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Paul J. Bucknell
Purpose: Godly marriages and families don’t come by accident! Couples need to learn WHAT kind of marriage they are seeking and HOW to form priorities to gain those godly families. Practical Advice for Marriages: Part 8 of Setting Priorities for Godly Marriages
We want to go on and think about life from a practical point of view. How do we actually make room for God’s priorities? We already mentioned how we identify and repent from the old values as well as seek out God’s priorities and put them into practice. So how do we do the last. In most cases it will begin to reveal itself as you affirm your new values.
We have already discussed this above. We, or should I say you as a couple, need to discuss this more, but we have given you enough to get started. First, each of you ask your spouse, “What part of my life do I need to change to improve our marriage?” Don’t defend yourself if the answer goes contrary to what you think. Perhaps you can instead ask your spouse to elaborate a bit more.
Having heard your spouse’s recommendation and reset yourself to seek God’s will on this matter, ask yourself these questions:
• What keeps me from changing in that way?
• What would I need to accomplish that?
• How would I need to change my schedule?
• What extra resources do I need to rightly carry it out?
• How might my weaknesses hold me back?
I suspect some of the issues mentioned above are ones you have already faced. Dig down and see what other priorities are at conflict with the ones your spouse mentions (see above worldly conflicts). Marital arguments more often than not develop because different priorities collide.
I mentioned three things that I thought good marriages were made of. Perhaps we can use this outline to focus on some practical areas.
God has designed the marriage to work in harmony (the two are one). This is quite possible through Christ (maybe not perfectly but largely so). Do not accept any standard not leading to further harmony. Strive for the best. Things get better this way! Linda and I have over 30 years of marriage to work through many issues. We might have a common perspective on many things now, but it has not always been that way nor is it always true even now.
The first important ingredient for harmony is quality time together. So do you spend quality time together? What days or night during the week? Harmony comes from knowing each other in increasingly intimate ways. I am not just talking about time in bed together though that is included. Some wives sleep with their children. This is ill-designed.
What do you need to change to create these times together? We all have the same amount of time. Each of us is busy. But is a good marriage your priority? What life patterns need to be changed to create these times and habits (think priority here). I have found it helpful as a husband to vocalize a need to change something and have my wife to keep me accountable. These changes often become settled in a good way. Priorities affect our scheduling.
In close connection to harmony is how well a couple handles conflict. Husbands and wives will at times disagree. This is fact. The question is how does one handle this conflict at its different stages: (1) before arguments break out, (2) during arguments or (3) after arguments have occurred.
Have you learned how to recognize your wrong (i.e., confess), apologize, handle shame, kindly speak to your spouse who misunderstands you, change your ways of handling conflict? This process of reconciliation recognizes that we are not perfect and can make wrong decisions with ensuing problems. We need to master this reconciliation process. Reconciliation does not mean that the issue is settled but on how you will lovingly, kindly and wisely discuss and handle the debated decision.
• How well have you mastered it?
• Do you resolve all husband-wife issues by bedtime (Ephesians 5:26)?
God has brought you together to accomplish His purpose. There are two sides to this. A husband looks out for how he can make his wife successful accomplishing what God has for her, and the wife is looking out on how she can help her husband be successful. But more than this, and this is the fun part, you are together seeking how God might use you both as a couple and a family to accomplish His greater purposes.
I fully believe God wants to do greater things through our lives than we could as singles. Part of this is obviously a couple’s privilege and duty to bring children into the world and train up lots of godly children as God provides. Children are a specialized fruit of the husband and wife’s union. Each child will grow up reflecting the parents values, looks, culture and talents. But there is more.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor” (Ecc 4:9).
We can accomplish more when we dream and pray together. God will show each couple what special ‘part’ they have in life and ministry. What does God have for you as a couple? Have you ever thought about it? Prayed about it? This is where the marriage begins to step into high gear. We have much we as a couple can share but this goes beyond our purpose here. Just think how great it would be if God prodded the husband and wife to give some guarded savings to some missionary or do some kind of special service in the neighborhood. God’s plans are so awesome!
A side benefit from focusing on God’s will is that the couple will argue less. Greater goals help keep issues in perspective. Will you argue about how $10 is spent? What if you are working on strategically giving away $2,500 to the poor? Greater goals help us keep our focus on greater objectives.
The third essential ingredient for a good and godly marriage is through the way a husband and wife specially care for his or her spouse. The Bible speaks about this. There are reasons you God has you two live together.
“Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecc 4:11-12).
A husband and wife should strategically and prayerfully seek out ways to bless his or her spouse. This is fun. Once you start, it is hard to stop. Instead of looking for ways to criticize, you are going out of your way to bless each other. This concept no doubt has a lot to do with the two major commands God has given to the husband and wife. Husbands are to love their wives and wives are to subject themselves to their husbands.
I can understand what you might be thinking. “I am already super busy and failing at what I should be doing. How can I open myself up to do more?” The Christian life is not based on what we as individuals can do but what God can do through us. Don’t focus one what you think you can do but on what God wants you to do. In this way you will live by faith and seek how He will do these things–often through your life but not always. It might seem a little bit crazy, but it works wonderfully. Let me give you two examples.
#1 A husband calls for the wife to do something, and yet she is busy doing something. What is her response? She has various choices, does she not? Each decision she might make is attached to different priorities. Hopefully she can put down what she does and listen to her husband. Today my wife mentioned she needed to buy some special mini pans. We were near some stores. She did look earlier but did not find them. I mentioned that I needed to get home to prepare. She delightfully said, “Okay.” Her gentle response made me think twice, very carefully evaluating if I absolutely had to get back that moment, how long it would take to look in this other store and how inconvenient it would be for her to have to get them on a special trip early Saturday morning. Do you see how her kind humble heart made me think for her?
#2 The wife mentions for the second time that something needs to be repaired.
As the husband I am looking for opportunities to please my wife. I know for her one of the greatest ways to assure her of my love is to timely care for things around the home. If she mentioned it a second time, do I pay attention? I do not like repetitive requests like most husbands so we have agreed to a list hung on the fridge where she makes a list of needed repairs. In this way I am reminded (I forget some and try to avoid others) and committed to fulfill them to the best of my abilities. When I need to fix a high leak, I need to seek God for courage to climb a ladder.
If she asked a second time, I as a husband, should recognize this is important to her-rather than be irritated that she bugged me again–and that I have not rightly responded to her the first time. Having been through this scenario more times than I would like to mention, I start to think why I have not acted on the repair in the first place. Usually there are good reasons (sometimes there are not any good reasons). But most importantly, I realize that my wife really loves to know that I love her. If I ignore the jobs, it is like ignoring her.
So she might have several things on the list, but I need to let her know how I am thinking about that one item and planning on it. Often, for example, I need to buy something before I can make the repair. Just by that simple explanation, she knows what my plans are and is joyous of my thoughts for her.