If I could place a gift under every Christmas tree for each of you who read this, it would the gift of acceptance. That is, that each of you, husband and wife, would truly genuinely give to your spouse your heartfelt acceptance of who they are, accepting their God-given temperament, personality, and quirks, accepting them with all their flaws and weaknesses, all their shortcomings and failures, just as Christ accepted you! Oh, how easy it is for each of us to throw the first of many stones! We are so convinced of our own moral and spiritual superiority.
Most of us spend so much time and emotional energy in our married life trying to change our spouse. So many of our frustrations, inner angst, and even resentments come from the great stress placed on our marriage because we are dissatisfied and unhappy with our mate. We just don’t accept them as they presently are.
This was, for Kathy and me, one of the great lessons of our married life. When we first married, it did not take long for the rose-colored glasses of engagement to turn into the microscope of married life. Of course, there was much to learn, and much to figure out. We were new to the roles we were now playing. We had never been married before so we brought no experience to this permanent new way of life. It was very easy for Kathy to feel that her role was to be my personal Holy Spirit and point out my flaws and shortcomings and convict and remind me of all I had done or was doing wrong. It was easy for me to feel my role as the head and leader of my wife was to remold her into the person I thought she should be. It did not take long for both of us to feel unaccepted in our own home. I started to feel that no matter what I did, I always fell short and I could not make her happy. I know Kathy also began to feel great pressure from me to be someone she was not, or that she was not good enough for me. That she needed to perform better.
This was a terrible way to live. Pretty soon much of the joy was gone out of our marriage. We found ourselves quite discontent. Little by little, we began to withhold our love and our acceptance, affection, and approval of our mate in the hopes that this would motivate them to change and then reward each other with our increased acceptance and warmer affection when our spouse performed better. Believe it or not, most people live their whole married lives like this.
God, in His great mercy and love, began to go to work on my heart in a very significant way and on my understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I began to go through a transformative understanding of the Gospel and God’s love and acceptance of me, because of what Jesus Christ did for me. For the first time in my life, I began to feel accepted by God. I began to accept myself and who God made me and the temperament, quirks, and shortcomings of my personality. This is not to say or imply I did not need to grow in greater Christ-likeness. This new understanding gave me a greater desire to grow and become like Christ than I ever had before. What it did do was take all the pressure off of me to perform to earn God’s love and acceptance, and it changed the way I dealt with Kathy. I no longer felt the need to put pressure on her to change or perform a certain way or to pressure her to be a different kind of woman. Instead, I put my energy into accepting her just as she was and enjoying her just as she was. I put my emotional energy into praying for her that God would bring about all that He desired her to become for Jesus’ sake. I prayed that God would do His mighty work in her, and bring to completion what He began! In addition, I began to vigorously thank God in prayer for her, and the ways God made her and the unique qualities of her person, every single day of my life even though she was still flawed. This created an emotional warmth and deep appreciation for Kathy in my heart that was greater than had ever been there before.
This gift of acceptance and our practice of this gift, along with my continued practice of vigorously thanking God for Kathy and her unique qualities, even after 40 years together, has enriched our marriage, brought such a depth of love, genuine affection, and warmth, beyond anything we could have imagined as a young couple. We are so grateful to God.
Let us all resolve to be done with rolling our eyes, sarcastic words that cut and hurt, disapproving stares, groans and sighs, and giving our spouse the silent treatment.
My earnest prayer for you this Christmas is that you would genuinely give this gift from your heart to your spouse and accept your spouse just as Christ accepts you.
Romans 14:17-18, 15:7
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude you will please God. So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified!!