Monday, August 24, 2015

Protecting the Vow

I'm approaching this subject today so tenderly, so prayerfully, and yes, even a bit tearfully.  Last week media was blitzed again by another conservative Christian man who blatantly denied his beliefs and forsook his wife.  My heart and my mind have been consumed by this situation for a few days now.  Not necessarily because of who this man is or the television show behind him, much bigger than that.  But my heart is more broken for the family unit as a whole and the attack, the target that is set upon each family that is pursuing the God they believe in.  At the end of the day, nobody is exempt.  So that is why I'm taking this moment to even attempt this issue-not for the media popularity that this subject currently carries, and certainly not to make sure my opinion is heard.  Simply the need to realize the attack is on Godly marriages is urgent, and the time is now.  Let's allow this tragedy to open our eyes.

First let's acknowledge this for what it is.  I am fully convinced that it has nothing to do with the simple facts that are obvious.  This is bigger than a website that encourages adultery, even though that alone makes me sick to my stomach.  This is bigger than a man's wandering eye.  This is bigger than a woman's "need" for attention from multiple partners.  Those are all real problems, but mere symptoms of the real problem at hand.  We have an enemy who's main goal is to destroy all that bring's God glory and all that further's the kingdom of God.  Don't be mistaken, your home and marriage is at the top of that list.  He is the ultimate deceiver and father of lies, so what may look like harmless fun or "casual" sin is actually opening the door to total destruction.

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  (James 1:15)

So what do we do?  If we're doomed for failure why even try right?  No.  Don't dare fall for that lie.  It's time we stand up and fight for our marriages and our homes.  After all, every time we buckle a child in a car seat, lock the door behind us, or spend a penny on home security systems we are saying-this thing/person has value to me and I am willing to do anything I can to protect it to the best of my ability.  Why in the world wouldn't we do that for our marriages?  So we start by looking at the reality and the risk in our marriage, we face the winds of fear and the clouds of "what if" and we acknowledge that no marriage is safe, even if it feels like a good marriage.  Nobody is exempt from this attack.  

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 
(1 Peter 5:8)

Did you catch that too?  You've got an enemy who is actively LOOKING for who to devour.  So what are we to do?  Be alert and of sober mind.  What does that look like?  Well I really believe that in a lot of ways it can look differently to different couples, but here are some ideas that my husband and I have implemented that I'd love to throw out if you don't mind. 

Be uncomfortably honest and open.  My husband and I have a rule, that it doesn't matter what the issue is, as long as we openly and honestly come to one another with it we don't get to be mad.  He is a human with humanly ways that mess up from time to time and I've got to allow him to do that.  We've purposely set our marriage as a safe zone to talk and discuss it all.  That might sound like a dream for some of you reading who maybe have a spouse who doesn't like to communicate, but it's not all roses folks.  That means talking about the hard, the awkward, the uncomfortable-yes even that stuff you'd rather keep between you, yourself, and the good Lord.  

Smother your marriage with God.  I absolutely cannot stress this one enough, and if you walked away from this post with one thing only this would hands down be the one I'd beg you to take with you.  One of the best ways to stay alert is to stay absolutely drenched in the Word of God.  This might look differently for different couples in different seasons of life.  For us personally it means we start and end each day with Bible study, both individually and together.  In the morning we are like most other couple and incredibly short on time, so we take literally maybe 10 minutes.  But my husband as the head of our home has a short devotional prepared that he leads the two of us in.  It's typically simply 1 or 2 verses that he reads and shares with me what God has led on his heart about those scriptures for us that day, and then he prays over me.  We have found the mere inconvenience of waking up 10 minutes earlier or just showering the night before did not compare with the blessing we get from this.  Yes, it's short and is seemingly not a huge deal in the grand scheme of 24 hours in a day, but it is just enough to direct our attention at the very beginning of a day.  The impact of prayer together alone is limitless.  At the end of the day we take a bit more time and go through a book of the Bible together chapter by chapter.  Let's be real-some nights it's late and we're tired and we make it through half a chapter-but it's something and we're intentional with it.  We read it together, discuss it, and pray together.  This is by no means the guideline that every couple should follow.  Just do something!  Hear me when I say that starting out it feels nothing short of awkward and foreign.  For awhile we both had an alarm on our phone that went off every day to remind us to stop what we were doing and spend that time with God.  But you get to the point that it feels more strange to not do it, and you fall more in love with each other hearing your prayers for each other and watching each other spiritually fight for each other.  This one is absolutely worth it and downright non-negotiable.  It has quickly become a favorite part of our day.

Make and keep each other the priority.  It is so easy to let the world, work, kids, and busy schedules take over without even realizing it.  Stay alert and aware.  Do this in small ways and big ways alike.  For instance, my husband is in a career where he works around mainly women.  He is intentional talking about me, a lot.  When I am around his workplace I often get, oh I've heard so much about you, and I know they really have!  I've over heard him frequently talk about me and always refer to me as "his wife", instead of Stephanie so that they are aware of me.  I acknowledge and am so grateful for what I know his intentions are with that.  For women it doesn't seem quite as difficult to bring up our husbands in conversation between girlfriends as it might for men, but what the conversation is can be a downright struggle.  Marriage is hard folks and it can feel refreshing to complain about our men and relate to other women.  We can easily label this as something less threatening like, venting or even fellowshipping with other women.  Hold it a second though.  I'm called to be my man's biggest cheerleader, not his biggest critic.  Does that mean he can do no wrong in my eyes?  Absolutely not.  But do my girlfriends or family need to know about it?  Absolutely not.  When the Mr. and I were engaged we made a promise that we would never discuss marriage problems with anyone outside of the marriage unless we both agreed to it or were seeking professional help.  

Confront sin well.  Spoiler alert-marriage is not meant for my happiness, rather for my holiness.  Nobody-not even myself- sees the ugly in me quite like my husband.  The same is true for him.  So when I see something coming up in him that I know goes against his heart and against what we both want in each other and our marriage, I have a responsibility.  We don't turn away and pretend it's not there, but we also don't have a screaming match and throw out the worst in each other like knives.  By all means-approach it, but approach it well.  I love that man with every fiber of my being, and I want the absolute best for him.  So when I see something that I know isn't the best I prayerfully tell him about it.  I pray for the right opportunity to talk to him about it and then we talk about it.  This is never in public and hardly ever in the moment that I've noticed something that needs to be discussed.  This is how we've determined we best handle the situation when we see sin and ugly-ness rising up in each other, but by all means pray and talk over this within the bounds of your marriage.  However, some kind of plan has to be in place before you need it.  

Have a good fight.  I have been blessed by a man who is overly patient with me, incredibly loving, and shows more grace to me than I could begin to deserve.  So I'm grateful that we don't have very many fights.  But when we do, we've had to really work on how we fight.  Maybe they haven't happened frequently but man, when they have happened they have been doozies.  We saw this pattern and knew something had to be done asap, so we set some boundaries.  Please hear me-not every argument happens like this, but this is the goal:  
NO name calling or yelling.

Say what has to be said and then drop it.  Sometimes we would argue for 2 hours and realize we had done nothing but repeat the same thing over and over again for who knows what reason until we didn't even know what the original argument was about.  What in the world?  We stopped this pattern by agreeing to dropping the matter as quickly as possible, even before a solution as been reached.  The secret to this is revisiting the issue later.  I'll get to this in a second.

My husband ends every conflict/disagreement/argument with praying together.  Inviting God into the ugly mess that we've somehow gotten into begins to shed a light into it.  This is hard guys.  There have been times I've been so mad at him I've wanted to say NO when I've stormed out of a room dramatically, knowing full well what's coming, and he's called after me..honey can you come back for a second please?  Nothing like swallowing your pride and bowing your head with the man you want to strangle in the moment.

So since we drop the issue when does it get resolved?  Once a week we have a family meeting.  I know this sounds dorky but this is essential for us.  We set aside time each week to discuss any arguments that we didn't settle.  We talk through things SO much better when we're not in the moment of frustration and high emotion.  Also, remember that sin that sometimes we need to confront?  This is usually the time we bring that up too.  We also make sure these family meetings are full of some positive stuff though too.  

Bring out the best in each other.  After my salvation from Jesus Christ, my man is my absolute biggest blessings from God-hands down.  We're intentional about making sure we each know that too.  He makes me laugh constantly, so I thank him for that.  I help him with his work a lot, so he's always telling me he couldn't get do it without my support.  He supports me in crazy ways, if I told him I wanted to walk to Mars tomorrow I know he would say nothing but-babe you're going to be the best at that.  Having a cheerleader in your corner is incredible, I need to make sure I'm the same for him.  We better make sure we are encouraging in the home because let's face it, the world probably isn't going to be any friendlier.  

Please don't take this post as someone from a perfect marriage.  We are so far from it.  
But we need to wake up to the target that has been put on our marriages, and we need to be intentional with what we plan to do about it.  Let's start talking and sharing the different "weapons" God is putting in our hands.  
What are some of your favorite ways of safeguarding your marriage??

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