the unrealized expectations, the hurts that happen, the revealing of just how selfish we really are, and just how aggravating our spouse can be, can just slam you in the face so hard that you can’t see straight or think clearly.
It is very difficult for most people to be self-aware. Most of us have a difficult journey of self-discovery of our own weaknesses, our own human frailties, shortcomings, and our own selfish, destructive, sinful nature.
My first years of marriage were spent with much inner turmoil as I could not understand why my spouse was being so difficult! Why would they do that? Why would they say that? Why would they treat me that way? Why would they react that way? How can they think like that? Why would they say that? Why did they say this?
I tried over and over again to try to get my wife to see things my way. I tried to persuade, to emote, to reprove, to pontificate, to explain, to express, to do whatever I thought would get me what I wanted, and what I thought was right, and proper. Most of the time, I ended up frustrated and disappointed after one of these kinds of episodes. They usually did not turn out well at all.
As a result, little by little, I could see my wife was becoming emotionally distant. That adoring, romantic, filled with respect fiance was now realizing she had not married an angel, but an immature, flawed man, who had so much yet to learn, and could rub her the wrong way, and let her down.
It seemed that almost every day there was some kind of disagreement between us, some kind of stress. We began to realize just how very different we really were and that we didn’t really fit like a hand and glove at all.
This seems to me now at 62 to be a distant memory as God has done so much in our marriage through the last 40 years. However, I revisit all of this in order to help pass on an extremely valuable lesson I learned that was a marriage game changer for me and for Kathy.
The truth revealed in this question changed everything for me. You see, what mattered most to me at that time was not what would honor God in my marriage at that moment. What mattered most was what do I want in this marriage right now? What would make me happy in this marriage right now? What should Kathy do for me right now in this marriage to fulfill me? Instead, God hit me with this! “Mark, what do you need to do, think, or be right now, to honor God in your marriage at this moment, in this situation?!”
THIS WAS A RADICAL, MONUMENTAL TURNING POINT.
Here is why. All of us as humans are hard-wired to think in terms of our needs, right now. What do I need, what do I want? What do I need from you, what would help me most right now? Don’t get me wrong, God did indeed create a marriage in part to help meet those needs. The God-given needs God created us with.
However, sin has distorted us, sin has twisted us, and in truth, many of the life decisions we made, the choices we each made before we came to Jesus Christ, and many even after, have turned us all into Gollum!! That twisted, pathetic creature from Lord of the Rings!
Most of the time, in marriage, we need saving from ourselves not from our spouse!! Let me illustrate:
I am a very expressive person, I feel things deeply, I want Kathy to grasp my perspective and my point of view. I tended to think as a young man that most of the time I was right if only she would see it! One particular time, there was something we were really struggling with and had for quite some time. It was a really big deal for me. Things were just not going well in this area.
One day, I will never forget it, Kathy shared some things that happened to her when she was young in her adolescence and her teen years. I remember tears welling up in my eyes, as I thought to myself, “Mark, you idiot, no wonder this has been so difficult for her.” My heart was moved with compassion and for the first time, instead of seeing things from my perspective, I saw them through the perspective of her painful experiences.
It hit me, “Mark, what would honor Me (God) in your marriage right now?” The answer: “To listen, Lord, to keep my mouth shut and listen. To strive to understand the ways these things affected and impacted my wife. To walk in her shoes, Lord, and to do what is best for her in this situation. To show 1000 times more patience, tenderness, and take this at her pace and not mine.”
Though this realization all happened at the time, by accident, I realized that this truth, “What would honor God right now”, would be life-altering and powerful, if it was my regular, default mental home page and not buried somewhere deep in my memory bank. In other words, I began to realize that what mattered most in my marriage was not pleasing me, not pleasing Kathy, but rather pleasing and honoring God! God tells me to be quick to listen. That is his command to me, that is what honors Him most. God tells me to put on a heart of compassion and to be tenderhearted and consider her needs more important than my own.
Another illustration. I began to realize that I was letting resentment build up in my heart towards Kathy for the offenses, real or perceived, that I felt she had done to me. We would regularly argue about these types of things. I would articulate all her wrongs, her mistakes, I would blame, I could be like a battering ram, trying to get my point across.
Then I decided, instead of doing what I usually did, I asked myself the question: “What would honor God right now in my marriage in this situation?” God’s answer? “Forgive. Forgive her from your heart Mark, whether she asks you to or not, and treat her like it never happened. Forget the past. Keep no record of her wrongs. Treat her with the grace I show you. Treat her like she had done everything right. Is that not what justification means in your relationship with me, Mark? Then treat your wife like I treat you!”
Wow, this was a game changer for me.
Here is another. There were things about Kathy, just simply in her temperament, in her personality, that I realized once we were married that I didn’t particularly like. I thought, why aren’t you more expressive? Why aren’t you more affectionate? Why aren’t you more enthusiastic? These things could really bother me. You see, once again, I was thinking in terms of my needs, what I wanted.
Then I went to my new default home page, “WHAT WOULD HONOR GOD RIGHT NOW IN MY MARRIAGE?” God’s answer: “Accept Kathy just like she is Mark, just like I have accepted you. Accept that I made her fearfully and wonderfully. Accept that I created her uniquely and differently than you are Mark. Accept her, and let her be herself.”
This may all seem simple to you, but this was revolutionary to me. This brought such peace to my heart, it brought much greater harmony between us, and I began to see that wow, God really made her this way, and for my good as her husband. In fact, today, I love Kathy’s quiet ways, I love her gentle, calm spirit, I would not change a thing about her.
This truth, “WHAT WOULD HONOR GOD IN MY MARRIAGE RIGHT NOW”, literally applies to every single situation, every day.
1. Would it honor God to nag my spouse right now?
2. Would it honor God to assert my will right now?
3. Would it honor God to shout and be angry with my spouse right now?
4. Would it honor God to force my spouse to be on my emotional timeline?
5. Would it honor God to listen now or to speak now?
6. Would it honor God to argue now or to try to understand now?
7. How can I best express myself to my spouse in a way that honors God?
8. How can I love my spouse now, at this moment, in a way that most honors God?
9. How can I best serve my spouse now in the most God-honoring way?
10. Would it honor God to say what I am thinking right now?
11. How can I express the frustrations and concerns I have right now to my spouse in a way that honors God?
12. Does withholding my affection from my spouse honor God?
13. Does being kinder to my children than I am to my spouse honor God?
14. How can I express what I am feeling right now, or struggling with right now, in a God-honoring way?
Over and over this penetrating question, this divine truth guided my decisions like a beacon of light in the fog of my emotions and feelings and the difficulties happening at any given time in my marriage. This truth became the judge and referee over my heart and my mind.
I urge you to make this your greatest ambition and desire: WHAT WOULD HONOR GOD IN MY MARRIAGE, RIGHT NOW?
This passage of scripture has been a great help to me.
Psalm 119:59-60 (Revised Berkeley)
“I pondered my ways and turned my feet to Thy testimonies. I made haste and did not tarry to observe Thy commandments.”
My great desire is to help you to succeed as a father and husband, (and wives, if you are reading this) and to impart God’s great wisdom and truth to you in a way that you grasp and understand it, to motivate you to live it out and experience the wonderful blessings of living a life that honors God.
Please hear this message:
Helping you become a Strong Disciple,
Because of Jesus,