As I write this, I am thinking about celebrating the 31 years that I will be married to Chris on September 1, 2014. I am proud of our marriage. It has taken energy and effort, and I am proud of that. In the most recent years our marriage has focused on Ephesians 4:29—for the building up of others according to their needs.
In Marcus Buckingham’s recent book, “The One Thing you Need to Know,” he describes thriving marriages this way. Each person believes his or her spouse to be better than the spouse actually believes him/herself to be. Or, you give me more credit for things than I give myself. A goal in our marriage over the last few years has been to identify those things and verbalize them as much as possible to each other. We want to build each other up, affirm each other and celebrate what we believe to be each other’s strengths.
We need our relationships. And, we need those relationships to work–especially our marriages. There is probably no one person that you will spend more years of your life living with than your spouse. We fall in love, that’s easy. The tough part is making it work and living together. Psalms 133:1 says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” Think of that picture, then think of your marriage. What are the things that you can think, do, or say that would make it pleasant for each other; that would make it good for each other; and would bring you together in unity. Along with that, consider how you would build each other up according to their needs. I have learned over the years that Chris needs things to be neat and tidy around our home. Chris doesn’t just want it to be neat and tidy. He needs it to be neat and tidy. There is a big difference between wanting it and needing it. Make it a priority to find out what your spouse needs. I’m serious here. Find out what your spouse truly needs in order to “be alive.” The moment you discover that difference, your marriage will shift. Chris knows that I have a need not to get boxed in to rigid schedules. So each of us is trying to provide the “air” for the other to be alive. But, we are humans, and so we have to work at making it work.
I will end on a thought on work. Years ago I read, “Growing Deeper in the Christian Life,” by Chuck Swindoll. In the book, Swindoll makes a case for sin. It goes like this. Adam and Eve sinned in the garden by disobeying God when they ate the fruit from the tree that God commanded them not to eat from. As a result, they sinned. Many believe the curse of sin to be that now we need to work, to toil through our lives. But Swindoll says no, the curse of sin is not having to work. Many of us love our work. Our work brings joy, engagement, fulfillment and satisfaction. Swindoll says the real curse of sin is that we have “deal with each other.” The curse of sin is that we now must deal with those ugly differences that cause angst, strive, conflict, unmet expectations, hurt feelings, and sometimes even hatred. I believe Swindoll’s case for sin to be correct. But, maybe the curse of sin does have to do with work–the need to work at dealing with each other. We need to work at being in relationship with each other. We need to put energy and effort into our most meaningful relationships. Whether those relationships are with family members, in the workplace, at our churches and at our schools, we need to work at dealing with each other and meeting each other’s needs so each of us can “be alive!”