It's a funny thing I think about marriage. One week all is well and then the next, ah, well...life happens. We each have our strengths and weaknesses that we bring to our marriages.
A few years ago, there was a book that was very popular titled Love and Marriage by Emmerson Eggerichs. I will always remember my husband's opinion of this book. He disagreed with the premise of the book. The premise was that if the wife respects her husband, then the husband will love his wife. It was the "If..then..." that concerned my husband. In his mind, there is no guarantee in marriage. I know many people were encouraged by this book and I am glad for that. But, I'm very aware that there is no "right way" to do marriage or to be a parent. We cannot guarantee the outcome of our efforts. But, what we can do is do our best to glorify God in our marriages and as parents.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men...
4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
My favorite book about marriage is This Momentary Marriage by John Piper. When I read that book, it was the first time that someone explained to me what it means to "bear with one another in love." This is something that I needed to be reminded of today. In his book, Piper, explains that we need to forbear and forgive: "1) because there is going to be conflict based on sin, we need to forgive sin and forbear strangeness, and sometimes you won't even agree on which is which; 2) because the hard, rugged work of forgiving and forbearing is what makes it possible for affections to flourish when they seem to have died; and 3) because God gets glory when two very different and very imperfect people forge a life of faithfulness in the furnace of affliction by relying on Christ." (p. 53) In Piper's book, he explains that we are each responsible to forgive and bear with our spouse as Christ has forgiven us. Our forgiveness is not based upon what the other has done, or rather not done, for us. We are each responsible for our own hearts.
So, what are these things that make up our "strangeness"? What do they look like? How can you try and navigate them (and accept them)?
This week, I read a book titled Do Your Kids a Favor...Love Your Spouse by Kendra Smiley with John Smiley. Though this book is not connected in any way to This Momentary Marriage, it answers those questions about our strangeness. The primary aspects that Ms. Smiley focuses on are gender differences and temperament differences. Both of these are very valid and important, I think. In a culture that continually tries to tell us men and women are equal and even the same, we need to remember that God created men and women differently! So, there's bound to be some conflict! In the next chapter, she talks about temperaments and how understanding your spouse's temperament can help you love (and forbear with them) better. Ms. Smiley then moves on to family and both the baggage and traditions we bring into our marriages--two more sources of strangeness. As I read these chapters, I felt like I was reading a summary of what I've learned in the past 10 years. How nice it would have been to read this about 8 years ago and realized that most of us struggle with the same things! Now 8 years later, it's a nice reminder of what we've learned and the territory we've learned to navigate through.
What I did like, in particular, about this book is how it addresses the relationship of marriage to parenting and family. I remember early on in our marriage hearing a talk on Family Life Today in which the topic was how important it is to make your marriage a priority. I have listened to many testimonies about how easy to get lost in the busyness of childrearing and lose sight of your marriage. I remember consciously deciding that our little ones would go in their own room at 4 weeks old and that we would not have night time guests in our room. I needed to protect our bedroom--it was not our children's space.
If you have been married several years, you've probably learned what's in Do Your Kids A Favor...Love Your Spouse but if you know a young couple who's just starting out in their marriage and has just begun to have children, then I think this would be an encouraging and easy book to read.
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of Ms. Smiley's book from Moody Publishing for review.