Sunday, February 17, 2008

Talk About It!

During the Christmas holidays, we were blessed to have my whole family here with us for about a week. It was a refreshing time of fellowship and outright craziness (which is wont to happen when my family gathers), but we also had some serious conversations. One of those happened one evening when we found ourselves alone with my brother and sister-in-law.

Someone in Ronna's family has been struggling with their marriage, and one of Patrick's dear friends from childhood and college recently divorced. All this to say that Patrick's spirit has been heavy with concern for the marriages of those he loves, and came to the conclusion that no matter how uncomfortable or awkward, he would talk about marriage with his friends and family. Talk about it within the context of scripture, ask questions and make sure that those he loves are not careening towards an unbiblical divorce. Not in a rude or pushy way, but in the spirit of Christian love and bearing with one another with patience.

As background to this conversation, Patrick and Trevor had already had several conversations over the course of the week regarding marriage and role of a Christian husband. So, as we were sitting there drinking coffee and enjoying the fire, Patrick began asking questions about our marriage and sharing things about his own. As the conversation progressed, Trevor shared some things about our marriage that had been on his heart for a long time. In particular, the fact that he felt like I nagged him.

Imagine complete and total shock here.

"I do not nag!" I thought. "I have to remind him of everything because if I don't, it won't get done unless I do it!! He gets mad when I remind him of stuff, but I get tired of doing everything!!" And do you know what it all boiled down to? Laundry. His greatest issue with our marriage involved laundry, and how much he hates doing it. We share pretty much all of the housework equally because we both work full-time, and we both hate doing laundry. Not just that, but we have completely different methods for completing the job. I do it in spurts during the week. As the laundry finishes in the dryer, I fold and/or hang the clothes and then put them away. Trevor tends to wait until Sunday afternoon, and then do all 6 loads at once. He leaves the folded clothes on the dining room table and the hanging clothes in the utility room.

All day.

Or, all week if he has done a load or two on Wednesday.

Can you tell that this really bothers me? So, what usually happens is that I have to "remind" him to do a load mid-week, and then I have to "remind" him all day Sunday to do the laundry and then put it away because for the love of Pete, does it have to STAY ON THE TABLE??!!!

At first (okay, pretty much the whole time), I felt as though I was being attacked. What was he thinking sharing these things with OTHER PEOPLE? I have to add that although I felt a bit ganged-up on, everything said during this conversation was done in a loving, thoughtful way. Trevor did not attack me or say hurtful things. The only thing that was hurtful about it was the fact that I had to recognize my sins when I was faced with them, and it hurt my pride.

When we went to bed that night, I was a bit irritated with Trevor. I wish I could say that I was completely receptive and open to their loving advice and admonition, but sadly, I was just hurt. Not hurt that Patrick cared enough to ask those hard questions, but hurt that Trevor had these issues with me that I didn't even know about and I had to find out in a group meeting. Angry because I still felt like I was right and that he was just blowing things out of proportion. If he would just do the laundry the right my way, I wouldn't have to nag remind him. If he loved me, he would see how much his method bothered me and would change to make me happy, right?

Well, although issues were aired we didn't really resolve anything that night. We prayed together that evening for our marriages and for each of us to be obedient to scripture and embrace the roles that God intended for each of us. In the days following that conversation, I saw changes in the way Trevor did the laundry and I made an effort to recognize when I was nagging (and believe me, it wasn't just about the laundry!).

Over time, I could see that our marriage was stronger because of that conversation. I don't mean to minimize it to laundry, because it was so much more than that, but the laundry example revealed some of the issues that we were having. The amazing thing is that I didn't even really realize that there was a problem, but once it was addressed things were so much better. Our status quo needed a boost, and I am so glad that Patrick was willing to put himself out there and show concern for our marriage.

So this past Monday when it was time to hand over the laundry reins to Trevor for his week of personal hell, I had a great idea. How better to show him that I love him than to offer to take those reins forever? I really didn't like doing it, but my distaste had nothing on his all consuming hatred of all things laundry. So I offered to take over the laundry.

Imagine complete and total shock here.

Now, in my mind, I was going to barter with him. As in, "I will do all of the laundry if you agree to take over the litter box duties." (Oh, how I hate cleaning that thing!!) But as I sat there telling him that I would do the laundry, I realized that making a deal was not the way to serve my husband in our marriage. I needed to cheerfully do this without the expectation of getting something out of it.

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. Romans 12:10

So, praise the Lord and pass the peas, I held my tongue. Although he expressed the opinion that it didn't sound like much a deal for me, he gratefully accepted my offer. We sat there for a few minutes, and this is what came out of my husband's mouth:

"I'll tell you what. Since you are going to do the laundry, I'll take responsibility for the litter box from now on."

Imagine complete and total shock here.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, does He not? I was just knocked over (for the millionth time) at how my obedience results in blessing. I love the way that Patrick described the marriage relationship. He said that it should not be about making deals and making sure everything is split down the middle, rather two people trying to "outserve" one other. When Trevor does something for me, I naturally want to do something for him. One act of kindness or sacrifice just builds on itself and our marriage blooms.

All of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. I Peter 5:5-7

All of this to say that I think we need to talk about our marriages. Even if your marriage is healthy and you are content with your spouse, we should talk about our marriages. I thought that we were content until we really got down to the nitty gritty with another Christian couple who love us and fervently desire that we have a Godly marriage. Don't be afraid. Counsel with one another in a safe, non-threatening environment and use scripture as your guide.

The church today is so afraid to tackle the subject of marriage (and divorce) for fear of upsetting members and stepping on toes, but we are called to bear with and lift one another up. How many Christian marriages could have been saved had we talked about it? If people didn't feel embarassed and awkward to share their own failings and seek forgiveness?

So talk about it. Share with and pray for one another. Get it out in the open and demonstrate the Christian love and affection to which we are called. I'm glad that we did, and I look forward to that next conversation.

For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
2 Corinthinans 7:8-10.


Rhonda said...

Wow Xandra! Excellent post. Bless you for your honesty. Marriage is one of my passions. It grieves me when I see couples not trying.

We do need to talk about our marriages. We can't assume that everything is fine.

Opening ourselves up can be risky. But...why settle for mediocre.

We want to have the intimacy that God intended us to have.

Alana said...

You are so right. Communication is key and sometimes a mediator is necessary to aid that communication. I think it is great you guys had that conversation. I'm glad it was fruitful!

Karen (Pediascribe) said...

Beautiful post. I loved it!

luvmy4sons said...

I so appreciate your honesty! Awesome! And it is neat to see God bless us when we are obedient to His ways, whic are so far above our ways and stretch very painfully at times. Submit ye one to another! Way to go girlfriend!

Mocha with Linda said...

Wow. Hit right between the eyes, why don't ya?! I needed this today. Excellent thoughts.

Alicia said...

I love this. Why is it so hard for us to just talk to eachother about this stuff? Thank you!

Andrea said...

That post was wonderful, Xandra. I loved it. And it is so true...we are called to SERVE out spouse without thoughts of what is 'owed' to us in return.

ps: I have something for you over at my place...

Greatfullivin said...

Awesome post Xandra! I am still on vacation so I will make this short and sweet. I agree with you totally. I think all it takes is willingness for the Lord to work out all the details of our lives. Thank you so much for sharing this intamate look into solving a "non-problem" in your marriage. Blessings!