Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Our self deprecating and self sabotaging ways often cause needless conflict in our lives. We try hard to make our relationships with others something really special but there are times when we derail ourselves. Our desire is for a wonderful marriage filled with passion, tenderness, fun and lasting commitment, however, our own selfish tendencies often lead us down roads we never intended to take.
What oftentimes happens is this: we sense some struggle within our own marriage relationship and we understand that change is necessary for our marriage to improve. However, we sometimes set out to “improve” the marriage in own self determined ways of effecting change. The plan mostly involves changing our spouse to be the person we think they should be.
Criticism and comparison are two of the first techniques we try. They are among the worst offenders and become fast friends when we allow them to fester and take root in our marriage. Being married to someone who is entirely different than you easily sheds light on their faults, flaws and peculiar habits. (Of course it’s also true that it sheds light on ours as well but we can brush that off with a simple, “I wasn’t like this before.”) It is easy to become critical about annoying habits and perceived character flaws, regularly making mention of them. Criticize, scoff, nag, reprove – take your pick from the ugly line-up of human ways of effecting change. The criticism is made even worse when comparison is added to the mix. Thoughts about so-and-so who never does such-and-such leaves room for nasty discrimination towards our spouse who obviously has “issues”.
When criticism and comparison team up it leads to a disastrous and messy equation. Criticism + Comparison = Condemnation & Contempt
Maybe for you the first part of the equation looks different. Feel free to fill in any number of different negative behaviors that affect marriage.
Complaining + Withdraw =Condemnation & Contempt
Busyness + Over scheduling = Condemnation & Contempt
Selfishness + Unmet expectations = Condemnation & Contempt
Whatever the equation is for you, it is messy. Marriage in our own efforts is filled with contempt and stands condemned. The outcome is messy and chaotic and we are shaken by it. Despite our best efforts to ensure a healthy marriage we will fail countless times, with trials and problems one day becoming the norm. So, if our marriage stands condemned is there anything we can do about it?
Yes. Marriage is designed to be an expression of grace and unconditional love. Condemnation and contempt are far easier to come by naturally and they do so as a result of our own self efforts. But it does not need to be this way. When we walk in our own strength and our own effort, marriage is chaotic, unfulfilling and miserable. But the God who gave the gift of marriage knows a thing or two about chaos. He knows how to make something out of nothing. He knows how to transform something that is ugly into something that is truly beautiful. He knows how to breathe life into that which is dead. He makes beautiful things out of dust. This we would be wise to remember.
All marriages encounter messy equations, times when our own efforts only serve to fill our lives with contempt and condemnation. It is at these times that we need to turn in our marriage. Trade it in for a new one. Not a new spouse but a new marriage with that spouse. A marriage that is led by The One who can bring order to chaos, the One who can breathe new life into any situation. When we do this, our marriage will no longer stand condemned but be a reflection of a magnificent Creator.