Monday, June 8, 2015

Running, Part III

Last month’s article was about being vigilant against any and all things that can come between us and our spouses, what Solomon calls the “little foxes” in his Song of Songs, the ones that ruin blooming vineyards. How do we do that?

In Galatians 2:2 the apostle Paul writes:

I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running my race in vain.

We can draw much useful information about this verse that applies to marriage.

First, Paul "went in response to a revelation." He was writing about the churches in Galatia coming under the sway of false teachers, straying from the faith Paul taught them. Paul obviously kept in contact with the leaders of these churches, and something in their correspondence led him to feel that something wasn't right. In marriage, we need to be paying attention to our spouse and our households. That way, we too will be aware when something is off. The earlier problems are known about and dealt with, the less damage they can do.

Second, when Paul realized there were issues to confront, he confronted them! He didn’t worry or wonder; he WENT. He met with the leaders. He didn't talk to others about it... he didn't write "Can you believe these Galatians?" to the church in Philippi. He didn't meet with Barnabas to gossip about the happenings in Galatia. Similarly, we should not talk to friends, colleagues or family about our marriage, and we should certainly not post our problems on social media. We should talk to our spouse. (but if the problems are severe, please seek out a counselor, therapist, or pastor.  They can often help solve issues that seem unsolvable.)

When we do talk, we should not attack or berate, but should seek understanding and resolution. Communication needs to be open and honest, but fair and civil. When Paul talks to the Galatian leaders, what was his main tool? The gospel. He brought them back to basics, to the source faith is based on: the Word of God. In marriage, this return to basics is just as valuable. There is plenty in scripture that we can use as the foundation of our marriages. The exposition on love in 1 Corinthians 13, the guidelines for husbands and wives in 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5, and many others remind us of God's designs for marriage.

We can also look back to the beginning of our relationships, when we fell so in love with our partners that we decided to spend the rest of our lives with them. What were the qualities in your future spouse that made you think, "This is the ONE"? How did you treat each other when you were dating? Do those things again when married life seems dull or tedious, when feelings of love are faded, few and far between. By doing, you will rekindle those emotions that formed the basis of your marriage. It is easy to fall for the world’s lie that you have to feel love to act on it, but the reverse is true, especially in mature relationships. Feelings follow action. Psychologists have observed that simply by smiling, depression can be abated and positivity be revived. Use that revelation to modify your behavior, and watch the good feelings return to your marriage.

When things aren't going well, it can feel like we are running our race in vain, like the effort we have expended was wasted. Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon calls everything 'vanity,' akin to chasing after wind. Wisdom? Useless. Wealth? Worthless. Pleasure? Meaningless. And yet he has this advice to give towards the end of the book, in chapter 9 verse 9:

Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun

In Proverbs 5:18 this advice is reinforced:

May you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.

Date each other again. Reminisce. Relive past victories. Revisit old dreams and goals. Remember why you married each other! With those memories firmly ensconced in the forefront of your thoughts, surely you will see that the race you are running - together - is not at all in vain.

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