There’s a gentleman in our church community who’s introduced me and my son to backpacking. Ethan and I have fallen in love with it. We talk about it frequently as, every time we go, we enjoy it immensely and learn something new to apply to our next experience. That, by itself, would make a good marriage blog.
Find something (potentially new) to with your spouse.
Learn something new about each other.
Now back to my original thought…
One thing we’ve learned about improving our backpacking experience and thus, improving our enjoyment, is to do whatever it takes to shed unnecessary weight in what we carry. I’m not just talking about watching the pounds of equipment but identifying every ounce we put in our packs. Why? Anything we allow, ultimately, somebody has to shoulder it. So Ethan and I spend a good week laying out and identifying everything we intend to take on our journey.
It’s such a simple metaphor and yet, completely profound. If you don’t stop to identify what you’re taking in to your marriage, you may not notice the full weight of the burden in the first part of your marriage journey. But over time, you’ll experience the relational gravity of it and assume the marriage (or your spouse) caused it instead of recognizing that you may have potentially carried it in. Remember: Whatever you allow into the journey of your marriage, somebody has to shoulder it.
This past Sunday, we dealt with the issue of shame at Kfirst. And when I thought about how shame applies to marriage, this backpacking metaphor kicked in. Far too many couples are having their passion, hope, and peace crushed under the weight of shame. What is shame? I describe it this way: guilt is the regret I feel; shame is the guilt I wear. We begin to bear shame when we take our perception of what we don’t have, what we’ve done, or what’s been said and apply it to our identity. Never forget, “the two become one.” So what you carry, dramatically affects your spouse.
What causes shame?
Difference in Upbringing
Good and bad, your history has developed your expectations, built filters for listening, and formed your responses. And at times, if your spouse had a different background, you can see, and even impose, shame upon them as if their upbringing was completely wrong. Just remember: “different” isn’t necessarily “wrong.”
The both of you carry into the marriage a bit of baggage (personal history). You carry the experiences of success and failures; victories and devastation. Shame-based thinking take the past and inflicts the future with it. I’m always amazed at the little things in life (tones, scents, scenarios) that trigger something from my past that can cause guilt to resurface and shame to be worn.
Lack of forgiveness
From refusing to forgive your spouse, other people, to even forgiving yourself, unforgiveness doesn’t have to do have anything to do with your marriage to impact your marriage. Inflicting unforgiveness is a violent action against your heart (not to mention the shame you bring upon others). And the more you hold against others, you carry into your marriage. Why? What affects you will infect your marriage.
It’s astounding how much we underestimate the issue of comparison. We spend more time comparing and identifying what we lack instead of appreciating and investing into what we do have. Shame is the offspring of comparison; we either force shame upon ourselves for what we don’t have or see others in shame for how much better we have it.
In the words of one of my favorite preachers, Christine Caine, “The human creation was not made to feel the burden of shame.” That not only applies to individuals, it applies to your marriage.
My challenge to you today is this: Like my son’s and my preparation for backpacking, take a block of time to really review if your “packing” unneeded shame-weight. Have a talk with your spouse and set up a time (say in a week) to talk about any shame-based thinking or actions that are happening in your marriage. Imagine how much lighter your marital load will feel when you eliminate the unnecessary shame from your marriage. It won’t stop you from working on your journey, but it’ll make the burden that much lighter.
Love you all. Praying for you.
Thanks for letting me ramble…
BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.