"Repent of selfishness and put your spouse first." That was the opening point of Pastor Mark's sermon this morning, followed by this statement, "The reason you fight over silly things is SELFISHNESS." And right there in the first five minutes of the message I slumped in my seat and shrunk away from my hubby, who had the grace not to shoot any pointed glances my way. Immediately God brought to my mind each and every little thing (and I do mean little) that I had gotten my feathers ruffled over in the last week. See if any of these statements sound familiar... "You don't listen to me." "You'd rather watch tv than talk to me." (wonder why that could be ??) "You don't care if I'm having a bad day." Looking back at the little frustrations from the week, I began to see a theme. The theme of ME. It was all about Kari, Kari's feelings, Kari's needs, Kari's thoughts,etc. And I was reminded of something that I know well, but somehow manage to lose sight of all too often. As long as I am focused on Kari, he will never be.
All women want a romantic, passionate relationship with their husbands, but most of us give up and resign ourselves to just "getting along" and coexisting peacefully. Like that could ever be enough. God created us with all of this passion and longing to be lovely to someone for a reason. But in trying to "make" him wake up and be sensitive and romantic, I managed to make myself quite unlovely indeed. I just kept thinking, "I know he has it in him, he used to be so loving and thoughtful. What happened?" Well, in church this morning, I received (less than joyfully, I must admit) the answer to that question. I had changed. I had, little by little, allowed my own interests and desires to become more important to me than meeting his needs and putting him first. A selfish cycle in marriage happens so naturally that we rarely see it coming until it is in full swing and we are bickering and distant.
Having failed at this "marriage thing" in the past, I am determined that by God's grace I will get it right this time or die trying! I wish it were easier to overcome my selfish habits and ways. I truly did not realize until this morning just how selfish I had become! It is just so natural to be "in it for me". But I am finding more and more that to follow Christ means to go against the grain of what comes naturally. I am thankful He loves me enough to guide me back onto the path when I stray, which is more often than I like to admit, but not as often as it once was. Progress, not perfection, as a dear and trusted counselor has said to me many times.
I am including the "Communication Don'ts" from today's sermon, because they are such great reminders of what it takes to have a happy, healthy home.
1. Don't stomp out of the house (when there is a conflict).
2. Don't freeze your spouse out. (the silent treatment)
3. Don't put down your spouse outside the home. You can't respect someone in private that you disrespect in public.
4. Don't fight in front of the children. No raised voices or using the kids as weapons.
5. Don't reverse an argument. (don't turn it around on your spouse and bring up old offenses, "well, that may be true, but YOU..."
6. Don't reason in the face of pain. If your spouse is hurting, comfort them. Do not try and explain it away or tell them all the reasons they shouldn't feel that way.
None of us are perfect, and we are not married to perfect men. We have to, as women, learn to look honestly at ourselves and the messages we are sending our husbands. What do they hear in our tone of voice? What do they see in our expressions? I fear that too often the message is not "I love you. I appreciate you. I respect you. I am proud of you." Lord help me to be ever mindful of these things. Help me learn to love well, serve well, and to honor You in my marriage, to reflect Your kindness, grace, compassion and gentleness. I know this is Your will for me, so I know that it will be done, and I thank You.