Fruitful Marriages

Fruitful Marriages

Fruit Bowl, Shell, Fruit, Fruits

Many times I have been asked, “What is the real secret to a long-lasting, happy marriage?”  Usually I give some pithy, poorly attempted humorous response like, “for us, I think it has been that we were just too stupid to quit” (there might actually be some serious truth in there somewhere).

However, I have discovered that regardless of a couple’s particular belief about matters of faith, applying biblical principles to the relationship always leads to improvement (can everyone say a big collective “duh!”), regardless of whether they are believers or not.  I realize this may seem elementary to some.  However, sometimes even the most devout Christians can forget their Christian graces when they walk into their own homes, with the most important relationships they have, that is – their spouses and children.

For example, men are often patient, understanding, and forgiving with business partners or employees.  But those same men can be inconsiderate, unforgiving, and outright rude with their families. Although they listen intently during strategy meetings at the office, they often don’t take the time to listen to their wives or children. Conversely, the same women who are caring and compassionate with their friends can become demanding and insensitive at home.

There are hundreds of passages of Scripture to draw relationship principles from.  For today I would like to focus on just two verses – two verses containing nine simple words.  Words so profound that I am convinced if they were properly applied, could heal every single broken marriage, struggling marriages could be put on a firm foundation, stagnant marriages could be revitalized, and happy marriages could go to an even higher level with deeper intimacy.  In fact, applying these nine words could revolutionize homes and families!  It may seem like a tall order but, I am convinced it is true.  Follow along with me.

The Apostle Paul said, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).  Wait a minute.  Read that again, ruminate for a moment and let those words sink in … (pause).  Love … Joy … Peace … Patience … Kindness … Goodness … Faithfulness … gentleness … Self-Control.  Now, try putting your name at the beginning of that verse and read it again, asking yourself where you stand:

“David is loving in his relationships.” Am I?

“David is joyful with those around him.” Am I?

“David is peaceful, patient, kind, full of goodness, faithful, gentle and David operates in self-control (that one hurt!).”

When I read it that way I am confronted with a huge personal challenge and tremendous goals for me to strive toward. Because, these nine simple words all address my own behaviors and attitudes.

Let me caution you, this is not an opportunity to start pointing the finger of blame at your spouse.  Taking responsibility for how I act, regardless of what my spouse does, can radically impact our home for the better.  I believe that when we pursue and practice these nine simple concepts, when we address our own attitudes and behaviors, the Holy Spirit will come alongside and help us along the way.

Spirit-led people do not throw fits of rage, they practice self-control.

Spirit-led people are concerned for the good of others.

Spirit-led people are patient and kind, and forgiving.

Spirit-led people carry the essence of joy.

When we begin to act in a way that is consistent with what we say we believe, I promise you – the Lord will bless it. Imagine what would happen in your home and marriage if you applied and practiced these nine simple words.  I think you will find your marriage is better than ever.

Enjoy the Fruit!

It’s a Stand-Off

The Democrats won’t talk to the Republicans.  The Republicans won’t talk to the Democrats. The debate is relegated to sound bites spoken at press conferences without real face to face conversation.  Our representatives talk “at” each other not “with” each other.  Name calling, accusations, and stonewalling ensue.  The presidential candidates pronounce that they have all the answers while their political opponents have it all wrong.  Subsequently, members of both parties feel ignored, constituents are frustrated, and multiplied thousands suffer the consequences.

Intrinsically, all of us know there is something wrong with this picture.  We ask the obvious question, “why can’t our government officials just get together, talk it out, and come to some sort of compromise so that we can all move forward?”  Though we may respect some for standing on their principles, all of us recognize the problems with this scenario.

Yet, a similar scene plays out in multiplied thousands of homes across the country every single day.  Husbands and wives won’t really listen to each other.  Neither party wants to compromise.  One person tries to prove they are right and prove the other wrong. Both parties begin to talk “at” each other instead of “with” each other.  Name calling, accusations, and stonewalling ensue.  Emotionally, households “shut down.”  Both spouses feel ignored, family members get frustrated, and children, co-workers, and other bystanders are hurt in the process.

It has been said that “marriage is the chief cause of divorce.”  But the truth is poor communication skills are what usually lead to problems in a marriage.  Without a doubt there will be times when there are differences of opinion, disagreements, and conflict.  But, research clearly shows that having conflict in marriage is not the problem rather, how a couple handles their conflicts will determine their level of success and marital health.

The challenge is we are not born knowing how to communicate successfully.  We usually learn these skills by observing our parents. If we did not see them having loving, collaborative, effective communication, then there is no reason we should know how to do it ourselves.  The good news is that we can learn how to communicate effectively at any stage in life. And, learning to communicate well is the best thing you can do for your marriage.

A great place to start improving communication in your marriage is with the Apostle Paul’s challenge to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition … but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3-4).  This means putting your mate’s needs before your own.  It means seeking to understand your spouse before making sure you are heard or understood. One thing is for sure, it is impossible to listen and talk at the same time. Listening behind the words and listening for understanding is the bedrock of good communication and might be the best way to communicate love, compassion, and grace to your spouse. In fact, theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich once said, “The first duty of love is to listen.”  This is why James declared, “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19). Understanding causes anger to dissipate.

So here’s my challenge for us today: Let’s open our ears and our hearts to really listen and understand. Let’s end the stand-off.  Maybe our government officials could start there as well.

(To read more about “Listening” click here)