It's no secret that we're behind on our original schedule for our The Meaning of Marriage book study. Life happens to us. It happens to you. But I am learning, even as painful as it can be, that life interrupted can still be a beautiful thing.
Take this morning as an example: Craig brought the book over to me and showed me a page from chapter 5. He pointed out the paragraph on page 152 (which actually starts on 151).
"Which of these flaws describe me?"
His question was an invitation, one better than being invited to the ritziest of Christmas parties, not because I was gleeful about pointing out his flaws, but because he felt safe enough to ask me what they are.
To look your spouse in the eye and ask him/her to tell you what's wrong with you? That's a hard thing to do. The kicker is, he already knows what his flaws are. So why ask? Is he glutton for punishment?
Craig's not one for self-flagellation and he wasn't looking for me to tell him he was flawless (because, hello, we've been married almost 16 1/2 years).
Craig asked because he wanted to affirm our friendship. In a sense, he was telling me that he recognized that his flaws, his brokenness, were impeding our relationship. The past month or two have been really stressful and we deal with stress in opposite ways. My first inclination is to draw near. His first inclination is to push away. Then, I perceive this as rejection, my self-protective walls go up, and we stand opposite each other, a bitter stalemate.
The truth is when two broken people come together in marriage, oftentimes our own brokenness can trigger the brokenness in our spouse. And this, this is where Satan has a field day with us if we don't recognize what is happening, if we don't remember that our spouse is our friend, if we don't remember that we never intended to become each other's enemy.
This morning, with our 12 year-old daughter chiming in in the background, Craig and I looked at that list of flaws on page 152, each confessing our flaws and noting how some of them are exacerbated by the other person's. For example, Craig hates talking to me about financial decisions because I tend to be miserly with our money. I put too much of my security in the number on our savings account and perceive any expenditure that dips into that as a direct attack on my safety. On the other hand, Craig sometimes uses the things money can buy to fulfill a need that can truly only be met by Jesus. He gets hyper-focused on his needs and this can lead to some shoddy financial decisions.
In our raw states, we both have skewed views of money. Money should never be my security and it can never meet his heart's deepest needs. But with Jesus' redemptive power and activity in our lives, we can refine each other. We can help shape each other into the people that God originally created us to be. We can recognize why the flaws come out to play—usually a disguised cry for help or window into past hurts and pain—and choose a compassionate response.
I can say to Craig, "You seem really focused on getting __________. It seems like it's become a distraction. What's really at the heart of this?"
He can say to me, "Jen, you seem really anxious about holding onto this money. Are you trying to be in control or are you trusting God with this?"
There is validity in saving. There is also validity in spending. When we can treat each other as friends, filled with compassion and love, we can filter out our initial flawed responses, and see both the root of the sin and the goodness our spouse brings to the table. It's not good for me to make money my security, but it is good to be wise about why and how we are spending our money. It's not good to spend frivolously, but it is good to make wise investments in our self-care.
Our marriages have the potential to make us our best selves. Keller writes,
"The power of truth is marriage's ability to show you who you really are. The power of love is marriage's capacity for reprogramming your self-image, redeeming the past, and healing your deepest hurts." (page 179)
In order for this to happen, we must be willing to concede that we have weaknesses and flaws. I must accept that my spouse's role is to make me a better person, that he brings something to me that God wants for my completion, my wholeness.
To return this favor, though, I must be mindful of my own attitude toward Craig. This process will not unfold the way God intends it to if I am judgmental and prideful. The iron sharpening iron happens when I am humble, when I am compassionate, when I see Craig from Jesus' perspective and not through my own broken lens.
Marriage needs truth and truth needs love.
What is one flaw you can each admit to each other? How can you work together, in friendship, truth, and love, to each walk in the fullness of how God created you?
Don't miss our Advent special! Listen to what Tim Keller writes about prayer:
"Praying daily with and for each other is a love language that in many ways brings the other love languages together." (page 178)
Our prayer resource for you is on sale through the entire season of Advent! Enter promo code ADVENT20 to save 20% on a year's supply of prayer cards, helping you pray intentionally and Scripturally for your spouse!