Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fight for Your Marriage: Give Thanks

Back in July, when I blogged about Steve in my annual anniversary post, I raved about the book Sacred Influence and how I believe it changed our marriage. I had far too many good quotes from the book to use in that post, so I've been meaning to do a follow-up ever since. Four months later, here we are :)

I have an old journal in which I copied pages and pages of quotes from Sacred Influence, but I just wanted to bring out a few more highlights that spoke to me (if you missed the original post, start there!):

Gary Thomas quoted a woman who would later become a favorite author of mine, Elyse Fitzpatrick, who confessed:
“I scarcely ever extended to [my husband] the grace I enjoyed with the Lord. Instead, I was frequently more like the man in Jesus’ parable, who, after he was forgiven a great debt, went out and beat his fellow slave because he owed him some paltry sum.”
I am tempted to overlook this parable as irrelevant when Steve (or others) has not actually sinned against me. But it occurred to me that this parable is about so much more than just simple “forgiveness.”  It’s about GRACE, about my disposition toward my husband. God is so patient with me—yet I am impatient with Steve. God accepts me as I am and approves of me because of Christ’s blood—yet I show Steve disapproval rather than accepting him because he is my husband, a gift from God. On and on it goes. Thomas then brought out two more Scriptures that God really used to pierce my heart:
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7 NIV).
Christ didn’t demand that I change before I came to Him. He didn’t put stipulations on His love. He claimed me as His own and loved me while I was still His enemy, while I was still dead in sin. And I respond by putting stipulations on my love for my husband? I demand that he act a certain way to earn my respect and acceptance? Forbid it, Lord.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).
Encouraging Steve *daily*—not once in a while—helps keep me from being hardened. When I do not focus on the good, Satan can more easily deceive me—he can blind me to Steve’s strengths, make me callous to grace, coax my critical spirit into overdrive. AND lack of encouragement can harden Steve—make him vulnerable to believing Satan’s lies that he isn’t good enough, that he can’t do it, that he might as well not try.

One of the most powerful pieces of advice I took away from the book was to shift my focus from criticism and complaint to gratitude and appreciation. Thomas exhorted:
“Practice praying positive prayers for your husband. Find the five or six things he does really well—or even just one or two!—and try to tire God out by thanking him for giving you a husband with these qualities.”
Isn’t it sad that I could be willing to try and “tire God out” with pleas about my husband’s weaknesses, but I do not bother to repeat again and again my thankfulness for his strengths? Thomas continued: 
“Prayers of thankfulness literally form our soul. They very effectively groom our affections.”
I can absolutely testify that this is the case. I believe this was a turning point in my life, when I began to understand this and made the choice to be thankful in my marriage. Yet Thomas warned me that it would be a battle, not automatic or easy:
“As soon as you begin offering prayers of thankfulness for your husband, be sure of this: the enemy of your soul and the would-be destroyer of your marriage will remind you of where your husband falls short. …You need to respond to this temptation with a healthy spiritual exercise: as soon as you recall  your husband’s weaknesses—the very second those poor qualities come to mind—start asking God to help you with specific weaknesses of your own. That’s right—as backward as it may sound, respond to temptations to judge your husband by praying for God to change you. Go into prayer armed with two lists: your husband’s strengths and your weaknesses.”
Yes. And so it was that God began weaving yet another strand of the ongoing lesson about gratitude. Even in my relationship with Steve, giving thanks would be critical. It's a way to reorient myself to God and trust Him, a way to fight for my marriage, a way to bless and honor my husband. Six years later, I am exponentially more thankful: for my amazing husband, and for the ways God has used thankfulness to "form [my] soul" and "groom [my] affections."

Seven Year Itch

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