Almana Ger Yatom

Widows, Strangers, Orphans: Journeying with the Poor

12 things to help us in our marriage

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1

Always pray with and for one another
When we got married, there are not two but three that got united, the husband, the wife and Jesus. He is there in the middle always. Marriage will never work. It was not designed for sinners. When you got married, you married a sinner. The only way it will work is to pray without ceasing. This is the only place in our spirituality that does not operate by grace alone. Everything in marriage will tend downwards, towards degeneration and separation. You will always need to work on your marriage. There is no resting in marriage for once you rest, it begins to break down already. The work in marriage is primarily of prayer. Set a time each day to pray together and then later, include your children. And then also, always secretly pray for your spouse and each of your kids every day. When your spouse is asleep, lay your hand on him/her in secret and unleash the power of God for holiness and courage, for joy and blessings and for union and communion. When your kids are sleeping, each night, secretly come over and kiss him/her and whisper a prayer, for him/her to grow to love Jesus and also that God will provide for the future a godly spouse, who will hold his/her hand to journey together towards holiness and joy. Prayer of course is not a work of the flesh (dictating to God). You must learn to pray in the Holy Spirit. Read the Psalms every day and learn each one by heart. No one learns to pray apart from the Psalms. See the discussion on the Psalms at the end.

Always grow in the opposite direction
You married your opposite. You were attracted to the opposite sex, opposite temperament, opposite strengths. Your spouse completes you. Opposites give us depth, more color and complete our perspective. That is why growth or maturity is always in the opposite direction. If you are so work oriented and have shallow relationships, you need to grow more in relationship. If you are so spontaneous and random and creative, you will need to grow more in becoming more stable, more orderly, and more predictable. If you are so opposite each other give the other some room. Never let your strength be used to put down the other. Of course, your spouse is weak and slow when it comes to matters on your strong side, this is because you are opposite. But then you are also slow and weak on your spouse’s strong side. From your vantage point you will always see things you want to criticize about in your spouse. Strengths and spiritual gifts were never meant to be used to put down others but to be used to lift up, for you to come down and be a servant in humility using your strength.

Always share what is in your past
marriage is a growing revelation. As days pass, your spouse will grow in his/her knowledge of you. Do it slowly and prayerfully. Write in your journal always things you have discovered about yourself and you want your spouse to know and in special occasions or moments, for just a few minutes, come along his/her side and tell your past, not everything at once, but just a vignette, reserve some for another time. Once understood, raise it up in prayer together. Some people have past traumas that may need expert counseling. If you cannot understand or manage it, ask if you need to see a counselor. We learned to relate from our home where we grew up. Those relational styles and approaches need to be labeled and acknowledged, especially wrong relational styles designed to hurt others. When we were children, like all children, we learned to survive (fight or flight). When faced with an angry or aloof dad, we learned to cope by being angry also or (the opposite) becoming aloof (whatever will work vis a vis our dad). We can be sure that we are an improvement of our parents’ style. We now have more help and more knowledge. We can do better. Some however have learned and acquired good habits from their parents or homes while growing up. If you married such a person, marriage is the time to do re-parenting, to change your style and to learn how to relate the right way by studying your spouse. No one is normal but one spouse can be more normal than the other. The one who is more normal should be held as the standard. Do not say, “don’t change me, I was born this way.” Always see who has the better way of relating. If both of you came from a really good family or home, then you are truly blessed. This is perhaps the best way to choose a spouse – find one who has a good family, a nourishing home, and where intimacy grows. But if God gave you someone who grew up in a bad home or family, if you accept that willingly as from God then it can also be a blessing. The church has often been compared with marriage and the church is like a hospital, full of sick people. The hope of harmony and cooperation is slim but God knows this and this is why Jesus died on the cross for us. Of course, some spouses have a Messiah complex, always wanting to suffer as a masochist and the more he/she suffers from the other spouse, the prouder he/she becomes. This is wrong and this is perhaps due to past trauma that needs also lots of counseling.

Never let the other guess what is going on with you or inside you
Marriage should never be a guessing game. You cannot let your spouse read your mind. No matter how loving and attentive your spouse is, it is never fair to demand that he/she knows what is in your heart or your mind. Your spouse is not a mind-reader. You must practice always sharing what is in your heart. Learn the right words and the right expressions and do it prayerfully so that it can bless and not cause more pain. If you are already very tired and you feel the situation is so unfair, don’t wait for things to explode because your spouse does not seem to notice. Also, don’t demand that after you have shared, things will become fair and just. If your spouse is just too much of a jerk to see that it is unfair and ungodly on his/her part, even after you have shared, don’t make that a source of conflict but a cause for more prayer. It is almost always the case that you married a spouse who will hurt you. No one is perfect but through marriage we will grow to become like Christ. Always share what is in your heart also, including your dreams and pains. Some are so afraid to share their dream for buying a house because it might not come true and they will appear to be a failure. Some also do not want to express their sorrow or grief. Please know this that when we lose a love one, it is best that the spouses grieve together and this means, they share each other’s sorrow, talk about their pains from the loss. Surprise the other that you know his/her heart and you care and you have been paying attention.

Always discuss with each other what marriage is all about
Biblical marriage is not about happiness but about becoming like Christ, it is not about independence but about interdependence (dependent people say, “I need you but you don’t need me.” Independent people say, “you need me but I don’t need you.” And interdependent people say, “ I need you and you need me.” Only independent people can build community because only they can surrender their freedom and lower their egos. Freedom does not mean you can have your way. Maturity is rather defined as being set free to live for others, to be a man or woman for others. Marriage is a biblical institution and it was God’s idea to have marriage. It is for life and for one spouse only. We don’t get married to become happy, we get married to bless the other spouse. Marriage is where we work out our salvation. It is like in heaven where the spoons are one meter long. You cant the get the food into your mouth with it but you can easily get the food into the mouth of the other with it. Marriage is learning how you can eventually live in heaven, by faith and not by sight. And love is agape – a self giving sacrificial love. The opposite of love is not hate but selfishness. Marriage only works when both are willing to die to self. C. S. Lewis said, in the last days, nothing will resurrect that has not died. Jesus said, if you seek to have your life, you will lose it but if you lose your life for His sake, you will gain it. There must be continual dialogue about marriage and how marriage will make the spouses become more like Christ.

Never make money be an issue
In our marriage, we early on realized that I was not going to make a good manager of our money and so we both agreed that she will handle the money and I will just get an allowance from her. She was obviously better with managing money and was also more concerned (more worried) with money matters. It was my job to make sure she was not burdened by her worries with money and a good start was for me not to manage our money because I tend to over spend. But spouses need to be careful too about giving the other too much freedom. You cannot trust the other too much. There must be a way to make things fair when a conflict arises. If the husband suddenly runs away with another woman, it can be devastating for the wife who does not have any money. Some wives too can be sneaky in a worse way than an adulterous husband but this is rare in our society so it is best for the husband to make a concession in this matter: make the money and properties be held in such a way that the wife will not be placed at a disadvantage when a conflict arises. A bank account in the name alone of the husband can be devastating to the wife when the husband is unfaithful to her. She will be completely helpless. She cannot even sue because she has no money. In a normal setting, both spouses must manage their money together and complement each other so their money grows. The two must always discuss how they can save and invest their money wisely. Savings are never to be touched no matter what. It is not your money, it belongs to your future (to buy a house or to pay your child’s college tuition).

Always let conflict be a source for growing up
You cannot avoid conflicts. But you can always use conflicts to grow up and become more mature. After each conflict, always sit down and talk about it and lift it up in prayer. Conflicts can make you sour and resentful. It can fester and make the spouses gradually drift apart (especially when you don’t talk about it afterwards). You must always be on guard against it becoming a festering wound. Conflict often is an eye opener, to show you things that need improvement in your own life. And conflict can lead to more intimacy also, as you come together in humility, ask for forgiveness and be restored to each other’s arms. In case of a deadlock, it is the husband who must break the tie. The husband must be the first to call a truce and ask that both come to the altar to pray. You must also learn to define your fighting stance. Some are just outright brutes, lashing out and screaming. Others are subtle, giving you the silent treatment. Teach each other how to spot these conflicts ahead of time in order to create an early warning system just like in an earthquake or a typhoon. I always have a hard time seeing i have been hurt. I only know because i am already fighting back. Also teach your spouse how to disarm your anger before it goes out of control. When in a fight, I always feel more hurt when my wife walks away (because she wants to give me space, respectfully). This is difficult for her because she cannot understand why I would want her close beside me when I don’t like her. There will be issues you will never solve or never agree on, agree to disagree. Remember that there are not just two sides to a problem, there are many sides and things are more complicated than you think and once you have realized the many dimensions of it, then you will relax a bit and not be so demanding. Mark them off as things you may never solve and commit them to prayer. Don’t believe your spouse when he/she says, I have always been this way, or I have always done things this way, since I can remember (as though saying, I can never change, even God cannot change me, for I was born this way, and I will die this way). Losing is not bad either. We learn more from losing than from winning. Spouses are not experts in marriage. They never took up a course in marriage in college either. So there will be lots of times when things are beyond their ability to solve. You can either just improvise along the way like the Marines do or you can consult a marriage counselor. Don’t believe you have what it takes to solve a conflict especially when it has grown too painful. Seek help. Finally, our testimony is not that we never fight but that after we fight we forgive and reconcile. Jesus tells us to forgive 70 x 7 times.

Children are always the work of the two parents
Both parents need to complement each other to produce the best kids, and not destroy each other or compete with each other. Parenting is the best part of marriage, it’s also the most taxing. When you have kids, reduce your activities a bit so you can have time to be with your family. When kids are below 6 years old, they need their mom the most. After that, it’s all dad’s work. As long as the kids want you and want to go with you, always take them along. A time will come when they wont anymore. At teenage time, they wont like you anymore. You are at the bottom of the list of most influential people in their lives by that time (tops will be media and peers and less influential are parents). Both parents must have a common strategy for parenting. Kids can make marriage hell when they divide the parents, to take sides. Insanity is hereditary says Erma Bombeck, you inherit it from your kids. Kids grow up well when their parents know how to get along, know how to fight and make up, and know how to grow together in intimacy.

Always say you love your spouse
The cruel joke is right on target: the husband tells her wife why he does not have to say, “I love you.” “I said I love you at our wedding day and I have not changed my mind.” Each spouse must always say, “I love you” to each other and always find ways to show it, each day. The couple must always aim to build higher, better and stronger love each time. The goal is to find what will really touch the other spouse and it’s a game of discovery. Will she like chocolate, will she like a new dress, or flowers, etc.? I guess my wife likes it most when I initiate and arrange that we go visit her parents. I think also because the bible says the husband is to leave his parents when he gets married but does not say, the wife is to leave her parents. I don’t want it to come from her. I always go ahead of her and make sure that she never has to think about it. She knows I will always make sure it happens. The bible says husbands are to love their wives, and be tender with her. He is to always be thoughtful or be creative about how to make her smile. (Please note that the bible says, if the husband does not treat her wife this way, God will not answer his prayers.) I am sure the wife can do better than the husband can in expressing her love to him. My wife tells me it is has been a long time since I went fishing (meaning, its about time I went again…yehey!). Of course if she says it too often, you need to suspect. It may mean she does not want you around anymore or she is seeing another man. If you want to make your life difficult as a husband, come regularly to your wife in your intimate moments and ask her, “Alam mo ba mahal kita, naramdaman mo ba?”

never read your spouse’s love letters from God
in the bible, God says, the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. this is a tall order. It will make your husband faint. The bible also says the wife is to submit to her husband and do so with so much trust and calmness. The thing to remember is to read only your side, your own love letter from God to you. The love letter of God to your spouse is not your business. Just concentrate on your letter. This is the rule: when it all depends on you, your volition, your strength, then make it your goal. If it depends on the other’s volition or participation, don’t make it a goal but make it a prayer instead. For example, is it a goal to have a happy marriage? No, because it depends for its success on your spouse’s cooperation. But what can you make as your goal? You can make your goal for example, to be a godly husband to your wife. This is dependent only on you and even if she does not cooperate, you can still succeed. You can’t make it your goal that your spouse respects you because it depends entirely on him/her for it to happen.

sex
never use sex as a leverage against your spouse (if he/she will not make me happy, I will not have sex with him/her). Sex is instead to be used to resolve conflict, to reconcile, and break an impasse. Sex is too fragile to be used as a weapon. The moment you think you need to make sex really enjoyable, your sex life begins to deteriorate. Any pressure on sex will kill it quickly. Sex has to be open, honest, non-threatening and slowly and nonchalantly entered into. You can have wild spontaneous sex like in the movies but don’t expect that to be a happy thing for both sides or become a norm. the movies are bad examples of good sex. sex is like baking bread, you have to wait for the dough to rise (in both male and the female). Tell your wife before you leave for the office this morning, “hey, you watch out, pretty girl, when I get back from the office, you better be ready. I’m gonna eat you up. I will keep you awake the whole night.” Don’t demand anything from sex, just let it be. If in the middle of the love-making you sense your wife is not up to it, just let it go. Gently tell her to just relax and may be just sing to her or hug her so tenderly until she falls asleep or get up and get her ice cream (with your briefs on). You should be able to talk about sex, what makes each one go and where to touch each other. You should give clear signals but give room to do what the Marines sometimes do: “abort”. Sex is really like playing. It’s not about winning. It’s about having fun. Sex is also very sacred. It must be entered prayerfully.

The husband is the head
He leads but it does not mean you are not equal. In fact, as he is called to lead, he is also called to lose (in a way, become less than equal). Leadership means servant-hood. The husband is the stronger vessel because he is called to surrender more. The wife is called the weaker vessel because she is called to receive more. The goal of headship is that the couple will worship God together. Many couples forget to worship because they have become too busy with business or kids. The husband is to make sure the family worship and that means the family is always spiritually, emotionally, physically and psychologically up to it. Even in the midst of starvation, sickness or poverty, the couple can worship. How to make this happen will take all that he’s got. If he has been a jerk all along, it will be difficult for the wife to really embrace his leadership in worship. If he has a really evil wife too, no matter what he does, won’t make worship happen.

There is a story about a couple who went to see their pastor about an imminent divorce. The husband looked really upset. The pastor was at a loss what to say. He asked what the problem was. The husband said he wanted to divorce her because he was angry with her. The pastor quickly flipped his bible to the page where it said….”love your wife.” He turned to the man, what do you think of that? The man got even angrier. “i don’t consider her my wife anymore,” he said. The pastor again flipped the pages of his bible and said, “look here, it says, love your neighbor. Your closest neighbor is your wife.” The husband bursts, shouting, “I don’t love her, I absolutely hate her, she is my enemy. Not giving up, the pastor quickly flipped the pages of his bible and again said, “Look, it says here, love your enemies.”

The Psalms
God gave us the Psalms to help us to pray. It is the only part of the Bible where man talks to God instead of God talking to man. It is like the Holy Spirit has been swallowed up by a human being and then digested. He goes inside the intestines and then out the anus as poop. Once out, the poop becomes the Psalms. Through the process, He enters into the heart of the person, into his/her deepest pains and traumas, and experiences all his/her humanity, frailness and sin. And it comes out as a prayer, a poem and a song, all in one. Yes, the Psalm is a prayer foremost. It gives us the right words to say especially when we have run out of words to say. But it gives us words that are lyrical and harmonious, like a poem to help us bring out the most difficult prayers. To top it all, the whole prayer/poem has a melody, so even if it does not sound like a coherent prayer, the Psalms give it a form that easily wafts to heaven above. The Psalms enter our deepest part. If you are angry, Psalms is murderous. If you are happy, Psalms is jubilant. If you are sad, Psalms is depressed. The Psalms has entered our deepest humanity. You can say bad things but when you say it to God it becomes divine. We cannot say hateful things about others but if we say them to God, about how we hate this man, how we want this man dead, it becomes a prayer. Whatever you say to God, even things your pastor don’t like to hear, becomes a prayer. Psalms is the most quoted part of the Old Testament in the New Testament. Jesus quotes it very often. The Benedictine monks recite all 150 Psalms each month. N. T. Wright believes that whole societies are discipled through the Psalms, read in public worship each Sunday (for a thousand years). When we cant pray, the Psalms lifts us up with the right words, poetic words, words with melodies, they are able to dive deep into our innermost being, and express them to God.

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