Friday, March 28, 2014

Our Marriage: We've Stumbled

(Please note: this post was originally penned by me [Denise], but because it is about OUR marriage we edited it together. Thus all the thoughts here are joint sentiments and learnings)

Photo credit -- Lauren La Plante at Eric and Lissie's Wedding October 2014

After three decades, Jim and I knew we needed a marriage refresher.

So while we each read Paul Tripp's STELLAR book on marriage, What Did You Expect?? several years ago, we're reading it aloud together this time.

A couple of nights ago we came upon a page that well sums up what we've found to be the greatest danger to the marital union. We would say "Yes! And amen!" to Tripp's thoughts below. We also want to own that within the last year, even after 30 years of marriage, we've both found ourselves struggling with the "disease" Tripp discusses here. Please bear with this long quote!
"2 Corinthians 5:14-15 reads 'For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again" (NIV). The apostle Paul summarizes here what sin does to all of us. Sin turns us in on ourselves. Sin makes us shrink our lives to the narrow confines of our little self-defined world. Sin causes us to shrink our focus, motivation, and concern to the size of our wants, needs, and feelings. Sin causes all of us to be way too self-aware and self-important. Sin causes us to be offended most by offenses against us and to be concerned most for what concerns us. Sin causes us to dream selfish dreams and to plan self-oriented plans. Because of sin, we really do love us, and have a wonderful plan for our own lives!
"What all this means is that sin is essentially antisocial. We don't really have time to love our spouse, in the purest sense of what that means, because we are too busy loving ourselves. What we actually want is for our spouse to love us as much as we love ourselves, and if our spouse is willing to do that, we will have a wonderful relationship. So we try to co-opt our spouse into a willing submission to the plans and purposes of our claustrophobic kingdom of one.
"But there is more. Because sin is antisocial, it tends to dehumanize the people in our lives. No longer are they objects of our willing affection. No, they quit being the people we find joy in loving. Rather, they get reduced to one of two things. They are either vehicles to help us get what we want or obstacles in the way of what we want...We are kingdom-oriented people. We always live in the service of one of two kingdoms. We live in service of the small, personal happiness agenda of the kingdom of self, or we live in service of the origin-to-destiny agenda kingdom of God.
"When we live for the kingdom of self, our decisions, thoughts, plans actions and words are directed by personal desire. We know what we want, where we want it, why we want it, when we want it, and who we would prefer to deliver it. Our relationships are shaped by an infrastructure of subtle expectations and silent demands. We know what we want from people and how to get it from them. We seek to surround ourselves with people who will serve our kingdom purposes, and we evaluate them not from the perspective of the laws of His kingdom but of our kingdom.
"This side of heaven, there is a constant war between the kingdom of  self and the kingdom of God. Every battle you have with other people is the result of that deeper war. When you are losing this war, you live for yourself, and invariably it ends in conflict with your husband or wife." (Paul Tripp, What Did You Expect?, pg. 47)
The recent bout of selfishness that has infected our marriage snuck up on us. Slowly we began waging quiet, subtle turf wars with one another. Eventually, we began to recognize the frightening turn our one-flesh union had taken. We then found ourselves confused as to what on earth had happened to our storybook marriage. God was faithful, however. We cried out to Him, and he is lifting the veil for each of us on how self-oriented we've become as the stresses in our lives have increased.

Now we're on guard. Now we have a clearer understanding of just how likely we are to sin against one another, even after three wonderful, glorious decades. We're not all the way there yet, but our marriage is healing. We are again learning to romance one another. We're also working at treasuring our friendship and protecting it. We're relearning that in order to have a storybook marriage, you must live, "There is no me. There is no mine. There is no mine." (Matt Batterson). A mere six words that are breathing life...beautiful LIFE...back into our marriage. Selfishness out! Death to self in! Only God's way works!


Beka Castille said...

Mrs. Reynolds, this was so timely for Sean and I and I really appreciate you taking the time to share this with everyone. We have definitely had our fair share of struggles (especially TODAY!) and the quote you shared smacked me upside the head. We have a lot of growing up to do, and hearing these words from a married couple of thirty years is such tremendous encouragement to these two toddlers. Much love, Beka Castille

Jennifer Pitkin said...

Very nicely written, and thank you for sharing! Miss getting together with you guys. Praying for all!