"I'll focus on my marriage, and the ways we have grown as a couple, and I have as a wife, in the last month. I'll also share some things I've learned about marriage that will, Lord willing, be helpful and challenging for you."That was what I promised to write about a month ago, and since then Joshua and I have grown in our marriage in even more ways.
Marriage is a constant learning process. Those of you who have been married for any amount of time know that, and those of you who aren't married will probably realize it first-hand someday. Every individual is constantly changing and growing, so every marriage of two individuals united as one will always be changing and growing as well.
Those of us who are Christians understand that each person is both a holy, redeemed saint who lives in obedience to God, and a perverted, evil sinner who constantly wants to live in opposition to God. It's one of the several paradoxes of Christianity that is only comprehensible by faith, but that is who we are--simultaneously saint and sinner. Paul explains it very well in Romans 7:
"I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." -Romans 7:18-20As a result of the combination of our sinful and holy natures, each Christian is capable of both great good and great evil. I sin every day. I do good things every day, by the power of God's Spirit living in me. So it is in my marriage. Some days I treat my husband very well. I do well with the housekeeping. I am submissive, I am gentle, I am encouraging, and I build my husband up.
Other days I am an example of a bad wife. I nag, I scold, I grumble. I neglect my duties as housekeeper. I am rude and disrespectful to my husband, tearing his spirit down instead of building it up. I lash out at him in anger over the smallest things.
Then there are the days--almost all of them--when I display behavior that is a combination of the best and worst sides of me. I am thankful when I can live in obedience to God and to my husband. I ask forgiveness for the times that I don't.
Forgiveness is an absolutely essential ingredient for a solid marriage. Each partner will mess up royally, either sometimes or often. For the relationship to continue and to heal, forgiveness is totally necessary. The husband and wife must both realize when they have done wrong and ask forgiveness, and the other partner needs to forgive them and let another chance and a new day restore the relationship. This is a principle, an absolute truth, of which I am reminded over and over.
The other biggest thing I have learned, or been reminded of, when it comes to marriage is the husband's need for respect and the wife's need for love. I have been reading a book by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, Love and Respect, which I believe I've mentioned before and which deserves a post all its own. This book has been the greatest conviction and encouragement to me so far in my marriage.
To sum up what Dr. Eggerichs writes in about 300 pages, men's greatest need is respect, and women's greatest need is love. Men respect naturally, and women love naturally. Therefore, within a marriage, each spouse is required to do for their spouse the one thing that comes least naturally to them. Wives must respect their husbands, and husbands must love their wives. Paul says these very words in Ephesians 5:
Wives, submit your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the savior...Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... -Ephesians 5:22, 23a, 25
An entirely separate post (or two!) is needed for a thorough discussion on this. What I will say for now is this: I have discovered that when, with God's help, I am respectful to my husband all the time (even when I disagree with him or when I think he doesn't deserve it), he is happiest, he feels encouraged, and he is much more likely to act in a loving manner toward me. Then, when he loves me, I am much more inclined to respect him. The wonderful thing is, it is by God's grace and with his strength alone that we are able to do this.
Linking up with these lovely blogs: