I was watching a television show and they were discussing an oil tanker that had run aground. The narrative was building around a man named “Sam” that felt he could’ve done something about the issue long before the ship left the harbor. He is frustrated and calls First Lieutenant Emily Lowenbrau into his office to ask the question, “why couldn’t they just stop and steer clear of the land?” Here’s the dialogue (I promise there’s a point to this):
Lt. Lowenbrau: “He dropped anchor.”
Sam: “If he dropped anchor, why didn’t he stop?”
Lt. Lowenbrau: “The anchor broke.”
Sam: “Anchor’s break?”
Lt. Lowenbrau: “I want you to guess something: a ship of this size and gross tonnage steaming at 18 knots, how long does it take to come to a complete stop the moment the bridge cuts the engines and throws the props into reverse?”
Sam:”I don’t know…a couple football fields.”
Lt. Lowenbrau: “Six miles. There’s no anchor that stops that boat at 18 knots.”
This has been a scene I have shared with quite a few couples over the past month. It’s a simple illustration I use to show that, (1) marriages are not the easiest vessel to maneuver and (2) complete turnaround, often, does not happen immediately.
This is why so many couples call it quits. The issue that didn’t develop overnight is expected to change overnight. You can’t expect the issues that developed over years to go away overnight. Take purposeful and strategic steps forward. Remember: There are two broken individuals, with all of their habits and hurts, steaming ahead that need to see change in their own lives as well as their marriage.
Here’s some simple actions to see turnaround:
1 – Show the same grace God has given you. Every time I want to be bitter toward ANYONE (including my wife), this is the reminder I need. God’s grace is not based upon how we see people deserving it. It’s based upon the love of that Christ has for us. Ephesians 4:7, says, “…grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
2 – Don’t despise small beginnings. I’ve seen so many spouses that have unrealistic expectations over the immediate progress of their spouse. Read Zechariah 4:10. Don’t look down on the small steps to turnaround. Is your spouse “there” yet? Nope. But neither are you.
3 – Stop comparing. So many journey’s are screwed up by looking at the wrong route. Hebrews 12 says, “fix your eyes on Jesus” not “fix your eyes on your best friends marriage.” I look to others to encourage me. I lean on mentors to challenge me. But the direction or health of my marriage doesn’t come from fixating on someone else’s journey. It comes from fixing my eyes on Jesus and following His lead.
4 – Don’t stop fostering hope. How do you do that? Find ways to encourage your spouse. Find people who are encouraging to be around. Shut out the negative voices. The same God that saw a hope for a broken nation (Jeremiah 29:11) sees hope for your future. But you need to take the necessary steps to foster it.
5 – Celebrate often. Weight watchers taught me something that I have never forgotten: celebrate every success. That meant it didn’t matter if I lost 1 pound or 1 ounce. It was all cause for celebration. Philippians 4:4 challenges us to “rejoice always” which indicates that it’s not based upon our circumstances. It’s a direction you place your mind. Celebrate every step, great or small, and learn to infuse your marriage with joy.
6 – Do what you used to do. In the book of Revelation, Jesus dealt with a church that was going through the motions but didn’t have the love they needed. The simple instructions was to “repent” (turn away from what they were doing) and “do the things you did at first.” Think about the things you did when you first fell in love…THEN DO THEM!!! It’s sounds a bit too simple but it’s an amazing way to see “turnaround” develop as well as passion grow in your marriage.
The old cliché says, “The titanic doesn’t turn on a dime.” Marriage is no different. The healthiest marriages I know have not only faced storms but take careful, strategic steps forward.
…And most of those steps are simpler than you realize. Keep fighting for your marriage. Keep fostering hope.
Thanks for letting me ramble…