Dear God, as I finalize what I’m going to do with this home church tonight, I thought I would go through the Sacred Marriage study guide that’s available free online and answer some of the questions for not only myself, but also you.
What has your marriage revealed to you about your sinful attitudes, selfish behaviors, and other character flaws? Why do you think marriage brings so many character issues to the surface?
- I’ve talked ad nauseum about my neediness that you helped to mostly (not completely) purge from me through marriage. This is what comes to mind first. The change in paradigm to look to you for my wholeness and not to my wife. Well, I don’t know that you used my wife to teach me that, but, thankfully, you taught me that before my neediness destroyed my marriage.
- I’ve talked about losing some of my selfishness in the interest of serving her and serving my children (without expecting anything in return–that’s important).
- One of the things my wife, in particular, has taught me is how to appreciate the arts more. Musical theater. Poetry. She is a deep thinker and a very intelligent woman. I used to be very dismissive of the arts, and it was foolish of me.
- She has modeled forgiveness to me. Not only how she forgives me, but also how she forgives others.
- She challenges me spiritually by her example of pursuing you. There have been times when I haven’t pursued you like I should, but she has always been an example of steady perseverance.
- Her self-discipline is quite remarkable and an example to me.
I could go on an on, but I better get to the next question.
How can a discouraged spouse directly apply the admonition to seek God in the midst of disappointments rather than to obsess over where the spouse falls short?
This is obviously the crux of the entire book. The ideal situation is when each spouse pursues a selfless attitude towards their mate. In that situation, one would likely naturally find their needs being met. But when it’s a one-way street, what is someone to do?
The thing I love about this book is that if someone reads it and says, “Boy, my husband/wife needs to read this,” then they’ve missed the point. For millennia people have been in unequally yoked marriages. Outside of an emotionally/physically abusive relationship (which needs intervention and more drastic measures), the answer is that your selfless loving actions will ultimately bring Jesus into your home and to your spouse, and there is a good chance that it evolve a change in your spouse. They will see Jesus in you (and the love, joy, peace, patients, etc.) present in you and then be more likely to respond positively. As opposed to the nagging, preachy spouse that becomes an obstacle to change.
How much time do you spend thinking about how to make your spouse happy, compared to the amount of time you spend thinking about how well your spouse is pleasing you? Do you think your answer is about right, or do you need to do better in this area?
Well, now that I’ve lived with these concepts for nearly 20 years, I think I am fairly close to a good balance. For the most part, I spend more time thinking about blessing her without looking for my benefits. Again, it goes back to loving. And I guess I should put this here because it needs to be said somewhere. My wife does NOT nag me. I weighed over 300 lbs. at one point, and in over 30 years together she has never said one word to me about my weight. She has never suggested I am not attractive to her. It’s a blessing she has given to me that I hope I am getting better about returning to her.
How is any lack of respect or active contempt for your spouse negatively affecting your own life and the lives of your children?
Some questions just shouldn’t be answered out loud. This is one that shouldn’t be answered in a group, but needs to be contemplated. I know my wife and I have tried to show each other respect behind the other’s back, especially with our children. We do our best to not be critical of the other to our parents, our siblings, or our children. I’ve witnessed this kind of negativity. We both have, and it is toxic to everyone involved. This one is a really big deal. No, if we are going over these questions tonight, this is one that needs to just soak in and fester.
How do you want people to describe your marriage at your golden wedding anniversary?
Oh, boy! I’ve always said that I’d love for it to be said of me that I never had a negative things to say about anyone. It won’t be said of me, but I’d love for it to be said of me. For my marriage, I’d love for people to say that they always felt welcome around us. I would want them to reflect on us and see us a serving others and that we lived harmonious lives with each other, yielding to the other whenever possible.
Do you and your mate face the difficulties in your marriage differently? What can you learn from your spouse’s approach? What can your spouse learn from your approach?
YES! Oh, did I say that too loud? I’m not going to say what she can learn from my approach because I have learned so much from hers. Some difficulties we have faced include:
- Extended unemployment
- Parenting struggles
- Relationships with extended family
My approach is usually to be straight ahead confrontational. Hers is to take a beat and see if there is a more loving, less confrontational way to handle it. What I’ve learned from her is to take my desire to confront and package it in a way that enables me to deliver it lovingly. Again, I’m not perfect at it, but I’m better than I was.
The unemployment was a little different. In that case, there was a lot of uncertainty and praying to you. There was also, seemingly, a lot of silence from you. Having her there kept me accountable for moving forward. I can see where I would easily have slipped into a depression if I wouldn’t have had the responsibility of her and my children to keep me going and persevering.
Is there a “file cabinet” in your marriage’s “confessional”? What do you have to do to forgive your spouse and get rid of the filing cabinet?
There is one thing that my wife did that still brings me pain when I think about it. I don’t think about it often, but it really hurts when I do. And she has told me how sorry she is for it. And it happened over seven years ago so you would think that it would be gone. Why have I held onto it? Maybe it’s ego. Hmm. Good question. What do I have to do to forgive her and get rid of that thing? I think it might come down to dying to the part of my ego and pride that were hurt by it. Father, help me to stop thinking that I was too “good” for that to happen to.
How can a husband and wife more consciously invite the presence of God into their marriage?
About the best thing that we do is pray together almost every morning. She also knows when I am having my private prayer time, and I know when she is either having hers or going to the chapel. I think that knowledge is a good affirmation for each of us. Of course, we worship together most Sundays. I think that is important. We are part of a couples group at our church which has been very positive as well. And we talk about what we might be learning at any given time through our personal faith walks. I think one of the big things is that we give each other the freedom to pursue you in our own way, and we approach you very differently.
Consider the effects that these stages of family life can have on ministry:
- newly married, without children
- married with toddlers
- raising teenagers
- empty nesters
What are the advantages and challenges of each phase of life as it relates to living out your ministry calling?
Maybe I should have started with this question because now that I’m at the “empty nester” stage, I can look back and see all kinds of lessons you taught me along the way. It’s too much to go into here, but each phase has helped to break me, melt me, and mold me. And hopefully with each lesson, I’ve been able to provide you with a vessel that you can fill.
Father, thank you for my marriage. Thank you that you have really changed me for the better through my wife. I pray (literally) that I’ve done the same for her. Help me to be exactly what you need me to be tonight. I’m probably walking into dangerous territory. Let your Holy Spirit be there and help us all to approach our marriages and you in a humble way.
In Jesus’s name I pray,