A three-legged race—wow, what a challenge those are!
I remember my wife and I hobbling and hopping around, talking fast and instructing each other how to move and stay standing while trying to move forward without falling. It was a sight to see! I think we did finish the race laughing at each other—far from the front of the line. It took coordination, lots of adjusting and working together. These three words help describe one of the most important aspects of marriage—learning to walk together in agreement (Amos 3:3).
[Tweet “Oneness is not sameness. Learning to work together and function in unity takes humility and the willingness to adjust, coordinate and work together to one end.”]
The mystery of marriage is how God brings sinners with many differences and flaws, together into close proximity. The two become one in agreement. What does that really mean? Each one has a uniqueness and individuality, but they are both not the same. Diversity is an adventure in the relationship. At first—in the dating stages—we may be on your best behavior, overlooking the glaring novice traits. We may think that once we get married it will be different, “I will change him!” Well here is a myth-buster: what you see will be magnified in the marriage. Often, in premarital counseling, we help explain tools that help promote coordination, adjustments and working together to promote oneness. Often the oneness is in the result, but the approach is different.
Here are a few questions for observation:
- What do you value?
- What is your objective?
- Is your way the only way or are you willing to learn?
- Are you doing what you’re doing for each other, for yourself or for someone else?
A concession is hard to swallow in a relationship. We often are convinced our way is the best way. In Scripture, we often see Abraham and David listen to their wives and yield to their ideas. Their willingness and humility saved them much heartache. Leadership is not always your plan in action, but it is looking ahead prayerfully and going ahead in what promotes oneness without losing your values.
If I were to ask you to do the splits, what would you think? I know I can’t do one no matter how long I would stretch! Marriage can be like this, where unrealistic expectations are placed on each other. What is asked can’t be performed, either because there is no willingness or no ability. The way through this exercise is to keep the lines of communication open and patiently communicate your heart.
As an athlete trains, they push their physical threshold a little bit at a time. This measurable, slow progress is growth. In time—as we are patient with each other—flexibility is achieved. Oneness comes at the cross, where we are conformed to Christ’s image. We need and look more like Christ every day.
We adjust and become spiritually agile as Christ increases and we decrease.
How many of you can juggle? Or balance several plates on a tray? We all have a weak side and a strong side. A dominant ability and a passive one. As we train ourselves, we begin to train the passive parts and we can become ambidextrous. With continuous rehearsal, in time we can have full function.
Our spouse may know the right buttons to push to cause our bad coordination. Marriage can be like a dance, where we feel like we are all thumbs or all left feet. Words come out seemly in different languages and oneness and agreement is like a faraway galaxy. Here are some perspective-makers:
- Stop talking and listen carefully.
- Concentrate on what is being said or done.
- What do you understand?
- What do you agree on?
- Give your spouse’s idea a chance.
Nonverbal communication makes up 55% of communication. Body language and posture share what is going on inside you. You may have rosy words but your tone (which makes up 38% of your communication) and the way you hold yourself is speaking volumes.
[Tweet “Take a step back and assess these things. Before you open your mouth, relax, take a deep breath and embrace that which brings you together, even if you agree to disagree. Work together.”]
Often, I hear men say, “I am the head of this house and my way goes!” That sounds good but it is also a terrible approach. Intimidation or demands backfire and the responsive wife is now on the defensive. Whichever spouse is not in agreement needs to understand that you both are on the same team and if you don’t work together you both lose. Maybe one of you has a weakness; it is easy to say, “That is your problem, not mine!” That is logical but inaccurate. You both are now one and your problems are each other’s. This is not a competition to see who can be the best spouse outperforming one another. It is about working together and giving each other grace. Come alongside and be an encourager, not a judge.
[Tweet “Billy Graham said this many years ago when someone asked, “What is the greatest act that portrays Christ?” He said forgiveness! It is easy to demand compliance or even justify forgiveness, but Jesus showed forgiveness as an unconditional act of love. When we give what is needed and not what is deserved there is a reciprocal action of life.”]
Parenting is tough but so rewarding. Long days but short years it seems. These “little adults” may act out, wanting attention (even if it is negative attention.) Children are starving to be loved. Even with our spouses, this is our greatest need, often veiled in disagreements. Do you love me even if I don’t agree with you? Security in love brings the right responses.
Here are a few ways to deescalate a disagreement:
- What does my spouse need?
- What shows honor and respect?
- What kind of day did they have?
- Don’t underestimate spiritual warfare in your relationship.
- By fighting fire with fire, we are both consumed. Soft answers turn away wrath.
Married to your wounds
We are all broken. Often, we communicate our hurts. Our past can be an awful lens to our present and future. Jesus is the Healing Balm. He can bind our wounds and bring in the total healing of a broken heart (Psalms 147:3.) Surrender your pain and mistakes to God’s Altar, as an offering to Him, and have Him burn them up and remove the ashes. Don’t feed on ashes, that which is dead and can’t be changed (Isaiah 44:22.) Letting go of what hurts us and feeding on God’s faithfulness (Psalms 37:3) brings hope alive.
[Tweet “Marriage is two sinners learning and sharing a perfect Christ with each other. There is no perfect marriage only a perfect sacrifice in Jesus to share with each other.”]
In Hebrews 5:8, Jesus learned obedience through suffering. Why would we think it would be different for us?
We may say, “This is not what I signed up for.” Maybe you have good reason to be discouraged today. To have hope in ourselves or our spouse, who is fallible, is discouraging. Jesus will never fail you! The sooner we learn to agree with Him and what He says, the sooner we will experience oneness. As we turn our hearts toward heaven, we see Jesus and learn a new mission for our marriage.
It is the oneness—not our happiness—of the mission that makes us Holy. You may say, “I want to be happy!” I agree that is a noble goal, but it is not the ultimate goal. The reason for all things is that we are being conformed to the image of Christ, in holiness; separated unto Christ and Christ alone.
To love each other the way they are—rather than trying to change each other—builds a working relationship. We learn to be content and enjoy the differences and count our blessings where we find them.
Marriage is God’s idea and His invention. It demands maturity. When we do it His way, we experience His fullness.
[Tweet “Today, with such spiritual warfare trying to pull marriages apart, we must understand that it isn’t about winning the three-legged race, but finishing the race TOGETHER.”]