The Seduction of Self-Sufficiency

AmericanGothic

When self-sufficiency in marriage trumps God-dependency, the marriage loses both spiritually and relationally. This is the final post in our seven-part series on what Jesus would say to our marriage. If Jesus’ words to the seven churches in the book of Revelation were used as an evaluation of your marriage, what challenges would he have for you? What words of encouragement might you hear?

The Context

The ancient city of Laodicea had everything going for them. The great Roman Road ran through their city that brought them great wealth. As a result, they were renowned for trade and communication. They were also famous for their glossy black wool.

In addition, the city was known for their school of medicine. The Laodiceans produced a special ointment called “Phyrgian powder” that was famous for curing eye defects.

Laodicea was so wealthy that when it was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 17 they turned down financial assistance from Rome. They had so much money they chose to finance it themselves. They were rich, complacent–and deceived.

The church in Laodicea had become self-sufficient and comfortable just like the city. They had adapted to their environment and lost their edge and impact. What if what Jesus said to them was applied to our marriages? What might he say?

“You are neither cold nor hot”

The only thing the Laodiceans lacked was good water. Ten miles away, the city of Colossae had fresh cold water. Seven miles to the north, the city of Hieropolis was famous for its hot springs. Aqueducts were built to carry water to Laodicea, but by the time the water arrived, it was lukewarm and not useful. The image of tepid water was a daily experience for the Laodiceans. But they had never applied it to their relationship with God.

Jesus might say, “Your marriage is lukewarm. You are skating by and doing nothing of value for anyone else. As a couple you should bring refreshment to those who are weary like cool waters. I expected you to help other couples relax through the warmth of your love for me. But instead I have little use for you. It’s time for you to look outside yourselves and serve others in my Name.”

Or He may say, “You have settled into the regularity of life together where you are neither refreshing to one another’s souls nor passionate in desire for the other. I have created you two to be one…but you have drifted to two.”

“You say, I am rich…I need nothing”

The thermostat for the Laodicean church’s “health” was the same as the city’s—their bank account. For couples, we sometimes measure our health by:

  • How often we don’t argue (which could be avoidance)
  • How happy our children are (which could be at the neglect of our marriage)
  • How little we go for counseling (which could be denial)
  • How “successful” we are by being in the right job/neighborhood/school/activities (but at what cost to the relationship?)
  • How many friends we have on Facebook, followers on Twitter, “likes” on Instagram (which could reveal how few deep friendships we have cultivated)

Perhaps Jesus would say, “You have been measuring yourself with the wrong standards. Your self-sufficiency has left you bankrupt in your marriage. Instead, you should cultivate your relationship with Me. Pray together. Read the Bible together. Learn to lean on me…and become God-dependent together.”

“I stand at the door and knock”

When Laodicea rebuilt their city after the A.D. 17 earthquake, they built a wall around the city with a gate that was shut each night allowing no one entry. Just as Jesus used the picture of desiring entry into their city—and into our lives—he wants the same in our marriage.

He might say, “I want to be in the center of your marriage. Self-sufficiency as a couple won’t work. You need me. Make a decision right now—together—that you want me at the center of your lives and marriage. Hold hands, say a prayer, and open the door of your marriage as you choose to let me into your midst. I will lead you and help you find true fulfillment and purpose as you build your marriage!”

Embrace The Moment

Happy Couple

When we suddenly lose someone close to us, we are reminded anew that we need to embrace the moment we still have with those we love. Last year we lost a dear friend at our church. He was just 36 and a father of twin girls aged seven. He was a good man, a godly man, and an encourager to us in our ministry at Build Your Marriage.

In the following 24 hours after hearing the news, we noticed that we were hugging each other more, giving increased affirmation, and checking in on each other just a little more often than normal. The Psalmist wrote, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Ps. 139:16) None of us knows how long we—or our spouse–has to live. While we should never live in fear or dread, we can live with a greater appreciation of the time and opportunity presented to us now.

We can embrace each moment we have together by remembering these three simple actions:

Look

To embrace the moment, we have to see the moment. Life can hurtle past us at warp speed: careers, kids to tend to and raise, chores to get done, bills to pay, Facebook to keep up with, and building blocks to read :-). By the end of the day we’ve been so focused on what we needed to get done that we’ve barely noticed what our spouse has been busy doing.

For the next 48 hours, make a conscious effort to notice your spouse. Watch what they do. Are they tired, harried, frustrated, lonely, happy, chipper, joy-filled? How can you join them in their joy? Encourage them in their exhaustion? Bring peace to your partner?

Look deeply into your spouse’s eyes. What do you see? How can you enter their world and let them know that they are loved and you embrace them as they are?

The Bible says the very hairs of you head are numbered—that’s the kind of attention God gives to you! So maybe you can breathe a simple prayer saying, “God help me be attentive to my spouse through Your eyes.”

Listen

Knowing how fragile life is, make the conscious choice to actually listen and hear what your spouse is saying. Give them your undivided attention. No emailing, texting, Facebook, Twitter, or Sports Center. (We do, however, make an exception for the Super Bowl!)

As you listen, embrace the opportunity to hear their heart. Ask questions. Dig deeper. Show active interest in what is being communicated to you.

If the conversation is over an area of conflict, then follow the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Lord! Grant that I may seek more to understand than to be understood.” Embracing your spouse’s tension-points will not only ease their frustration, but it will enable you to respond wisely to the core issue at hand.

You have been given the gift of being able to listen to your spouse—embrace the moment of hearing their voice and their heart. You can read more about listening in an earlier post of ours here.

Love

When we heard of our friend’s death yesterday our conversation eventually went to regrets. We talked about how we could have been even better friends. When it comes to your marriage, regret is not something you want to live with–and you don’t have to!

Embrace your spouse by showering them with love. Follow through on promptings.  You may be prompted to write them a note, give a hug, or offer a back or foot rub. Tell them you want to go out on a date this weekend—dinner, a walk, even a drive so you can just be together. Maybe your date is a candlelight picnic in the living room after the children are asleep!

Isn’t it true that often we know what to do, but we put it off until “later?” What we were reminded of yesterday is that “later” may not come—so do it now!

Make the decision to embrace the moment with your spouse now as you Build Your Marriage!

 

How to Express Appreciation

www.gottmanblog.com

www.gottmanblog.com

“Married couples who regularly express appreciation for each other have much happier, stronger marriages.” Dr. John Gottman @gottmaninst

We cannot think of a single divorce we know of where each spouse was mutually, sincerely, and regularly showing appreciation for the other. Can you? The reason is that when we show appreciation for our spouse it not only builds them up in their sense of worth, it does a couple of other things as well.

First, when we express appreciation it draws our heart closer to our spouse. Verbalizing, writing, or recording what is on our heart reframes our thinking about our mate. It reminds us once again about the treasure and worth of the person God has given to us.

Second, when we express appreciation it pulls our spouse toward us. We know them most intimately—we see the good, the bad, and the ugly—and yet we are still saying, “You matter, you have value, and I see it expressed in so many ways.”  When someone is “for” us, we are naturally drawn to them.

Here are three levels of appreciation that you can bring into your marriage today so that it is strengthened and draws you and your spouse closer together. At each level, be specific in what you see and appreciate. Be creative in how you communicate it: words either written or spoken, a drawing, poetry, a video—you get the idea.

1. Good: What they DO

Start by being ruthlessly observant of your spouse. Sometimes we can see them in their day to day life—but not really SEE what they are doing. Perhaps you might even whisper a prayer like, “God, help me to see the things that my spouse has secretly longed for me to notice.”

Now, what did you observe that you need to affirm? Perhaps there are regular household tasks that are thankless, but shouldn’t stay that way. Or your spouse faithfully works to provide income and security. It may be an area where they serve in the community or at church that makes a difference.

2. Better: Who they ARE

When we show appreciation for who our spouse IS we are bringing value to the core of their being. Appreciating who they are means that we notice their character, their values, the things that drive them and make them rise above the noise of activity to a place of stature.

When you affirm who your spouse is, you are communicating appreciation for qualities like: integrity, honesty, joy-filled, deep thinker, nurturer, courage, creativity, faithfulness, humility, thoughtfulness, loyalty.

You can affirm who they are in their relationship with God. They are forgiven, empowered, free of shame, a child of God, a servant, a loved sheep, a restored prodigal, a child of the King.

3. BEST: What they CAN be

This level of appreciation lifts your spouse up and gives them hope for the future. It reminds them that they have a partner who is dreaming with them, who believes that their dreams can be achieved together with God’s help.

Your regular ability to believe in your spouse will inject them with the confidence they need to press ahead in life. They need to know that you believe they can be successful. They need to hear you say that you know that they can fulfill all of the potential that God has for them. They need to be assured that you want to hear their dreams and partner with them to achieve those dreams.

How can you show appreciation to your spouse today? Take the initiative as together, you Build Your Marriage!