Three Lessons from a Young Marriage

In June, I will celebrate two years of marriage. Wow! It really does feel more like two days than two years, but at the same time, I can definitely look back and see two years of the goodness of God.

In many ways, it feels like I am still so young and immature in my marriage, but I am thankful for the gracious lessons God has already been teaching me. And I wanted to share them with you. They’re really pretty simple, but they aren’t just principles for marriage. We should be applying them to all our relationships. Still, marriage (home life) is somehow always the hardest place to live what we teach and believe. At least, it is for me.

These certainly aren’t truths I’ve mastered at living out, just ask Daniel. 😉 But they are truths I am trying to live out, and I hope they bless you too.

Manners Matter

The other day, my niece commanded me to turn on the lights as we walked into a room. I, not wanting to encourage bad manners, reminded her, “Please, turn on the lights, Aunt Sharon,” as I started to turn on the lights. And she corrected herself. It was just a little incident, but I began to think about how all the time I and other adults around me are reminding those children around us to be polite.

Say, “Please.”

“What do you say when someone gives you a piece of candy?”

“If you need to get by me, say ‘excuse me,’ so-and-so.”

It seems strange to me that the same manners we want from our children, we find difficult to use in the confines of marriage. Why is that?

I suppose there are many reasons we forget to be mannerly. We get lazy or busy or just too used to our spouse. But it seems to me that if we would say “Thank you” to a friend, how much more ought we to say it to our spouses who we’ve vowed to love for all our lives? If I really stop and think about it, I have many reasons to be saying, “Please, thank you, I’m sorry, excuse me” every day of my life. And I bet you do too.

It’s not so much the words that matter as it is the attitude behind the words—an attitude of appreciation, humility, a graciousness that, as Christians, should be an everyday part of who we are. We say “thank you” not just to check off a necessary task, but because we appreciate the person and are thankful for what they’ve done, whether great or small. And that mannerly attitude really does make a difference in the overall tenderness and kindness of marriage.

One Word of Criticism, Ten Words of Praise

I first heard that rule in a teaching class I took in college. It’s meant to be applied to students, but I think it’s applicable to all relationships.

The truth is that no one likes to be criticized. Now sometimes we need gentle constructive criticism, but in general, praise is ten times more effective than criticism. If you criticize your spouse more than you praise him, you are, in short, askin’ for a heap o’ trouble. Bitterness, hurt, distrust, anger—these are just a few of the natural responses to the acid of criticism. Criticism, like dripping acid, always burns, and eventually, it will destroy what it continually falls on.

And romance is one of the first things that acid burns away. I’ve been told many times that the romantic love of my young marriage will fade, and I can’t help but think that if it does, then my marriage is in terrible trouble. Romance ought to be a normal part of any healthy marriage no matter how long that marriage has lasted. (I can think of many couples, my parents included, that can testify to this.) Of course, that romance changes, but it should simply grow stronger, not disappear. I’m not trying to negate the fact that marriages go through hardships. Clearly, everything isn’t always diamonds and roses. Romance is certainly not always at the forefront of marriage, but it is a part of marriage. And in my experience, one certain killer of romance in a marriage is criticism.

Still, the real problem with criticism is that it undermines the work of the gospel. We know from scripture that a Christian marriage is an example of Christ and His church. It sends a loud message to the world, this is what Christ did for His beloved; this is how His beloved responds. In short, your marriage is a testimony of the gospel, and criticism is one way to destroy that testimony.

Where the gospel redeems, criticism condemns.

Where the gospel forgives, criticism reminds.

Where the gospel encourages, criticism discourages.

Where the gospel enables, criticism disables.

There is no room for gospel truth in the words of criticism.

I feel so guilty as I write this because I am so guilty of criticizing. It is such an easy trap to fall in, which is why I am so thankful for the gospel. Because even a wicked critic like myself can be forgiven and given a second chance. I am also thankful for a loving, gospel believing husband. 😊

I have found one way to help myself avoid criticizing Daniel is to ask myself, “What does the Bible say about this?” Because, honestly, if the Bible doesn’t say anything about it, maybe I shouldn’t either.

Pray

Everywhere I go, everyone is saying this, and finally, I realized, there’s a reason why. It really does change lives. I don’t know what else can be said about it other than, do it. Get on your knees and pour your heart out to God as often as you think to, and if you aren’t thinking to, set an alarm on your phone. Write reminders on sticky notes, on your mirror. If you have too, put a sign in your fridge, cause if you’re like me, that’s one place you’ll see every day, multiple times a day. The best thing you can do for you, your spouse, your marriage is to pray.

Even if you don’t get the laundry done that day, pray.

Even if you don’t fix supper, pray. (Okay, maybe try to fix supper.)

Make it a priority, always.

 

I hope these thoughts encourage you. Marriage is an incredible adventure, and learning to love your spouse is one of the greatest things you’ll ever do. It’s so hard because it’s two sinners in close quarters, but it is so good because Christ is there every step of the way helping us to love and offering grace when we don’t.

I’ve only been married for two years, so my thoughts on marriage are still pretty simple, but I’d love to hear your marital/relationship advice in the comments below. 😊

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Why I Want My Children to Learn to be Alone.

Realistically, most of us have been or will be alone at some point in our lives. I don’t mean alone as in, “There is no one on this planet who loves you or who you love.” I am not talking about loneliness. I mean alone. Physically you are alone.

For whatever reason, we tend to feel that this sort of aloneness is a negative thing.

But I don’t think that is the case. Obviously, all things in moderation. I’m not advocating isolation. But aloneness can be a wonderful time to learn about who you are and who God is.

As obvious as it sounds, it is when we are alone that we do the things we only do when we are alone. And those are the things that define who we really are.

So let’s just get the obvious out of the way. I want my children to learn to be alone because I want them to learn to behave well while they are.

But it’s more than that.

Over the past almost two years, I have been more alone in my life than ever before. It is in those times of aloneness that I have had to face myself. What is the natural pattern of my thought process? What does my real self-discipline look like? The kind that doesn’t have a boss or parent overseeing. Who am I at heart?

It is so easy in the midst of people to be good and believe that you are good. At least, for me. It is so easy to not focus on the inner workings of your heart when life is noisy. You just do what everyone else is doing, and then they like you. And you like you. But believing in the goodness of oneself is a dangerous belief to hold because in the pride of self-righteousness we fail to experience the joy of the gospel.

When you are alone you have to face yourself. And no one can take an honest look at himself and not shudder. No one.

Which probably makes it sound like, “Oh, be alone because it’s an honest, but miserable time of self-reflection.”

But for the Christian, that’s only two percent of it.

When you are alone, you have yourself (and you will disappoint yourself), and you have God. As soon as you can get past yourself, being alone is a wonderful time to pray, read God’s Word, and experience the goodness of God.

How does anyone describe the joy one can have when they see how wicked they are and how saved they are. Isn’t that the whole point of the Gospel? And yet, I forget it, daily. Somehow, I get it into my head that I am only semi-wicked, which means I need the gospel, but God got a pretty good deal when He got me. In my pride, the gospel becomes less important to me. Of course, I still need the gospel, but I just don’t feel desperate.

When I have access to water, I don’t really enjoy the water. I’m not really thirsty so even though I am drinking the water, I’m not really enjoying it. Sometimes, I need to drink the water, but because I don’t feel desperate (I mean, I will always have clean water, right?) I don’t drink. But when I am running on a hot day like today and I am far from my home, without any water, all I can think about is how much I want, I need, water. I get desperate.

Sometimes I feel like my Christian walk is like that. When I am surrounded by human fellowship and love, I don’t really feel desperate. I am not really aware of my need for the gospel. And I lose focus of a gospel mindset. I start finding my trust and contentment depends on earthly things.

There is nothing wrong with friends and people. In fact, I highly recommend spending time with fellow Christians both in church and out of it. I am not saying that you alienate yourself from others, but it is a wonderful thing that sometimes God situates us such that we have no one we can talk to except Him. It is a wonderful thing to HAVE to turn to God. Not that you or I won’t have people we can and do share our hearts with. But when we are physically alone, we are reminded of an emptiness in ourselves that no human companionship can fill. And it is a joy unspeakable when we learn to fill that hole with the contentment, peace, love, presence of Christ.

It is invaluable to me to see my need of Him, and then to remember that I have Him because of the gospel, and then to spend time alone with Him.

I think sometimes when we are faced with alone time, we frantically try to fill it up. Whose house can I go to? Who can I text? Who can I call? Let me pull up my Facebook or write an email. But I want my children to have times in their lives when they are forced to be alone, and not to be afraid of it. But to see it for the opportunity that is.

A time to worship.

A time to pray.

A time to read God’s Word.

A time to accomplish the tasks that God has given them to do.

I want them to learn to be alone.

I’m Thankful for Mondays

Every Monday, I clean my house, and I mean my WHOLE house. Starting somewhere around 7 a.m., I sweep, vacuum, wash, wipe, twist, and flop. Okay, maybe the last two are an exaggeration, but I certainly stay busy all day. In between washing toilets, folding laundry, and sweeping floors, I start to feel rather wasted, and I don’t mean tired. 
I feel wasted as in I (my brain, beliefs, skills, purpose in life) have been condensed to the seemingly useless task of taking whatever it is I’m holding in my hand at the time and moving it up and down. Is this what I got a college degree for? Am I meant to spend my life cleaning, so that it can get dirty again, so that I can clean it again? What happened to teaching and loving children and changing lives? Why has God placed me here? 
It’s in moments of discontentment like this that I start running a list of verses through my head. I have found them and learned them especially for Monday.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” 

Psalm 138:8 “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” 

Micah 6:8 “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.
Those last five words seem to be the best for me to remember since they are the hardest for me to keep. “Walk humbly with thy God.” 
In my life, in the situation God has given me, (the very blessed situation), I am called to walk to the bathroom, wipe down the toilet, and do it humbly. And the beauty of it all is that God has blessed me with toilets to clean. Not only are they a material blessing, but they are also a spiritual blessing. Because, who really can wipe down a toilet in pride? Perhaps all Christians should clean toilets on a regular basis just for the blessing of it.  
And that’s why Mondays are perhaps my most fulfilling day of the week. They are the days I clean, and I pray, sing, listen to sermons, remembering that whether I walk to the stove or the dryer I am called to walk humbly. On Thanksgiving Eve, I am thankful for Mondays filled with work, filled with time to worship my Savior. 
I wrote this simple poem just for Monday. 

Oh little task before me, 

Though toilsome you may be,

Is joyous in the doing, 

If only I will see, 

That every chore is given,

However mean or great,

To teach my heart it’s purpose,

Remind me of my state.

For work reminds each simple man,

Whoever he may be,

That ever soul has but one task, 

Glorifying Thee.