I’m on vacation in Virginia right now. It’s been refreshing to hang out with my family, set aside emails and messages, and totally focus upon rest. We’ve spent a lot of time going through villages and small towns that have survived decades, and for some, well over a century. But amidst all of the buildings and landmarks that have survived the years, one word has kept coming to mind:
Defined, it’s the “action or process of strengthening.” And the context of marriage, it’s something that is sorely forgotten about. I think so many people are so busy trying to clean up messes and fix problems that they forget that, without reinforcement, the structure will fall.
Regardless of what kind of mine (copper for my U.P. friends), if one of the caverns has a breach and beginning to cave in, the last thing you’d want to do is clean up the mess. The first response, from what I understand, is to reinforce the weakened structure.
But we don’t do that with our marriage.
Do things need to be cleaned up? Yep
Do things need to be fixed? You bet.
Does there need to be change? Probably.
But I submit: What if your first response to issues was to reinforce what is SET UP instead of attacking what is MESSED UP? I’m not saying that you ignore issues at hand, but fortifying the structural integrity of the marriage will give momentum and build strength that will help carry you through the issues at hand.
Here’s some areas to reinforce:
Reinforce your mind: Be reminded who Christ is. When you remember who you are in Jesus, you learn to fight FROM a place of victory instead of fighting FOR victory. The victory was won at the cross. But sometimes, we feel we need to re-win a battle what was already won. I love how the Psalmist puts this in perspective in Psalm 77. “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” Remember your identity in Christ and ponder on His promises and reputation. As you do, walk in obedience.
Reinforce what IS/HAS BEEN working. We get so caught up attacking the mess that it can blind us from seeing what is right. Are you good communicators? Focus on the communicating. Are you good at having fun together? Have more fun. Are you good at sex? Get naked. Are you good at serving? Keep serving each other. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you ignore it. Keep building it up and let that be a place to build upon. I love the advice given to the church in Revelation, “Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” Even though the context is that of a church fallen away from their first love (Christ), the principle is of extreme value: the things you were good at that fed your love, go back and do them again!
Reinforce forgiveness. I cannot reinforce this enough in marriage (or life for that matter). We continue to “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” It doesn’t reestablish trust. It gives us a place to build trust upon. How many times do we forgive our spouse? As many times as Christ has had to forgive us.
Reinforce effort instead of results. I write about this a lot. Why? Because in a culture that demands results, we force our marriage into that flow by demanding desired outcomes at an unrealistic rate. So often, spouses only hear from their spouse when they’re doing something wrong. Catch them doing something right and encourage them in it. In fact Hebrews 3:13 challenges us to “exhort (build up, encourage) one another every day.” To use an old cliché: The Titanic doesn’t turn on a dime. But encouragement will help the Titanic turn faster than the opposition of discouragement.
Reinforce strategic areas. Sometimes the problems you’re having are symptoms of other issues. For example: If you’re having fights about which way the toilet paper was put on the roll, chances are, the toilet paper isn’t the REAL issue. If small things are having explosive results, there needs to be a closer review of what is really happening. This is where you need to get help/wisdom from an outside and objective source. It’s why the bible encourages surrounding yourself with wisdom. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”Counseling (getting help) is not an admission of defeat; it’s an admission of your humanity and a breaking of your pride. Chances are, there are simple and strategic areas that need to be reinforced and getting help shows you are serious about your marriage.
I’m about attacking the fracture and the mess, but perhaps if we reinforce some of the structure of our marriage, we’ll have an easier time building it up during difficult seasons.
Love you all. Praying for you. Don’t stop reinforcing your marriage.
Thanks for letting me ramble…