My husband and I will have been married for 40 years in just a few months. We were very young and immature in more ways than one! For the first 7 or 8 years we would fight like cats and dogs. It did not matter where we were or who we were around, we would fight constantly and loudly. You would have thought that we would have wanted to hide this horrible part of our relationship, but we just did not care. We did not care how others saw us or how uncomfortable we made them, nor did we care how poorly we were treating each other, leaving wounds through anger and words.
There have been a few things throughout our time together that have impacted the way we communicate to one another. Our greatest work came through the Holy Spirit working on each of us as individuals, taking us through a sanctification process. We both became accountable to more mature godly individuals. These men and women became spiritual mothers and fathers to us, something that we will be forever grateful for. We invested in our relationship, by studying, reading books, and attending marriage conferences. Through these avenues our communication has grown and blossomed into one of the most beautiful parts of our relationship.
What is Sanctification?
Websters defines the verb of sanctification as to be set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use: CONSECRATE: to free from sin: PURIFY: to impart or impute sacredness: to give moral or social sanction: to make productive holiness or piety. This is a process, that as people within a relationship with Christ, we are in from the time we commit our hearts to Jesus, until we are taken from this earth. Romans 6:19 (NIV) says that we should present ourselves as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
I Thessalonians 4:22-23 (NIV) asks God to sanctify all of us, body, soul, and spirit, so that we can be preserved and brought before God blameless. Submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit and to His word causes us to change. In His kindness, He reveals areas that we need to submit to Him, or to let go, or maybe we just need to work on. As we obey, we become more like Him, and begin to tap into the freedom that He has to offer us.
How do I find Godly counsel?
Through His word, we realized that we needed accountability and began to ask God to show us who we needed to submit ourselves to. Whose life reflected God in a way that it radiated off them? Who did we hear speaking His word in response to questions? Was there anyone we could trust enough to become openly vulnerable to, that would not judge us or our spouse? Who would speak the truth to us, even if it was hard? As God provided these men and women in our lives, they became safe places to go to for counsel. This was not a gossip session, but to pursue godly counsel.
This support strengthened and trained us to walk in the ways of the Lord. If we ever hit a brick wall and just did not know what to do or say, we would call one of these people and listen with an open heart and mind to their wisdom. This iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17 NIV) can be difficult to listen to at times but knowing that these men and women love God and love us unconditionally, allows us to process what they might see in us. Giving us the opportunity to tear down the deceptions we may have within our own perceptions and let us internalize a truth we might not have been able to see on our own. This is so valuable as we all are deceived in some areas, and God can use others to speak truth in love into our lives.
What should we do as a couple?
As mentioned in a previous blog, we are all either making deposits into or withdrawals from our relationships. Not one couple on this earth has “arrived” and is walking in perfection. We are all flawed and in need of a Savior. At no point should we stop watering and tending to the gift of marriage that God has given us. Whether we have been married for 1 month or 50 years, we need to continue to invest. Read together, take courses, go to retreats or conferences to learn how to make our marriages better reflect the image of Christ and glean off others that have already walked in the season we are in now.
A great place to start is learning through God's word what a faith-based marriage entails and leave behind the performance-based tendencies we each fall into. Marriage takes a lot of work, but when we intentionally deposit into our marriages, the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices we make.