Imagine your marriage as if it were a house. Which rooms might need some extra cleaning out and which ones might need a little extra attention to spruce them up?
The living room of your marriage might contain your habits as a couple for entertainment, hospitality and daily interaction. Ask yourself if there is something that needs to be cleaned out of this area of your life.
Does the TV distract you from your marriage and family? Do certain video games sap undivided focus from your spouse or kids? While the Bible never says "thou shalt not watch TV," we are wise to watch out that good things don't become distractions from the best things. Paul said "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything" 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 NASU. This verse is a great measuring stick for activities in life that might not be outright sins but could be handled sinfully.
While some things might need to be trimmed back or cleaned out, there may be some activities that need to be added in. How often does your family practice hospitality? The Bible instructs us to show hospitality to both those in our church family and to strangers (Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2). Hospitality can take on different forms. It might mean hosting a small group in your home or it might mean offering to bring dessert for a small group in someone else's home. A dear friend of mine lives in a small condo but loves tea and brought a Christmas tea to the ladies in a local retirement home. Hospitality can travel! So, how's the living room of your marriage?
The kitchen is a place of necessity and service but how those daily tasks are executed can communicate love to your family. Galatians 5:13 instructs us to serve one another in love. When my husband lovingly serves me, or I him, it feeds a cycle of love and service. When one of us does our daily tasks for the family with an irritated spirit, it feeds a cycle of self-centeredness and frustration.
How are you going about serving in your home? I find I can always grow in this area; there is always an attitude that needs maturing or something else I can do in addition to what I am already doing. For example, my husband has metal rods in his back that often give him backaches. I know it is an act of service to him when I offer to rub his back, but sometimes I just feel lazy and don't want to. He will be glad to know that his back rubs are going on my New Year's list of good habits I need to do more regularly! What would delight your spouse if you did it more often or more lovingly?
The bedroom of a marriage is a place of rest, privacy, and intimacy. There are some really great Christian marriage books on the topic of intimacy. One thing that I know for certain is that the bedroom was meant for a husband, wife and the Lord -- that is it. Your sexuality was not designed to be shared outside of marriage. A married woman shared with me that one of her struggles with her husband's past pornography issues includes never knowing when a racy advertisement on TV could set him off again. I know another wife who doesn't want her husband to watch football because of the cheerleaders -- and he doesn't.
It is hard to figure out healthy balances for these issues. The best way to handle them is with the Lord. Every time I have a big question mark over something in life, I start reading through the Bible (the whole thing) to get God's commentary on the matter. I often highlight the verses pertaining to the subject in a particular color or keep a record of them in my prayer journal.
The New Year is a great time to start that kind of habit. Invite the Lord into the bedroom of your marriage, and ask Him to wash your heart, mind and habits with His Word of truth. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" Galatians 5:1 NASU.
The garage of your marriage is the place where all the stuff goes that you don't know what to do with. Just like issues pertaining to sexuality, there might be something in your marriage that you wrestle with individually or can't agree on as a couple that ends up getting tossed in the "garage." Those hot button issues often spring up in the middle of an argument, but you might not have the opportunity to adequately discuss it when tensions are high. Take some time to think about why these issues matter and why they trip you up.
Sometimes journaling my thoughts before I approach my husband really helps me clarify my perspective over an emotionally charged subject. Praying always helps! God invites His people to call on Him during a specific time of trouble. While our times and situation aren't the same as Israel's, I think the principle still applies: "Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know." -- Jeremiah 33:3-4 NASU. If there is something you don't know how to handle in your marriage, ask God!
The den of your marriage represents personal recreation. It might literally be a room or it might be the golf course, shopping mall or other activity. When you go about your personal recreation, is it a time/activity that is open to your spouse or is it one that is secretive? For example, hiding your latest shopping binge might signal that you need more transparency in your relationship.
There is nothing wrong with having a place or recreation of your own but before you retreat to your corner of the world, genuinely ask yourself if your recreation of choice is accessible to your spouse if he or she needs or desires to join you. Also, ask yourself if you or your mate might need to create places of solitude that is currently lacking. A friend who lives in a small house with energetic little ones recently got a sewing machine. She tells me how she can't wait to get a little table to set it up on and how she is going to make her sewing corner her "very own little place."
We all need our own little place, but when we are there, we should maintain transparency with our spouses.
As you survey your organizational to-do list, consider your marriage. It is a gift from God that is worth every ounce of effort you put into it. May 2010 be a year of joy and fruitfulness for you and your spouse.
January 30, 2010
For a list of Scripture prayers to pray over your marriage, contact: 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.