Two weeks ago I posted the first three principles of how to rely on God’s design for marriage and how that design allows access to marriage that is not oh-so-difficult. Those principles are based on Jesus’ guidance for us to love God, ourselves, and our spouses in a trinity of self-supporting and mutually beneficial relationships. If you haven’t read it yet I encourage to take a few minutes to do so.
This week I will be coming to you from Proverbs 5:18 & 19. It is here that husbands are encouraged to behave towards their wives in a particular way. The New English Translation (NET) puts it this way:
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in your young wife -
a loving doe, a graceful deer;
may her breasts satisfy you at all times,
may you be captivated by her love always
It is important to note that these are not commands, rather they are God’s design parameters for a oneness relationship. This isn’t about following rules to the T so that you can get to heaven or following the rules so that you can have the perfect marriage. This design is about relationship; authentic, durable, and wonderful relationship with a spouse. When these guidelines flow out of Matthew 22:36-40, they offer a wonderful way to attend to your spouse's heart.
The first of the three principles is rejoicing. The NET uses the words “young wife” or for our purposes we could read “young spouse.” Well, I don’t know about you, but 15 years into my marriage I’m not a “young” spouse anymore! I would wager that my dad, having been married for 40 years this September would say the same thing about himself (note the wise use of masculine pronouns in reference to age and youth gentlemen). With that in mind, I would like to look toward the New International Version which reads “may you rejoice in the wife (read spouse) of your youth.” This wording lands with a larger audience, and takes nothing away from the original meaning or intent.
I would like to proceed to the main point, rejoicing in our spouses. This idea was introduced to me several months ago by dad (Dr. White) and it was a little bit of an odd conversation. I say odd because the whole concept of sitting around and thinking of the aspects of our spouses that are good is, well, different. On the flip side it is super easy to be angry about something and launch off into an internal monologue that is critical and contemptive. We are human and we at times tend toward a more selfish and self-centered course of action. This may be where the notion of marriage being difficult comes from because God’s prescription is opposite of a selfish response. Rejoicing in the one that you fell in love with all those years ago, over time and with practice, builds ease and strength into a marriage. However, that internal negative discourse that tends toward contempt and criticism, builds division and leads to divorce. John Gottman identifies 4 negative behaviors that predict divorce; contempt and criticism are two of them. I want to encourage you all to fill your mind with the aspects of your spouse that are wonderful. For example, Stephanie (my wife) is a wonderful partner in this adventure of life. She is a caring and kind mother to our three children, she is passionate about women’s health and childbirth, she is smart, she is witty and funny, she is an excellent cook, she is fun to be around, and for whatever reason she chose me. Now, we both know that the above is not the full description, and you know that your spouse has both positive and negative qualities. Despite that, we should fill our minds with the good things about our spouse, rejoicing in them and in their presence in our lives. The truth is, wherever we allow our minds to go, whatever we choose to dwell on, those are the thoughts that will prevail. If we choose to allow our minds to jog down the path of contempt, that path will become well-worn, well known, and…easy. However, if you choose to honor your spouse by refusing to be overly critical and contemptive in the least, and you choose to build in your mind a well-worn path of praise, then the act of rejoicing in the spouse of your youth will become the easy action.
I encourage you to rejoice more often in your spouse and overcome contempt and criticism.
This turned out to be far longer than I intended. I will get to the other two points next week. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Like and share on Facebook and Twitter.
Contact Dr. White and Associates, P.C. for marriage counseling in Lubbock.