Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Marriage: Regaining The Gratitude Leads To Fervency

A few weekends ago I had the privilege to speak/teach at a men's retreat for North Creek Presbyterian Church. I agreed to do it months ago. The topic would be marriage and I would draw from my book, "Like Father, Like Son." No sweat. Except I found myself in a situation of now needing to talk about "The Things I Have Learned About Marriage Since I Knew It All." I didn't entitle the retreat with that title, though I really could have!

As I struggled with what I could say, I became more and more desperate as the time drew closer. I was almost panicking. I sent out an email to my prayer partners and asked them to pray. As I looked at my four messages I decided that I would use my two-year journey with Jeremy as my opening talk, since I learned so many hard won lessons in that experience. As I looked at the next three talks I noticed that the messages flowed out from what I learned. I wrote about them in my book, but kind of like Job, I had HEARD about the lessons but now I had SEEN and really experienced them.

"I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (Job 42:5-6)

Without going into the specifics of the talks to the men about marriage, the "big picture" message was that we will gravitate towards an attitude of entitlement in our marriage if we are passive and let the natural current of things have their effect. We are battling our own sinful, selfish nature, our world system and the one behind it all--Satan himself. To not guard against the attitude that I deserve this or that from my wife, or I am entitled to (fill in the blank) in this relationship, will ALWAYS lead to complacency. What makes this so dangerous is that we aren't even aware that we have become complacent until we begin to experience pain from the Father's discipline on one of His beloved sons.

“I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your word…
My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” (Psalm 119:67, 71)

So what is the antidote to this entitlement/complacency problem? It is just the opposite kind of spirit that is given by Christ Himself that puts our eyes upon Him and what He has done on our behalf. Once that occurs we begin to grow back an attitude of gratitude and that is translated into fervency in loving my wife. Here are a couple of Scriptures that come to mind that show how this works.

“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.” (I Peter 1:22)

“He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)

Of course this is more easily said than done. To do this will be to swim against the current that I already mentioned. But this is the way out for us as men who are struggling in our marriage. The way out is not to quit. Our loving Father will have to use something else to teach us this lesson; He wants to teach us in our marriage relationship. The way out is not to control. If your wife is strong she will fight and the marriage will be a battleground. If she is weak, she may not fight back but she will bury the hurt and resentment and true intimacy will be lost.

But if we can confess our entitlement that has led to complacency and shift our focus upon what HE has done for us through His sacrificial love, then I will become gripped by gratitude. Out of that will flow fervency, a passion to love our wives that we have lacked. It starts with redirecting our source of love away from our wives and onto Christ. As great as our wives may be, they cannot ever be our "Source." Only Jesus can be that. I respond to His love for me through initiating love to her.



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Jon Sween said...

Jamie, Your comments have such a ring of authenticity. Thanks for modeling what it means to embrace brokenness and pain.

Ci said...

I am grateful for you! Thanks for the journey.