Marriages crumbling, right and left.
It messes with my heart.
Seems like in our marriages, we are like buttons stitched to fabric, and the Stitcher means for them to be sewn together for life. God Himself has stitched us to one another, vow by vow.
And it would be awesome if nothing ever tugged or pulled at these buttons after that! But we know that's just not the case.
Annoyances arise. Our differences go from "cute" to "infuriating." The money isn't there, and our schedules have us...well, missing each other like two ships passing in the night. God blesses us with kids, but then by the time they're all tucked into bed at the end of a long day and there's finally a moment together, that moment looks like two exhausted individuals who couldn't even make it past the opening credits of our favorite show.
Enter that somebody from the past we rediscover online. Or that attentive co-worker. Or that listening ear we find ourselves hoping we'll run into again today.
Enter an enemy who loathes marriage--one who hates that our unions are meant to represent the bond between Christ and the church, who wants to twist and distort that picture for a watching world. The one who prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), who delights in dismantling what God has joined together. The one who is hell-bent on subtly tugging on these buttons until one day, they fall off. And he slips out the back door, leaving fractured families in his wake.
Yes, there is one who is against us, against marriage, and against the idea of the ones God has joined actually finishing together. BUT THERE IS ONE WHO IS FOR US--and FOR our marriages. And if God Himself is for us, then who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? He gives greater grace...and wisdom to know how to keep doing the maintenance of stitching on buttons that have suffered wear-and-tear:
Acts of consideration. I try to make my husband's coffee every day--and bring him a cup of coffee on weekend mornings. He had flowers waiting when I returned home from a trip recently. We check with one another before making commitments. Just little ways to say, "I'm mindful of you."
Make Date Night a Priority. Really. It's too expensive? Yeah...but so are divorce lawyers.
Words. What we say. How we say it. How calmly we say it. Even how quietly we say it! I just read an article from a now-divorced man who identified some areas in which he wished he'd acted differently, and he mentioned the trouble with yelling. Not yelling AT your spouse (although that seems like a pretty clear NO), but yelling TO your spouse. He said he wished he hadn't yelled throughout the house to ask his wife something, but had taken the few extra moments and steps to go find her and ask her something. Also, speaking kindly TO and ABOUT your spouse is really critical. Every time we build each other up with words is just one more stitch.
Be a patient mom/dad. Not perfect, but attentive. Not flawless, but involved. Grace-filled in our interactions with our little ones. There's something about seeing my husband caring for our children that seems to stitch him tighter to my heart. And while my husband and I do not raise our voices with each other, he sees me lose my cool with the kids from time to time. I mean, really--how attractive is someone who is impatiently hollering at your kids about homework or chores--even if the message is deserved? I find that when I am patient with our children, it's an asset to our marriage, too.
Laugh. Play. Yes. Sometimes it can feel like the only conversations we're having are kid-related or schedule-related. We can feel like co-workers pretty quickly if we don't ever do day-off kind of stuff together. Laugh. Play. Make FUN a priority.
Ferociously guard what is precious. Yeah, that would be your marriage. So be "extreme" in protecting it. Whatever it takes. It's worth you being extreme. Maybe it means sharing all passwords--seriously. If you know your spouse has access to what you're doing and saying, it is a good safeguard against conversations and connections that have no business taking place. Affairs happen quickly sometimes, but more often they are a long time in the making. So just because you're far back from "crossing a line" doesn't mean it's safe to engage in risky behavior like emotionally-driven conversations with someone other than your spouse. That line can get very close very quickly, with a momentum that is hard to fight.
And so we begin to look at our actions within marriage as "maintenance stitches."
A cup of coffee made for your spouse is not just a cup of coffee. It's a stitch.
Avoiding anyone who is becoming a temptation? A stitch. A gosh-darn important stitch.
Remembering to kiss each other hello and goodbye? Those kisses are stitches made.
Every time you put them first instead of you, every graceful reaction, every prayer spoken over your spouse...
Stitch, stitch, stitch.
Let's do some stitching, y'all. Our marriages are totally worth it.
* Please check out my friends over at Marriage Adventures who love seeing people finish together and have a fabulous life together along the way, and Amanda at Royal Daughter who is leading #PrayerDare over at her blog.