Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thou Shalt Begin Again and Again

Well, we're nearing the end of this series.  I've enjoyed reading this book and posting.  Have you?  What have you learned?  Are you putting anything into practice?  Well, if you haven't found anything to work on yet, try this one.  This week's commandment is

Thou Shalt Begin Again and Again

It's true.  50% of all marriages end in divorce.  That is a sad, sad, sad statistic.  But it's very real in today's society.  You either decide to work on your marriage, or you decide to give up on it.  Many people get married thinking that if it doesn't work out, they can always get out of it.  That if they disagree about something, they don't have to work it out.  Instead, they can just "make it go away."  That is not how God intended marriage to be.

But how do we stop this cycle?

Malachi 2:16 says,
"'I hate divorce,' says the Lord God of Israel, 'and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,' says the Lord Almighty.
So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith."

God hates divorce.  He says it right there.  But in today's society, it's the norm.  Is there something that we can do to prevent it?


Give each other second chances.  And third chances, and fourths, and fifths, and so on.  God is a God of second chances, so why shouldn't we give each other more than one chance?  We are human.  We mess up.  We sure as heck aren't going to get marriage right on the first try. I am redeemed by Him.  He makes my imperfections, my hurt, my damaged heart into something new, fresh, and alive!  If He can do that with me, then I know He can do that with you.  And he can definitely do that with any marriage.

In the book, Ed gives 6 principles for beginning again and again.  I'd like to share them with you, if that's alright.

1.  Acceptance.
"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."  Romans 15:7
We are to accept one another, flaws and all.  After all, that's how Jesus accepted me.  He accepted all of me, unconditionally.  Sometimes this is a stretch.  But pray and ask God to help you accept your mate, just as they are.  God made them, and He made you.  He made us all in the image of Himself.  We must learn to accept one another as they are, unconditionally, because that's how Jesus accepts us.

2.  Attention.
"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart."  
1 Peter 1:22
What would you have done in a dating relationship if your guy always wanted to hang out with his friends?  He only wanted to hang out with you on Fridays, but all the other days he wanted to hang with his friends.  You would have left because you didn't feel like he was giving you the attention you deserved, right?  Same here...giving your mate attention is like telling them you love them without actually saying those words.  There are so many ideas on how to pay attention to your mate:  compliment them, call them, buy them a gift, encourage them.  This might help you start at the beginning again and again.

3.  Adjustment.
"And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."
Ephesians 5:21
Many people get married thinking that they can change their mate.  Uh, wrong!!  You can't change anyone.  But you can change yourself!  When you submit to one another, to each other's needs, wants, goals, desires, we'll have a happy marriage.  I've heard many a times, "I can't change...it's the way I am," THAT'S A LIE STRAIGHT FROM THE DEVIL HIMSELF.  Just keepin' it real, people.  You can change, and sometimes we have to pray and ask God to help us change.  To help us get over our selfishness and inflexibility.  When you have the right mindset, God will change your heart, and in turn it may change your spouse.

4.  Amnesty.
"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:32
Forgiveness is one of the key ingredients to making a marriage work.  When you tell the other person that you forgive them (and really mean it), it means that you've canceled their debts and wrongdoings.  However, amnesty really means that you make the other person innocent of all their wrongdoings.  You let it go, like it never happened.  And if you're like me, this is a step that I have to begin again and again.

5.  Appreciation.
"Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing."
1 Thessalonians 5:11
We have to encourage each other, and when encouragement happens, appreciation happens. But we also have to build one another up.  Our bodies are temples, and we must build each other up so that we have layers and layers of value in our temples.  Ed states, "Think of what happens when you buy and improve a piece of property.  It increases in value;  its value appreciates.  The same thing happens when we encourage and build up our mates."  We need to do this on a daily basis.

6.  Affection.
"The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband."
1 Corinthians 7:3
Affection is not meant for just a woman or just a man.  It's something that each person needs. However, the wife's need for affection is strong.  So strong, in fact, that if she doesn't receive it, it can be what causes an extramarital affair.  Affection is to a woman as sex is to a man.  But affection is what sets the "atmosphere" of the relationship, if you will.  It's important to meet each other's needs in this area.

Keep on, keepin' on.  When both partners are committed to each other forever, it's a beautiful thing.  I'm so thankful to have seen my grandparents and parents stay committed to each other.  My grandparents were married over 50 years, and my parents have almost been married 30 years.  Growing up, I always knew my parents would work things out.  Divorce wasn't a word that was allowed in our house.  I was glad to know that at an early age, so I didn't have to worry.  It's something that Tyler and I practice too.  We know that no matter what, we're committed to each other.  Forever.  Til death do us part.  But it's also a work-in-progress.  We have to always be bettering ourselves, working on ourselves, and working on our marriage.  You have to work at marriage, no matter who you married.  

Questions to reflect on this week:

  1. What three things would you differently if you could start your marriage over?
  2. Which of the six steps to "beginning again" does your marriage need the most?  Explain.
  3. Would you consider your marriage warm and loving, hot and cold, or dry and barren?  In what ways?
  4. Have you hugged your husband or wife today?

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