THE MARRIAGE ABCS
Copyright © Ufuomaee
Over the next six months, I will be meditating on marriage, with a post a week about what marriage means, how we should approach marriage and deal with challenges that arise in marriage, using the 26 letters of the alphabet as a guide – as well as building on Scripture. I hope you will join me and learn and grow with me. And I pray that the singles reading will enter marriage more prepared, and those already married, will savour their unions and grow in love and understanding towards one another.
This week’s letter is ‘A’, and there are many words beginning with A that would be great to start with, but for me, the best is ‘Appreciation’. It is an all encompassing word, because when you appreciate someone, it shows you accept them for who they are, and you will show affection towards them and also give them the attention they deserve. Another great word is “Agreement”, but there are other words synonymous in meaning that we can use later on.
Appreciation of your spouse is the basest and most primary duty you owe to your wife or husband. It sets the foundation for the whole marriage, because without it…there’s already resentment in the marriage, as one or both will feel unwanted or not needed. So by not appreciating your spouse, you’re communicating that you would rather be single. Appreciation of your spouse cannot be over-emphasised!
In case you’ve long been married, and you were once appreciative, but have become complacent and critical towards your spouse, here are five good reasons to work on being more appreciative to your spouse:
1. You Chose Him/Her
When things get hard, we begin to second guess our decision to marry the person we are married to. We might try to think of how he or she was not really our choice! That we were pressured… That we were deceived… That we were too young to choose. But (except for cases of child marriages or arranged marriages) you DID choose that person! Even if you felt it was the better of two evils at the time, you chose. Don’t deny your agency in all of this. It is childish and irresponsible.
We are always choosing from multiple options… Sometimes we are stuck between a rock and a hard place, but we make a decision based on the information available to us at the time. And marriage calls for faithfulness…for better or for worse. We were not deaf when the vows were read. When the Pastor asked “does anyone know of any reason why these two cannot be joined together?”. We were not in a coma, nor were we sleeping. We were smiling, maybe daydreaming, maybe crying…but we were present and aware of the decision we were making. So take responsibility!
Another reason it is important to take responsibility is to respect yourself. You’re not stupid! Remember why you chose him or her. Remember how you dated so many Mr Wrongs before you decided that this was the one? Remember how you told her you couldn’t bare to live another day without her? Remember, remember… There were a number of factors leading to your decision, and when you remember them, you will respect the person you were when you stood at that altar to pledge unending love to your spouse. And you will be a person of integrity and fight for that love!
2. Two Are Better Than One
You may begin to think you are better off on your own. That this person is a liability, they are a burden or thorn in your flesh. Sometimes, you might even wonder if they are cursed…maybe they are not even Christian. Maybe they are the Devil incarnate. Maybe they are nothing so diabolical, but they do not seem to bring anything to the table, and you’re sick and tired of being chained to them!
But you know, there are some people who never appreciate a good thing when it is happening to them. There are many who have forsaken their marriages, thinking they can do without their spouse, only to find that spouse is snatched up by another, who sees all the wonderful things they couldn’t see, because they were blinded by their own wickedness! And unfortunately, you only begin to appreciate what you had, when it’s gone. You don’t want to be that person.
The truth is marriage is a gift that some are unworthy of. You might be one of those who is married and unworthy of your gift, because you keep complaining about it. But it is a gift. Two are better than one (Eccl 4:9-12). You have someone who has pledged to love you for better or for worse. Someone who has committed to be your helper and your advocate. Someone who has promised to always be your friend! Isn’t it nice to have a friend? A faithful friend? You are a team of two, and can accomplish much more than yourself alone, if you will only figure out how to work as a team!
3. True Love Is Proven In Trials
It is easy to love in good times! Piece of cake. But if you can’t love in hard times, that means you are a fair-weather friend, and no friend at all. That is why the marriage covenant says “for better or for worse”. A friend is the one who rejoices with you when things are great, cries with you when things fall apart, and picks you up, encourages you, and believes in you at all times! In a trial, it is needful to have a companion, and those who come through to the other side with you are golden! You can’t appreciate a friendship without trials.
What type of friend are you? In fact, what type of person are you? Even if you were shallow before Christ, when you are in Christ, you are a new creature…the old has passed away, all is now new (2 Cor 5:17). As one who lives for Christ (Gal 2:20), who imitates Christ, you cannot be a selfish person. You cannot live for yourself anymore, but you will deny yourself and consider your spouse above yourself (Phil 2:3), submitting to them in love (Eph 5:21).
Trials come as purifiers. Without them, our love is not proven, hence Jesus said that it is those who endure til the end that shall be saved (Matt 24:13). We even glory in trials because they are necessary for developing godly character, for learning patience, compassion, humility and trust in God (Rom 5:3-5). We shouldn’t run from them, neither should we invite them. But when they come, we must submit to them, and let them do their refining work in pruning our hearts, and let our love be tested and found to be true! The test is not for God; it is for you…that you may know that without Him, you can do nothing (John 15:5)!
4. You Are Not Perfect Either
News Flash – You are not perfect! No, you’re not God’s gift to women/men. No, your spouse is not lucky to have you! And I might suppose, you don’t deserve better either (disregard this in cases of domestic abuse). Don’t think that when you leave you will find someone who will treat you better in a heartbeat. The world is filled with people like you!
We really need to get over ourselves. We feel so entitled sometimes. We might not see how much our spouses have to put up with to live with us. We might not see how unreasonable we are sometimes. I know it may feel like it, but you’re not always right, and they know it…even when they apologise. They too are bearing their own cross by being faithful in the marriage (in cases where your challenges are not related to their infidelity).
You need to step out of yourself and consider it from God’s perspective. Jesus gave a good analogy when He spoke about the speck and the beam (Matt 7:3-5). The speck is the difference between you and your spouse. It is so minute, it is negligible. But between you and God is an insurmountable beam! That is where God gives grace to you, that you may draw near to Him, despite your imperfection. Can’t you be so gracious to your spouse?
5. God Called You To Follow His Example
God has given you a commandment, if you are a Christian, that just as He loved you, you are to love your brothers and sisters in Christ, and more so your spouse (John 13:34). Loving your spouse should be easy, but if and when it is not, love them in obedience to Jesus. If they are a thorn in your flesh, abide with them, knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for you (2 Cor 12:7-9), and His power is made perfect in your weakness.
Just as God doesn’t continually bring your faults before you, but shows you just how precious you are to Him, do likewise to your spouse. Do not constantly remember their mistakes. If you can, forget them! God separated you from your sins as far as the East is from the West (Psa 103:12), and when He looks upon you, He sees Jesus. Do so with you spouse. When you look upon them see Jesus! Love them like they are Jesus (1 John 4:20). As you see Jesus in them, they will begin to see Jesus in themselves.
I hope these five points have convinced you that you have no justification for not appreciating your spouse. When you do so, you will begin to see them blossom and bear fruit, just like a properly loved and nourished plant would… They will change, not because you told them they were bad, or that they needed to change, but because God’s love, through you, changed them! “For it is God who works in you [and them] both to will and to do according to His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13), and they can no longer ignore the beautiful light that you are in your home (Matt 5:16).
So if you want your marriage to work, appreciate your spouse. To conclude, here are five simple steps you can follow to ensure that you are always fulfilling your duty to appreciate your spouse, no matter their flaws:
1. Be Grateful – This starts in your heart. Accept them for who they are. Thank God for them. Praise Him for them. Count your blessings. Think of the good things they do, and look out for good things they do, so you can express gratitude often.
2. Be Understanding – Try to see things from their perspective. Do not be quick to judge. Do not get angry easily. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
3. Be Humble – Do not think highly of yourself. You could be wrong. Be willing to be taught. Consider Jesus, who though being King, didn’t come to lord it over us, but served us in humility.
4. Be Encouraging – Praise them when they do good. Tell them you believe in them. Stand by them when they make mistakes, and don’t rub it in their face (saying “I told you so”). Be their cheerleader and advocate, even when others are discouraging (and even when you think you have a better idea).
5. Be Loving – Be affectionate and kind to them. Kiss and touch them (even when you don’t feel like it). Communicate with them, as often as they are willing to engage you, and be sure to laugh and smile often! Do thoughtful things for them. Call, text, send gifts etc. Fake it until you make it – real!
If you do these things, you will live to enjoy the fruit of your labour of love! If you are single and hoping to settle down, keep these in mind when choosing a mate. Is the person someone you respect enough to always appreciate them? Do you know them well enough? Do you really know yourself?
Who is your role model for love and faithfulness? Even if you don’t have any role models, Jesus is your role model. He commanded us to love one another as He loved us… Can you love your spouse the way Christ loved you? Unconditionally? Forgiving all past and future wrongs?
Take some time to appreciate the love that Christ has bestowed on you, and the love He has called you to. You may falter in marriage, even after considering all these things, but if you both keep your eyes on Jesus, you will certainly prevail! Love indeed conquers all!
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