Along these lines, a former pastor of mine and very wise man, Mike Bullmore, once recommended that I have a weekly conversation with my wife to do just this. Some weeks get busy, but I think this has been the single most helpful piece of practical advice Bethany, my sanctification partner, and I have received.

This is needed, by the way, not just by the downcast among us, those who cannot help but wear their pain on their faces. It is needed by high-achieving couples, those who are always smiling, those who seem impervious to normal struggles. Healthy marriages definitely do exist. But we can also paper over our hurts. As a husband, take time this week to ask your wife, without any arguing back, how you can care for her better and not hurt her through sin. Are you two locked in patterns that make you ships in the night -- the marriage hums along, things seem fine, but there's little direct spiritual edification happening?

In truth, all of us are fighting sin together. Every marriage requires hard work. Don't pretend. Don't mask sin. Don't say you're a sinner but then act, practically, as if you're not. The most mature among us are not those who seem never to offend God and man, but those who know they are going to sin and who actively hunt their sin down, in part by engaging with their spouse or loved ones.

Christians are not perfect people who can avoid repentance. Through Christ, Christians are called to be experts in repentance. The good news: wherever we find ourselves, we can grow, and change, and light can flood the room.

(c) Baptist Press. Used with permission.

Owen Strachan is Assistant Professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College. This column first appeared at Patheos.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter, Facebook, and in your email.

Publication date: March 25, 2013