Five Ways Your Marriage Can Change the World

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Genesis 12:3b …in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

(God to Abraham)  ESV

Many years ago our family participated in a Pro-life rally and march in downtown Charlotte. Our ten year-old daughter, boldly marching with her sign, suddenly found a microphone from the local TV station thrust in front of her face.

“What are you doing here today?”

Without hesitation, our Johnny on the Spot leaned into the mic and said, “I’m changing the world!” Later, while watching this micro-interview on the 6:00 news, I thought her answer a little over the top. My jaded attitude said, Isn’t it a bit arrogant to think my actions matter that much?

In the years since, I’ve tried to hear my daughter’s statement through her young mind. The world needs help. The world needs changing. So if not to change the world, why go up against anything big?

My daughter’s comment on TV got me thinking…

What about marriage? When God said Abraham and Sarah would change the world, did He mean just through their offspring, Isaac? If so, why did He make them wait until they were almost one hundred years old to produce that child? I believe one possible reason for the epic wait was that something big would happen along the way to Isaac.

Their marriage.

The Abraham/Sarah marriage included decades of trusting and not trusting God, of disappointing each other, of misunderstandings and near-death decisions. Bless the world? God emphasized His statement again in I Peter 3:6. Sarah serves as the model for us wives.

“…And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

But she had issues! Yes. Most of our biblical heroes stumbled big. As with their lapses in judgement and obedience, God still uses cracked pots to hold and distribute his message. That includes us. Sarah called her husband Lord because in the Eastern nations this title served as a model for proper respect. We wouldn’t call our husband Lord, but the respect without fear part sure challenges me! Respect without fear is no small order. It will take a lifetime to learn what that kind of respect, the world changing kind, looks like.

Your marriage, too, though imperfect, is meant to change the world. Here are five ways.

1. A good, working marriage increases the productivity and creativity of each partner. Couples who resolve conflict, avoid resentment and misunderstanding, cause energy to flow into the workplace. When times of crises and desert come, both at work and in the home, the habits of kindness and forgiveness help get them through. These relational habits spill out at work, along with new ideas and fresh ways to solve problems. The world does change when energy flows from loving relationships.

2. A good, working marriage marriage makes a peaceful home. Children thrive at school and play when Mom and Dad like each other as well as love each other. They feel secure when they see their parents apologize, hug, and kiss. This sense of well-being and security changes the atmosphere wherever those happy people are. All the other kids want to be at that house. Peace, fun, and contentment change the world.

3. A good, working marriage gets noticed out in public. Everyone loves to see couples who make eye contact and laugh together. Onlookers smile. We get the message. We wish we had that- and we think we know what “that” is. Parks, tour buses, hiking trails, museums, resort lobbies, and restaurants attract more users, at the very least, and may even be transformed, when loving couples fill the spaces with their enjoyment.

4. A good, working marriage reproduces itself. True, children from happy homes sometimes divorce. Marriage is complicated at best, miserable at worst. However, many studies show that homes where kindness and passion live produce children more likely to stay married, just by their good modeling. Don’t we all pick up relational habits from the home in which we grew up? Commitment and love are caught as much as taught.

5. A good, working marriage spreads the Gospel. God designed marriage to be a reflection of His great love. He’s the One Who drew the blueprint and planned to change the world through our marriages. Since the gospel is the greatest love story ever told, we spread it knowingly or not, as we love each other in the most intimate of relationships.

Our marriage is meant to change the world. Doesn’t knowing that put all its difficulties in a different light?  For, although it can be the most hurtful, the most demanding, and the most complicated of relationships, something really, really big must be in all the hard work.

Thirty Seconds to Laugh Out Loud…Go!

Thirty Seconds To Laugh

Sometimes I can laugh at myself. Once, in the dark aisle of the Majestic Theatre, I stumbled trying to get to my seat. Thankfully I didn’t land in someone’s lap, but the thought of it struck me as very funny. A few months ago I ungracefully sailed from someone’s foyer into their living room. And several years ago I fell backwards into a bed of cactus (written in detail here).  In these moments I couldn’t help myself. I laughed like a lunatic. Maybe a nervous tick? (no pun intended.).

But sometimes laughing is no laughing matter. It’s just plain work.

Recently, someone passed me off like the proverbial “chopped liver.”  Someone I believed cared for me. When after several days the “special person” didn’t hear me out, I felt trapped in a junior high-ish inner drama. I thought I would burst with codependent frustration.

A few days later, while walking into the grocery store, I felt embarrassed about it all. Your pity party has gone on way too long. It’s left spoiling chip dip and stinky, moldy dixie cups all over the place. It’s time to get a grip.

Time to get a grip. Not time to pretend it never happened. Not necessarily time to fix it. (Heaven knows, I’d tried that..) Not even time to confront. (I’d actually done that, too.) But time to see something else through my progressive bifocals. I hadn’t felt like laughing in days, and I hadn’t. Nothing seemed funny. The acute pain, no longer cute, now reduced to a dull ache, left behind a sadness that began to feel like– sin.

Sheepish, ashamed, I got my cart and entered the produce end of the store.

By the time I passed the flower department I knew my answer: to laugh. I must laugh in thirty seconds or fade away like the Witch of the West (or East? when doused with water). I could almost picture a pool of blue jean and orange t-shirt mush. There I’d lie, or not lie, gone, except for the clothes. The tabloids would read, “Texas Woman Melts in Produce Aisle.” Or “Agitated Texas Woman Disappears While Shopping.” How silly. Surely, agitation could never cause such an extreme reaction. Ah, but we know it can. Disney has perfected witches who get mad and swirl around and round until they swirl out of existence.

So I sort of laughed at that thought.

Then I tried to snicker a bit at the green peppers. Not even a bit funny, I realized the pretend “ha” wasn’t working. Somehow I had to sell this thing. I glanced around, made sure no bored produce man or inquisitive shopper saw me.

“Ha, Ha, Ha!” I ventured out loud.

Maybe the green peppers weren’t funny. But the apples might be.

I don’t know why the stickers grabbed me. Every single apple – a sticker?  Who did that? Probably a machine nabbed them as they tumbled all helter skelter down some padded conveyor belt. This gave me pause, but my thirty seconds still weren’t up.

Why did each one need identification? Sure, there were many varieties. Could that be the reason? And who would make sure every apple had a sticker? This struck me as a funny job. I thought of an old “I Love Lucy” chocolate conveyor belt episode. I have to find that episode.

Then the smile took over my face and I chuckled. How much more important than apples (or chocolates) are we? Does our pain have some purpose? Does someone care? Am I stickered?

Yup. And you are too. I realized that taking control of my mood had to become more important than cuddling a cold, empty latte cup. I can control my mood when I realize how little control I have over my circumstances. I can control my mood when I see my needs and desires in a more realistic perspective.

Have you perfected the Laugh on Command? I am working on it. I need to keep a rolodex of funny, yet true things about myself and the world, and how cosmically absurd this fact is: I am loved. I am loved by the One who has stickered me for a purpose. I’m created and identified for a purpose.

Hanging around happy people helps. Do you know someone you hear before you see? Our family laughs just thinking about Jarrod. We don’t even have to be around him. He doesn’t live a charmed life any more than anyone does. He just chooses to see everything in it’s funniest light. So at almost forty-nine he’s perfected the skill of controlling his mood.

You hear Jarrod before you see him. It’s the laugh.

Can you laugh, if you had to, in thirty seconds? Now, go!

Change Mad to Sad in a Fight

Normally I would greet my husband’s entrance into my tiny office with a smile. But the day I happened to be engaged in a lively phone gab, how dare he walk in and give me the “timeout” sign followed by a flat-handed cutting motion under his chin? I wasn’t ready to either get off the phone or take a break just yet. As my wide eyes and cocked head returned his glare, two people clearly saw each other cross the line of respect.

Turns out, after getting off the phone, his interruption was indeed trivial – no blood, no flood, no roof caving in – and therefore disrespectful to me. He, on the other hand, felt sidelined like a second-rate citizen, not worthy of common respect. The chill in the air told me we weren’t done here. Not at all. Something else, something much bigger was trying to enter the arena.

Power struggle.

Again. Daily irritations, emotional distance, set up an unsteadiness inside. In the past, my fear that he’d shut down usually caused an irrational panic in me, and a greater disconnect. After the initial storm, we wouldn’t feel close, just in a truce-like lull. And inside I would die again, becoming a little more numb.

In many Autumn marriages, this rut is slowly dug through years of unresolved conflict. No wonder so many emotionally check out. We may fight less; but we engage less, too. You can’t fight if you don’t disagree out in the open. Anger throws up dust. Nothing seems clear anymore. A stale blah sets in, like the air a few hours after cooking fish. No spark of sweetness. Little joy. Accumulated resentment and relational pain pile up, and the deep friendship this time of life offers us just evades.

This time, though, on “that’” morning, something different happened. After he “gave me a piece of his mind,” I pondered what I’d been learning in the book, Wounded Heart, by Dr. Dan B. Allender. As I read about “good girl” self-protective distancing, my way of relating to conflict began to come unraveled. Keeping pain away no longer seemed the godly thing; it began to look downright unloving and very energy-sapping. I thought about how angry, fearful tears never got me where I wanted to go.

Neither did demanding a hearing.

Neither did insisting it all didn’t matter.

Instead of sinking farther from intimacy, this time I determined to keep the door open.

After work he asked me out for supper. A tense calm ruled the ride to Red Lobster. Once seated and having ordered the food, the topic came out. I told him that I felt disrespected too. I also said that disagreeing about who disrespected who can be okay. This statement had never come out before. We both seemed bent on getting the other over to our point of view. He rejected the idea of “amicable disagreement” on this issue.

And here, I made a decision. I would be sad. Sad for all the times this happened to us over the years. Sad for the way I had incrementally blocked him from my heart. Sad he had done the same. However, a kind of softness came with it.

It became my challenge to refuse to give in to those other choices – anger or numbness.  I let my point sit. In this uncluttered moment in our restaurant booth, I added, disagreeing with each other civilly makes us adults.

Sadness stayed. We missed the Spurs game we both wanted to watch. I took a walk and talked to a friend, asking her to pray. I rested in the conviction that I must not push for premature resolution or let anger build another fence. Not this time.

My decision to simply be sad changed everything. With fear held back, it couldn’t join forces with anger and get the stronghold this time. Secondly, I boiled the fight down to what we both struggled with – not feeling loved by the other.

Sadness must keep the door open. Grief just might usher in healing.

By late afternoon the next day, a strange thing happened inside me. I felt a slight new attraction to him. Why did he look handsome to me? Nothing had changed.

Next day at breakfast I smiled. He smiled back.

All because I refused to be dead.