Being a Lumberjack in Marriage
- Jay Sklar, Ph.D. Two Becoming One
- 2003 18 Sep
The purpose of a lumberjack is fairly straightforward: to clear the land of trees. As a result, lumberjacks are not concerned with sawdust — they are concerned with trees and the removal of trees. The problem in many marriages, though, is that we are more concerned with the sawdust than with the trees.
Being more offended by my sin than the sin of my spouse
What I mean is this. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says these words: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). The basic principle that Jesus is getting at is simply this: Be more offended by your own sin than you are by the sin of others. That is why Jesus tells us to take the log out of our own eye before we take the speck out of someone else’s eye. What He is saying is that our own sin should offend us so much that the sins of others – including our spouse! – are like a speck of sawdust when compared to the log that is in our own eye.
Being a lumberjack in marriage
What this calls for, then, is nothing short of being a lumberjack in marriage! That is to say, focus on the trees in your own life and not the sawdust in the life of your spouse! One of the greatest dangers in marriage is that we begin to focus on the “specks” in our spouse’s eyes. Indeed, we become very good at describing the specks, are often impatient with them, and begin to point them out whenever we get a chance. The result? A marriage in which we tear our spouse down more than we build our spouse up. A marriage in which our love and respect for our spouse begin to diminish because we consistently focus on their faults and shortcomings with a judgmental attitude.
But when we are lumberjacks in marriage – focusing on clearing the logs out of our own eyes and not the sawdust in our spouse’s eyes – the result is totally different. Notice Jesus’ words: “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” What happens when we focus first upon the depth of our own sin – the log in our eye – before we focus on the sins of our spouses? First and foremost, it will humble us, for we begin to realize that for every speck of sin that we find in our spouse’s eyes we have a log of sin in our own! And when we have been humbled by the depth of our own sin, not only will the sin of our spouses be put in better perspective, our attitude towards their sin will be different. Instead of being quick to judge and quick to tear down, we will be quick to pray and quick to encourage and build up. After all, we know the pain and misery of having a log in our own eye, and will have compassion on our spouses for the pain and misery that the speck in their eye is causing.
A humbling and unnatural task
Being a lumberjack in marriage is a humbling and unnatural task. It is humbling because it calls for us to be honest – brutally honest – with our sin. And it is unnatural because by nature we want to make our sin seem less real, less deep, and less ugly than it really is. We want to preserve our dignity as much as possible. As a result, we often minimize or even ignore our own sin on the one hand, while at the same time focusing in upon and maximizing the sin of our spouse on the other hand. What is to be done?
The answer is straightforward but not necessarily easy. It is simply this: to humble ourselves before the Lord. What does that mean? It means to come before the Lord in prayer, acknowledging His greatness, His holiness, and our sinfulness. It means to confess before Him the specific ways that we have fallen short of His standard and that we continue to fall short of His standard. And it means to claim His forgiveness and cleansing for all of our sins (1 John 1:9), to praise His glorious love and mercy to sinful people, and to go into the world – and into our marriage – as forgiven and humble people.
So what about it? Are you ready to pick up an ax?
[insert CFL tag info here from "The Tongue: Life or Death in Our Marriage?"]