"His" and "hers" might be embroidered on towels, robes and coffee mugs, but when it comes to issues of the heart, there is no "yours" or "mine" -- it is all "ours." As a married couple, your life is joined as one, whether or not it feels like it at the moment. What affects you, affects your spouse.
When someone says something hurtful about my man, I feel it -- perhaps even more intensely than he does and visa versa. When one of us is down in the dumps, the other is also influenced. When my hubby is happy, nothing could bring me more joy. The same principal is at work in other ways too.
Recently my husband and I were talking about some childhood experiences that painted a long and large streak across the canvas of our lives. Those events set a tone to the way we think about certain things and even as adults we can both freshly taste the emotions surrounding the experience. Many of us have familiarity with this concept. One experience can set a tone for much of the rest of life, for better or for worse.
Our Lord does not want His children wallowing in pits of despair over past pain. Jesus said, "I have come that they (that's YOU!) might have life and have it more abundantly" John 10:10. Yet part of God's genius is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28) in His beautiful plan of redemption. That means God wants to make the baggage part of the plan. He wants to give it purpose and redefine it so it doesn't define you!
When my hubby shared how he was now seeing the strands of influence that one experience had in his life, I began to pray that God would release any strongholds in Eric's life and that God would cover the experience with His grace and perspective for him.
Life is bumpy. As we travel the road of life, we all get bumps and bruises along the way. However, as a spouse, you have within your special role the ability to help heal those wounds like no other person besides Jesus! Don't misunderstand me -- I'm not saying to fix your spouse! I am saying as a wife or a husband your support and unconditional love can make your other half feel safe and valued enough to go through whatever issue is facing them.
Think over some of these areas of your marriage and invite God to wash each one with His truth:
- Family background. Many couples carry baggage from their parents' substance abuses, divorce, domestic abuse, anger, etc. Does that affect the way you or your spouse interact or handle problems?
- Childhood/young adult experiences. Has a past pain held you in its grip? Many times depression, anxiety and anger can stem from unresolved pain. You or your spouse may have over stated emotions in a current situation that really ties to an old experience.
- Past romantic relationships. If you have been married before or even in a serious relationship, those relationships can be like shadows lurking around your current marriage. We are wise to dig deep and uproot any entanglements these might have in our hearts. Cherish only one love in your heart and don't define your spouse by the actions of previous amours.
- Hurts from your marriage. Regardless of whether you have been married two years or twenty-five, hurt feelings between sweethearts spoils trust. Whether the infraction was small or large, hurt has to be processed with honesty and forgiveness.
- Disappointments. Sometimes life doesn't play out like we imagined. Those let-downs in life usually aren't really anyone's fault; it's just the way life is. Maybe one of you was laid-off and you never saw the financial crisis coming. Having children with special needs has forever altered, in wonderful and hard ways, the life of some of our dear friends. Not being able to have kids has been a personal disappointment for my husband and me. Sharing your feelings about those disappointments, understanding your partner's feelings on the matter, maintaining a "team" mindset about the issue and inviting God into the center of it can keep you and your spouse united in the midst of trying circumstances.
- Temptation. It is easy to rationalize not sharing an issue with temptation because you don't want your spouse blowing it out of proportion. We all think we can handle our temptations on our own. If you feel attracted to someone at work, tell your spouse. If you are struggling with anger or bitterness, share it with your other-half. Cultivate the kind of heart that is open for this kind of communication and be constantly asking God to cover your spouse's weakness with His grace.
Whether the issue you or your spouse is going through is a big or small one, the best way to tackle it is together. Since marriage is a binding covenant that makes two into one, no issue can be fully resolved without some degree of involvement from both the husband and wife. There have been many times that I didn't want to burden my husband with a certain problem. After all, he is a pastor and listens to everyone else's issues. But every time I have tried to hide a problem Eric eventually found out about it and is disappointed that I didn't share it with him in the first place. And if it involves a family matter, he usually finds out about it after I have bungled it up in some way by trying to handle everything on my own!
Let me leave you with this story. In our first year of marriage, Eric and I took another couple camping in Yosemite. Eric took us on a hike up Yosemite Falls- which after the climb I learned is the highest waterfall in North America (that must give a person some kind of bragging rights).
Being the zealously adventurous type, the other husband took off at his own speed, taking his water's wife with him. Eric, the other wife and I began the trek up the steep switch back trails without him. Eric had hiked the trail years earlier, but none of us had properly prepared for the long hike - and I ended up sharing my dwindling water with my friend who didn't have any. I soon got dehydrated and felt like a total wimp.
We eventually caught up with the other husband and my girlfriend got her water and took off with her husband, leaving Eric with wimpy me. Eric walked behind me and encouraged me the entire way. "Just a little further and we can rest at that rock. See it?"
We eventually made it to the top and ate lunch on the brink of the falls overlooking Yosemite Valley. It was incredible! In a scrapbook, I captioned the picture of us up there with the words, "You take me to the top of the world!"
Truly, Eric did take me to the top of the world that day. Without him I wouldn't have made it! He has been my best support and encourager in every adventure, trial or heartache we have experienced.
Practice becoming a marriage partnership that tackles burdens together. "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ" Galatians 6:2 (NASU). Carry each other's load, cheer each other on and you might just find yourself on the top of the world too.
For a free e-devotional on forgiveness, 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.