“Marriage is like twirling a baton, turning handsprings or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it.” – Helen Rowland. When I was a missionary in South Korea teaching English as a second language, I can tell you learning to use chopsticks wasn’t easy for me. I still haven’t mastered it. What I can also tell you from my marriage to Karen for over 11 years is that it takes a lot of hard work. We were two individuals who had to think and act like a couple. We learned what we hated and liked. Darling, no matter how hard you have tried to, you have never got me to like brussel sprouts, unless you smother them in cheese sauce.:)
Karen and I got to know and fall more in love with one another. We worked together through our problems. Marriage means being committed to each other. You love one another through the tough times. Along the way, we have taken the time to laugh with, and kid one another.
While Karen was away on a six-day retreat, I was drawn on the fourth day to a marriage prayer on a wooden plaque that hangs in our living room. In the business of life, I honestly hadn’t read it. It needs to have a much more prominent place than the corner wall it’s on. I felt our Father say to my heart this morning that in the struggles of life we need to read that prayer over and over again. We need to let it sink deep into our soul. Perhaps, as I share it with you, it will be a blessing to your marriage.
someone to share your
dreams with, someone to live
your life with, someone to walk
& talk with through the years …
SOMEONE you can turn to,
someone so close you can feel
each other’s tears …
someone who’ll stand beside you,
someone whose hand will guide you,
through good times or bad times,
happiness or sorrow…
A LIFE OF LOVE together, a love
that spans forever, a bridge across today
and into GOD’S tomorrow.”
Are you having problems in your marriage? Is the bond of love between you growing weaker? Do you feel your spouse doesn’t understand how you are feeling deep inside? Is your love account with one another overdrawn?
There have been times in our marriage when the answers to all those questions would have been a resounding yes! The daily stresses of life can eat away at your marriage. When you’re both worn down and feeling overloaded the communication between you can break down. You’re so busy fighting one brush fire in your life after another that you cry out for a break from the unrelenting pressure, more bills than the money you have to pay for them. You may feel sick, spent, depleted. The wellspring of your love has run dry.
The reason you married blurs amid all the pressures in your career and family life. You feed into one another’s stress. When this happens you both need to have a break. You need to have time to recharge yourselves spiritually, physically and emotionally. You need to take time to play, laugh and have a lot of fun. Get someone to look after your children.
Allow one another the gift of going to a guided spiritual retreat where you work with a spiritual director on your issues. Let go of everything in your life and let our Father speak to both of you through reading and reflecting upon His Word, listening to spiritually uplifting music, and sleeping in.
If you don’t have the money to afford a retreat call them and let them know. I have been on retreats where the management accepted an offering for my time there. The Director of the retreat center was more concerned that I had the blessing of a retreat. I will always be thankful to that Director for letting me go to their retreat center.
While on retreat let God in and shut the world out.
Let our Father speak to both of you in times alone with Him. Pour out all you are feeling, all you are thinking to Him. If You give Him the chance, you will find out He listens more to you than anyone else. Our Father understands you. “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all” (Psalm 139:4, NASB). We needn’t be afraid that God knows us. I find it comforting that our Father knows the best and the worst that is me. He gets me. He knows what motivates me to think and say the things I do. When I blow it with Karen, I’m so thankful that the God who knows me so well forgives me, and calls me to ask for Karen’s forgiveness. When Karen gets it wrong with me she can go to her Father and ask to be forgiven. I pray that when Karen asks me to forgive her, I will do that, and tell her that I love her.
If your marriage is in serious trouble, please see a marriage counselor. Preferably, see someone well-trained in counseling before your marriage is in jeopardy. That individual may be able to prevent your marriage from breaking up. Karen and I have seen a counselor at times when we needed someone to help us through our issues. We tell people who come to us for counseling that the problem isn’t that they are weak. They have been strong for far too long. It takes strength of character to admit you need help.
There are times I say to Karen, “Darling, you need to get out for the day.” If I have to I insist on it. Most times though Karen recognizes when she needs to have some time to herself. We all need that. In as much as you love one another, it’s okay to have some alone time. Living with one another 24/7 isn’t healthy. You both need time to do your own thing. Then, when you are with one another, you will appreciate one another more. You will have more energy to give one another.
I’m sharing some thoughts below that are a surprise gift for Karen to read. I pray guys in them you will find your own thoughts to share with your wife. No matter how busy you are, take the time to tell your wife how she is a blessing to you if you don’t do this already. When you do this your wife will feel you truly value her and the contribution she makes to the marriage.
Karen, while being away from you, I appreciate all the more all you mean to me. Darling, I would marry you again in a heartbeat. You’re not perfect but neither am I, far from it. We are stumbling sinners saved by the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sins. I missed you terribly while you were away. Living the life of a bachelor isn’t all it’s made out to be. There were times I felt lonely. I would want to share something I read or watched on TV, and you weren’t there. I would sing a song to bring me and the kitties comfort, but it didn’t feel the same not seeing how you show in the radiance of your face, and with your words, how God blesses you through what I sing. The meals you left for me didn’t have the same enjoyment because I didn’t see your face light up telling you how much I enjoy them. I am a richly blessed man to have the gift from God of you being my wife.
You may be thinking you’ve heard all this advice already. Just as I told a pastor who was doing way too much and not taking enough time for others, “We all need reminding of the things we know are true.” Why is it we get so busy we don’t take quality time with our spouse? Does climbing the mountain that leads to success mean so much you’re willing to risk your marriage? When you have reached the top what good is it if you have no one to share it with? We all need to decide what is more important – being at the top or having someone to share our life with. I would rather have a marriage filled with love than to be married to the god of success. That god won’t comfort you when you’re laying in bed alone. I’m not saying striving for a promotion is wrong.It’s an admirable thing to want to provide the best life possible for your family. It’s a matter of keeping your marriage as a priority as opposed to making your job more important than your marriage. If you have an unhealthy marriage, you won’t be happy. You won’t have the energy you need to give to your career. When your marriage is on life support it will affect your physical and emotional health. It’s difficult to balance both your home and work life in this fast-paced society. Try to do the best you can. Your spouse will appreciate your efforts. This will put your love account more on the positive side.
In preparing this piece, I came across this image, which shows a husband saying to his wife what the priority in his marriage is.
When I look at this picture, I feel conviction in my spirit about times in my marriage with Karen when other things got in the way of spending quality time with her. One of them many of us can relate to is spending too much time on the Internet. It can be quite enriching with all the subjects you can learn ranging from learning a foreign language to how to prepare a gourmet meal, but it can also be a waste of quality time with your spouse.
Computer time can be a wall between both of you. Turn off the computer. Don’t spend hours on it to the exclusion of everything else. Get outside and both enjoy the beauty of God’s creation all around you. The birds that sing, trees dancing with the wind, the smell of a rose, a child’s laughter – these are all brush strokes of the Father’s love for you. Let His healing, reviving love, flood your soul.
There are times we need to unplug from all social media. The American Psychological Association has declared that Internet addiction is a mental illness. Spending too much time on the Internet will harm your marriage. It becomes like the racecar that is more important to the husband than his wife.
It’s my prayer for you that you will have a beautiful marriage blossoming into the people God wants you to be.
We come back to that marriage prayer so rich in its imagery and beauty. Its message is profound and yet so simple. Marriage is having someone you can share your life with “… a bridge across today and into God’s tomorrow.”
Father, please pour out the river of Your richest blessings upon all marriages today and into Your tomorrow. Amen.
Dr. Kevin James Osborne, Psy D., D.Sc., D.D., is the Vice-President of Institutional and Mission Development for St. James the Elder University. He feels God is leading him to graduate study in theology and counseling. Karen is a counselor. She is also a Master to a Doctoral student in Psychology at SJEU. Our mission field is wherever God puts us for His glory.