Have you ever noticed how no one ever starts a new diet on a Friday? Nope. We all know that Monday is the day to start a new diet. Along that same vein, most of us "know" the first of the month is the time to begin a new financial habit and the New Year is the time we wipe the slate clean and start fresh in just about every area of our lives. There isn't anything magical about January 1st but we seem to honor it as the day of new beginnings.
New beginnings are great, but there is a whole lot more to wiping the slate clean than just turning the page on the calendar. Take our marriages for example.
Marriage is a complex and wonderful relationship that at its best reflects a constant state of “clean slate” thinking and interaction. God’s design for marriage was to mirror His love for us – a love that is constantly faithful to forgive us and freely invites us into His loving presence to experience a deeper relationship with Him. Despite our calling to imitate God’s “clean slate” love, it is easy to fall short in our marriages. And over time, failing to love each other as God loves us can become “just the way things are” in our marriages.
Maintaining a clean slate marriage is not simply about having an absence of offenses in your relationship. It is having a fresh stream of living water running through the heart of your relationship at all times. As we formulate New Year’s resolutions to shed pounds, get organized and send birthday cards to all our friends and family on time this year (I always mess that one up!), we ought to also evaluate the state of our marriage. What is the fuel our relationship runs on? Where is our marriage headed? How are we growing? What is great about us as a couple? What isn’t?
If we want to have marriages with streams of Living Water running through the center, we need to honestly assess a few things:
1. Have you asked Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior? He promises Living Water to spring up in the dry places in your heart when you accept His sacrifice and invite Him into your life (John 4:14). If your spouse has not begun a relationship with Jesus, don’t give up hope. Pray for them diligently!
2. Do you seek Him daily through His Word? When we read, believe and act on the Bible the broken places in us as individuals and in our marriages can be washed clean (Ephesians 5:26, Romans 12:2). How much time do you read the Bible or Christian books together as a couple? It has taken my husband and I a lot of energy and focus to maintain a habit of reading together (and we don’t do it perfectly) but the blessings are incalculable. It draws us together, gives us perspective and grows us.
3. Do you pray together everyday? Studies have shown that couples who pray together, stay together! When my husband and I pray together we are drawn near to each other in honesty as we come before our Lord and all the worries and concerns are openly discussed with our Father. Sometimes busyness, tone of voice and all sorts of little daily things can cloud how we perceive our spouse’s love and support. When I hear my husband petition the Father on my behalf I see his love for me clearly. When I hear him lift up a weakness or mistake I can perceive his heart on the matter more plainly than I might in a discussion or just watching him go about life. Prayer is for us to communicate with God; not each other. But it can bless us to be prayed with and for by our spouse.
4. Do you regularly forgive your spouse? Bitter water can spring up between you when harsh words are exchanged, when confidences are broken and offenses racked up. Forgiving and asking for forgiveness will clean away the junk that can pile up between you and your spouse (1 John 1:9).
5. Are the things you devote your time and attention to constructive to your marriage? My husband and I have to fight the “demands of the daily” to take our weekly date nights (which might consist of staying home and just enjoying each other’s company without interruption instead of an expensive night on the town). Things like TV, video games, the phone, internet, etc can steal away hours that could have been spent in something that would bear fruit. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but they can distract and eventually dry up that abundant stream that is supposed to flow through the heart of a marriage.
Having a clean slate in marriage isn’t about dates on a calendar. It is about the attitude we carry in our hearts toward one another and the things we allow to flow through the center of our relationship. It is about treasuring your relationship enough to devote the energy and purpose to guard the quality of your marriage. May rivers of abundant love, joy and peace flow through the heart of your marriage in 2009!
For a free list of 31 ways to cultivate a “clean slate marriage” contact us at info@InHisEyesMinistries.com.
April Motl and her husband, Eric, minister at their church in Southern California where he is a pastor on staff. April is the founder of In His Eyes Ministries; a teaching ministry devoted to helping women see their life from God’s perspective. For more information about the ministry visit www.InHisEyesMinistries.com.