A lot of failure

Last night I posted about priorities, and how so far in our marriage I have not really taken Lindsey’s priorities up as my own. This has caused tension, and a few arguments. My post and our discussion yesterday had me thinking all day today, and I kept coming back to one thing: I am called to love and serve Lindsey. That is my primary duty as a husband, and honestly it is something I want to do well. Yet, I fail. Consistently.

This failure is no surprise to… well, anyone. People are not perfect; we are all broken and have our failings and blind spots. The biggest implication of our brokenness in a marriage can be seen in a simple math problem:

1 person who fails + 1 person who fails = a lot of failure

As I have posted before, getting married does not solve your problems. It doubles them. This may seem too simple of an explanation, but my guess is that any married person, anyone with siblings, or really anyone who doesn’t live alone in the wilderness knows this to be true. This is the profound, and yet faulty, ground upon which all human relationships are built.

Because this is the case, we only have two options: we can play the game of balancing wrong against wrong and apology against apology, or we can extend grace to one another and tear down the scoreboard. In our house we strive for the latter, but I confess that I often revert back to scorekeeping. I’m like the soccer dad whose kid plays in a no-score league and yet can’t help but to keep track of the goals on his iPhone from the sidelines.

So today my prayers and actions have been towards two goals. I have sought to look to the example of the one who washed his followers feet and sacrificed all for them, and serve my wife first. Second, I have confessed that I cannot change myself on my own, I need God to change my heart. That’s the only way to fix anything within me.

“Will it work?” you ask. I dont know for sure, but I have faith that it will.

Through similar prayers God has changed my heart unbelievably over the last six years, so this faith of mine is not blind. The only way for me to know is to keep pressing on, to keep seeking change through God, and keep serving my wife.

Honestly, it sounds like a really good plan.

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Priorities

We had a good little argument tonight. I use the word ‘good’ deliberately because it brought some things to light for me.

First, the selfishness of the human heart is incredibly ingrained, and in my case hardened by ten years of living alone. I am so used to reacting out of my own interests that it’s second nature. Then, when it becomes obvious that I am being selfish I jump to defend myself, usually harshly. I know we all handle it differently, but I’m not unique, this is a universal pattern.

Second, I have not fully (you might argue not even partially) adjusted to having a wife with priorities that I should place above my own. This is still selfish, but in a marriage I think this is particularly egregious. If we are called to serve our spouse, or as a husband to love my wife as Jesus loves his church, then putting my priorities above hers is an awfully bad place to start.

Yet that is exactly what I have done with a couple of important things lately. So, after our discussion in which I realized what I had been doing I confessed these things to Lindsey and she forgave me. This is the most important part of an argument, the confession and forgiveness. Without confession and forgiveness hearts get hard and bitterness sets , but with them, we can learn, accept and grow. Of course, that is exactly what any marriage needs.

Confession and Grace

This is the second part of our series about our experience in pre-marital counseling. We’ve learned that you need to plan for the marriage at least as much as you plan for the wedding, and in this series we will explore what that means. 

Series: Introduction | Part 1

In software and computer engineering there is an important concept called resiliency. This means that a system has the ability to tolerate faults, or errors, and continue running successfully.  I think this is also a great goal for our marriages. We should plan, design, and build marriages to be able to withstand our faults and errors. Because those faults and errors will certainly come, our imperfect nature ensures it.

One of the biggest, but simplest, lessons we learned in the course of our counseling is that sin is at the heart of all conflicts we will have as a couple. We must adjust our thinking and relationship to accommodate this fact, or our marriage will be quite brittle. There are two things which directly lead to this kind of fault tolerance… confession and grace.

Confession is the start of building this sort of relationship. It is vital that we are open and honest with our spouses about everything, not only the everyday stuff but also about our shortcomings and failures. It won’t surprise them, I promise you. They already know you aren’t perfect.

This has played out for Lindsey and me in two keys ways. First, we both maintain a healthy prayer life in which we confess our sins to God. We pray both alone and together daily, and confession is a key part of that for both of us. Second, when there is conflict between us or one of us has sinned in a significant way, we confess it to each other and ask for forgiveness. While this was hard at first and will continue to be in many situations, we have also seen a lot of growth in our trust of each other as a result.

It is that growth that brings me to the next point. In this context, grace is the necessary response to confession. We are to show grace to others just as God has shown grace to us. When the response of the aggrieved spouse is rooted in grace we are truly ministering to each other in a way that points to the grace that Christ provides for those very same sins. For couples who take Ephesians 5 seriously, this is important stuff.

As you can see confession and grace in a marriage cooperate together to provide a firm and flexible foundation. It’s like the earthquake-proof buildings that have springs built into their foundations, when the earth beneath starts moving those springs provide critical flexibility to keep the building from collapsing. A marriage full of confession and grace has that same flexibility, and is more equipped to handle shocks and struggles.