Points to Ponder/Communication is Love’s Hardest Work
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
Over the past two years, my wife Marcella and I have committed to a nightly practice of doing devotions. Currently we are using Moments Together for Couples by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Some nights the readings are not applicable to our situation, but having that regular appointment together at the end of the day has caused us to be more intentional about communication.
Devotional books such as those written by the Rainey’s, James and Shirley Dobson, and others are helpful because they provide questions, which every couple needs to discuss. Since the questions are not planned for and they come from an objective source, the tendency (at least for us) is to stop and think about the depth of what is being examined. Had either one of us brought up certain questions, it could have incited defensiveness: “What do you mean by that?”
In my counseling with couples, I have dealt with those who have one year of marriage as well as those with forty plus. No matter what the issue is that brought them to my office; be it money, differing parenting styles, conflicting goals about where to live or work, habits that hinder peace at home, or whatever - the root of the difficulty is usually found in the area of communication. The good news is that the root of resolution of the matter is also in the area of communication. All healing begins there.
It is so easy after a couple gets married to stop communicating. Even couples who said during premarital counseling that they are each other’s best friend, soul mate, and closest confidant can easily drift apart. Sometimes these couples are overconfident in their friendship to the point that they think it will thrive all by itself. Imagine marriage as a garden. Marcella and I both love and hate beautiful gardens, indoor plants, and nice lawns. We love having them there to enjoy during a free moment; but, we tend to forget to water them, pull the weeds, and prune the bushes regularly. The result is obvious, and a lot of hard work to correct.
Marriage between a man and a woman is a covenant, which God designed in the first book of the Bible (Genesis 2:18-24). Throughout scripture it is one of the metaphors which describe the covenant God has between Himself and His people (See Ezekiel 16:8ff; Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 31:31).
In the New Testament, Jesus reiterates the holiness of this covenant in Matthew 19:3-9 and Mark 10:1-12 as God planned it from the beginning. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul emphasizes to Christian couples that their mutual love and submission to one another is the fleshly model of the spiritual bond which exists between Christ (the husband) and the Church (His bride).
The husband’s sacrificial love for his wife is supposed to build her up. A wife should grow as a woman of God because of her husband’s love. Likewise, the leadership and strength of influence the husband has as head of his family is undergirded by the respect and love of his wife. In order for this to work, there must be good communication. It is the spiritual lifeblood of the relationship.
The relationship of a Christian husband and wife is actually a trinity: a union of a man, a woman, and God through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a continuous loop of sorts; if there is a break anywhere in the line, the union suffers. The husband, as the leader, is the one primarily responsible for checking the line and making sure communication happens. Why do I say that?
First, the Ephesians 5:22-33 model clearly shows us that Jesus is the model of the ideal husband. Jesus initiated the love, not the church. Jesus initiated personal sacrifice to the point of suffering and death. At the last supper (John 13), Jesus initiated the foot washing, not the disciples. He took the lead - by example.
Secondly, Peter (who, as far as we know, was the only married one of the 12) tells husbands that their prayer life is directly affected by how they treat their wives. He tells them to treat their wives with understanding, remembering that they both are “heirs together of the grace of life.” To neglect that is to hinder one’s communication link with God. (I Peter 3:7).
Wives have responsibility over communication too. Her love and respect for her husband will strengthen his confidence and ability to assume the leadership role, which God has given him. A wife can build up her husband or cut him down to nothing with a biting remark, a certain look, or an attitude of distain or disrespect. Some husbands would like to take the initiative in spiritual things, but if they feel that the wife would have a negative or apathetic response, they will let it go.
So there is a mutual responsibility to be intentional about making time and finding appropriate resources, which will insure that you TALK - and LISTEN. So much grief will be prevented, potential mountains will remain the molehill size they actually are, and you both may even learn something IF you do the work.
When the wise elders say that marriage is hard work, they are right. Communication is the hardest and most vital work. It is a shame to finally realize that after it is broken down or long gone.
What can you do TODAY to begin the work you know you need to do?
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Whitmore serves God at the First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.