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The Confident Marriage

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Have you ever taken the time to look around at other married couples that are sitting in a restaurant together out on a date? I have and I have noticed something that makes me sad. I find many of them look as if they are just enduring one another, but not many do I find who actually look like they are enjoying one another’s company. In fact, often times I notice them staring off in the distance, not even talking at all. They look like they are in pain having to spend time together.

That’s not how God intended marriage to be. See here in the very beginning what God did and how Adam responded to it.

Genesis 2:21-24 (NLT)

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

23 At last! the man exclaimed.

“This one is bone from my bone,
and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’
because she was taken from ‘man.'”

24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

Hmmm. Adam seemed to be real happy at the beginning. What happened? Satan took advantage. Eve made a poor choice. Adam made a poor choice. Sin happened.

Satan knew the power of the union of marriage and attacked it right from the start. He hasn’t stopped attacking marriages since that day. A friend of mine told me recently that she personally knew of many marriages under attack right now.

Take two people who usually happen to have completely different personalities and expect them to unify, and the fun begins.

Then, on top of this, sometimes you add in the fact that only one person is willing to invest into the marriage and it makes things seem almost unbearable. After all, one spouse cannot make both his/her own choices and the choices for the other spouse as well. Each person has to be willing to do their part so if one spouse decides for some reason that they have had enough, they begin to shut down or shut out the other spouse.

Emotional pain causes people to shut down. Whether it tracks back to painful childhood memories, some sin they have gotten caught up in outside the marriage or whether it stems from within the marriage, people don’t just shut down or suddenly change for no reason.

I am not excusing the spouse that doesn’t make the effort to invest into their marriage. I am just saying two things here: I can imagine that it has to be very difficult if you feel that you are the only person in your marriage who cares about making it work and I am also saying that when people end up doing hurtful things, or in some cases, not doing anything at all to add to the marriage, these behaviors are coming from hurts deep down inside of a person from something in the past that needs to be healed in that person before they can move on.

As my Mom, Joyce Meyer says, “Hurting people hurt people.”

I have been married for nearly 22 years and although I am glad to say that my husband Steve and I do have a good marriage and do enjoy being married, we certainly don’t have a perfect marriage. We have gone through seasons where we wanted to give up and married life hasn’t always felt exciting, but has actually felt rather dull at times.

Over the years, I tried to force my husband to change so that I could be happier, until I found out that it was my own misconceptions about life that were keeping me unhappy. I discovered that it wasn’t what my husband was or wasn’t doing that was causing my unhappiness. It was what was going on inside of me.

The more Steve and I both get rooted and grounded in who we are in Christ, the stronger and happier we are as individuals and then we naturally bring that sense of security into our marriage. When we discovered God’s grace for ourselves, we started extending it to each other because a true revelation of God’s grace makes people more gracious.

By growing in an understanding of God’s love and grace toward me personally, I was then able to stop trying to force Steve to live under all my rules and regulations and started laughing at so many of the things that had bothered me in the past.

Please believe me when I say that receiving God’s grace for ourselves most definitely produces His power in and through us and changes us from the inside out. I am an ongoing witness to this.

Once we have received, and continue on a daily basis to receive God’s grace for ourselves, we find ourselves naturally wanting to give it out to everyone around us. Likewise, when we become secure in God’s love for ourselves we become free to love others instead of spending all of our time worrying about what they are thinking of us. This has had a major impact on our marriage.

Now that God’s grace has literally taken over our lives, I want to know all the ways I can be a better wife and Steve feels the same way about being a better husband. We have both always wanted to be better, but for most of our married life, we were both trying to accomplish this apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, who is our Helper.

Steve was trying to be a great husband and I was trying to be a great wife, but we were trying to achieve this by our own strength. We would hear a teaching and think, ok, this is the key. This is what I need to do in order to improve. Then we would go to work trying to improve ourselves. We did this over and over and over again, trying desperately to get it right.

We were tired…oh so tired of trying.

These days we approach life totally different. In February we attended a marriage seminar and really learned a lot, but this time we didn’t go home and start trying to do all the stuff we learned on our own. Instead, we immediately submitted the whole seminar and everything we learned to God in prayer, asking Him to work in and through us by the power of His Spirit, to bring our marriage to a higher level for His glory.

Seriously, we have not stressed one moment over all the things we learned at the seminar, but instead have stayed sensitive by God’s grace to The Holy Spirit to lead us as to when to implement this concept and when to implement that concept. It has been awesome, simple and exciting!

This journey of grace, as I call it, which is how we should all be living out our Christian walk, is exactly that….a journey. I feel I learn something new every day on this journey.

For example: Recently The Holy Spirit had shown me something that would make our marriage even stronger. I saw that I had been guilty of throwing out requests to my husband at the speed of light when he walked in the door from work, only after barely saying hello to him. You know what I mean ladies. Emotionally unloading on our husbands.

I have an extremely easy-going husband, but that doesn’t mean I am suppose to take advantage of his kindness. It wouldn’t hurt me, even if I have had a rough day, to control my emotions, welcome him home and ask him how his day was. After all, it’s not like he just went off and twiddled his thumbs all day. He’s been working hard too, the Holy Spirit reminded me.

I am thankful that by God’s grace I am seeing more and more truth everyday about how to be a good wife. Really, what is helping me more than anything is learning to be sensitive to and following the leading of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows just what my husband needs and if I am listening I can constantly be learning.

I love what friends of ours, Pastor Mike and Pennie Shepard, say about marriage. They say, God’s desire is for our Christian marriages to be a tract to the world, showing the world the relationship between Christ and the church!

Gosh, I guess this means we have to ask ourselves, When someone looks at my marriage, what do they see?

When we choose to live Spirit-led lives it really boosts our confidence. Even if your spouse is not listening to the Spirit, you will still have confidence on your end when you choose to live out of your spirit as opposed to your flesh.

If we are Spirit-led, that means we do the things that the Spirit leads us to do. We can know for sure that He will not lead us to do anything that will harm our marriage, but will only lead us to do the things that enrich our marriage.

When we are following the Holy Spirit’s lead in our actions and responses, our flesh can’t also be leading at the same time. That’s a good thing because I’m betting you have figured out the same thing that I have which is that our flesh does crazy things!

The Apostle Paul reminded the Galatians that the flesh is opposed to the Spirit. (see Galatians 5:17) While our flesh leads us down a path of destruction, when we choose to follow the Spirit instead of our flesh, good fruit is produced in our lives.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

This list of spiritual fruit is the making of a great marriage, but remember that this is not a to-do list for us to produce in our own self-effort. It is fruit that the Holy Spirit produces as we follow Him.

Don’t worry though. Living under God’s grace is not complicated. Grace is all about trusting in Jesus instead of ourselves. It shows up in things like us deciding to pray anytime we have a temptation to be anxious.

I was reminded of this just recently. My number one love language from Dr. Gary Chapman’s book ‘The Five Love Languages’ is Words of Affirmation. Although my husband definitely received encouraging words from his Mom growing up, he did not have this modeled for him by any father figure, so giving words of affirmation is not something that comes natural to him.

On the other hand, I live to encourage people every day of my life. I love it and it is very natural for me. This doesn’t make me a better person than Steve because Steve has strengths in areas where I am weak just as I have areas of strength where he is weak.

We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. Even though I realize this, I have allowed this to be a source of contention over the years in our marriage because I wasn’t getting words of affirmation from my husband very often and I just didn’t feel loved by him on a consistent basis because of this.

Keep in mind that at the time I had misconceptions about God and how He felt about me which was the basis of my insecurity, so thankfully my circumstances affect me in a negative way less often now than they used to.

Steve has improved in this area over the years, but since this is not something natural for Him, he falls in and out the habit of giving me words of affirmation. He is not withholding encouraging words on purpose. Steve doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. It is just not something that he naturally thinks about.

I was feeling down about this a few weeks ago and I felt The Holy Spirit say to me, you know, you can pray about this.

My mind went immediately to Stormie Omartian’s book, The Power of a Praying WifeOh yes, I thought. That’s right. I could pray.

Aren’t we ridiculous? Prayer….the most powerful force on the planet and we use it as a last resort far too often. What we do instead is try everything we can think of first to correct the problem at hand and then when we see we are not getting very far, we try prayer.

Of course, when we make a decision to fully trust in God through prayer in any area, we see results. Prayer is powerful and God answers prayer!

Just in case you are wondering, it doesn’t bother Steve that I am talking about this and I am not giving him some secret message through my blog post so he will feel pressured to improve in this area. We are both very open and have talked about this openly already. The McCollom family is committed to using our lives; both the good and the bad, our strengths and our weaknesses, to help others!

We can have great marriages and I believe the perfect place to start is right in the middle of God’s grace, which will help you and I grow in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. As we begin to walk in sensitivity to the Spirit, He will show us exactly what Spirit-led steps to take in order to have a great marriage! And if we are willing to receive it, His grace will always be with us to help us take those steps.

You see how it’s all intertwined. Choosing grace, sensitivity to The Holy Spirit, Spirit-led living, wise choices, obedience, good results. It’s all intertwined!

The more we get ourselves out of the way and choose Jesus’ way the simpler and more beautiful our Christian journey becomes.

Part of the New Covenant of grace that we live under today in Hebrews 8:8-12 says that God will put His laws in our minds and write them on our hearts.

Thankfully, Jesus didn’t just leave us to fend for ourselves after He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. He asked the Father and the Father gave us a Helper. (see John 14:16-17)

Friends, we have a download of The Holy Spirit on the inside of us and we can trust Him to bring everything that we need to know, in order to live victoriously, to our remembrance. He won’t force His way into our lives though, if we insist on living them out by our own self-effort. But once we make a choice to lay down our own flesh-led efforts and let the Holy Spirit take over, it’s game on!

Update! Update!

Steve now consistently gives me words of affirmation!

If you have not yet made Jesus your Savior and received the wonderful joy that His finished work on the cross has provided for you to live in, please visit my page here titled Jesus In The Driver’s Seat. On this page I explain the good news of the gospel and you will have the opportunity to pray a prayer of salvation, making Jesus your Savior! Jesus loves you and His arms are wide open!

Sandra McCollom

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