Rearview Mirrors: 3 Simple Steps to Keep Your Marriage Looking Forward

“…But one thing I do:forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Being a dad of a 16-year-old, I have a lot talks about using the car. In fact, I’m trying to get Cammi used to my car instead of Anne’s. It’s a bit longer and a little more of a challenge to deal with. And if she’ll get used to it, it’ll prepare her to be a better driver. 

But after she backed over my mailbox, I’ve come to realize we’ve still got some work to do. She was trying to focus on her rearview mirror and got confused. Even though she was backing up, if she’d just look in front of her, she’d see how straight (or lack-thereof) the car was. 

In a car, a windshield is ginormous in comparison to the rearview mirror. The mirror is there to assist you and not be the focal point. What’s the focal point? It’s this huge piece of safety glass in front of us called a windshield. Our eyes are to be looking forward only to access the mirror for moments of clarity.

The past is a like a rearview mirror: Give it a glance and keep going forward. Too much focus on it has catastrophic results. Unfortunately, too many couples (even singles) struggle with this. You’ve got a “windshield” to experience the present and move forward into the future. But because of some challenging seasons you’ve went through, you continue focus upon the past.  It’s then you get caught up staring and don’t realize that living in the past sacrifices the present and mortgages the future. 

How do you keep looking forward? It’s in the simplicity of what I’ve been encouraging our congregation to do every week through our marriage series, Mosaic Marriage.

1 – Encourage Effort. Encouraging effort keeps your eyes looking forward. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, should out encourage you when it comes to your spouse. For some reason, we only encourage “successes” and not effort. And what ends up happening is, because “success” is based upon individual’s interpretation, encouragement is used very sparingly between couples. From the small moments to the large steps forward, don’t wait for results to be encouraging, cheer on the attempts move forward.  I’d rather have someone who’s failing in their efforts than failing to make ANY effort. Keep looking and moving forward by encouraging your spouse.  

2 – Celebrate Progress. Celebration is largely underestimated. Couples tend to only celibate weightier progress or large steps of progress. But can I present a thought to you? Progress, big or small, is still PROGRESS. When I was doing Weight Watchers 10 years ago, I learned that whether I lost 7 lbs. or 1 oz., it was all progress. And ANY progress is to be celebrated. Progress helps develop momentum.  It’s that momentum that helps develop the strength to move forward. Want some marriage momentum? Big  or small, celebrate progress.

3 – Feed Hope. This is how you keep your eyes looking forward. Hope fixes your focus. Like it or not, if you are not feeding “hope,” you’re feeding something else. Take your pick, despair, anger, resentment, cynicism, etc. all are bottom feeders that will find sustenance off of hopelessness.  My simple, and practical approach: Cut off what is stifling the flames.  Push past the feelings of hopelessness and foster an atmosphere of hope. Purpose in your heart that hope is just as valuable to your marriage as breathing is to your body. And the more you feed hope, the more life you breathe into the lungs of your marriage. 

Today, give the past a glance and only a glance. It’s there to assist you and not be our focus. 

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

And remember…

The power of the past is the permission you give it to influence the present!

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Are you staring at rear ends?

He stared at rear ends every day.

The same ones.

Day after day…

…till the moment when his eye got a new focus.

1 Kings 19:19 “Elijah went straight out and found Elisha son of Shaphat in a field where there were twelve pairs of yoked oxen at work plowing; Elisha was in charge of the twelfth pair.”

This was the life of Elisha. Plowing every day.  Staring at the same plow.  Looking at the rear ends of the same oxen. It was the same thing every morning after his stop at Starbucks (probably a well in those days with no caffeine added). Day after day after day….

It almost sounds maddening. For some of you, it sounds safe.

I’ve got one word for that: mundane. You might call it boring.  Some might call it routine.  Don’t get me wrong; routine can be a good thing. It’s nice to know what to expect.  There’s no stress.  There’s little to no planning.  But my view when it comes to our spiritual life, mundane is not just dull, it makes us dull.  Not the “dull” as in a personality that doesn’t mess with ours.  I ‘m talking about losing the “sharpness” and “joy” out of life that puts us in the place, like Elisha, where we return day after day doing the same thing, living the same life, never challenging ourselves, and never growing.  We get to that “safe” spot in our walk with God and we stop the discipleship process.  We stop the passionate pursuit of Christ.  We now grumble about serving others when we used to get excited about the opportunity.

It was a number of months ago I received a great book written by a pastor I really look up to. Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, had just finished writing the book “Greater” and I began to thumb through a copy.  It was this topic of monotony where Steven began to describe Elisha’s life.

“Regardless of who you are and what you do, succumbing to mediocrity will sabotage your spiritual vitality. You may not notice it at first, or even for years.  But sooner or later, complacent Christian living hits the point of diminishing returns. Your life isn’t tiding you over as effectively as it used to. You’re frustrated  and irritable. You’re feeling tempted in ways you can’t share with your men’s group. And you see only one solution: get back behind the plow. Mindless plowing is not your future.”

It was as if something burst inside of me.  Something  about this sparked a fire in my spirit and I had to share. I took it to our board meeting and shared a few pages.  I challenged our board not to live out monotonous spiritually.  I felt they heard and received it well.  Then I went back to my normal schedule.  Reminds me of hearing “We Now Return You To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming.”

Nothing changed in me. That “spark” from a few paragraphs in a book were not meant for a board.  They were meant for me.  I was coming out of, perhaps, one of my busiest summers ever. I’m passionate about ministry. I love doing ministry.  But I felt as if the Lord was questioning me. It wasn’t my motives our my heart being questioned.  It was that the busyness of life was my routine.  Quite frankly I was irritable. I was annoying.  Time with my family was diminishing. My joy was depleting.  The schedule was safe.  All I had to do was plug-in and go.

But that isn’t what the Lord intended.

I needed something new.  It’s not a new job. It’s not a new wife. It’s not a new location. I needed that joy back…that enthusiasm back.  (in my head I hear Al Capone say “enthusiasms” in The Untouchables)

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Nothing great is ever accomplished in life without enthusiasm.” You have to have a passion to see something great happen. That’s why you need to nurture your enthusiasm if you want to get out of the “starting at rears” syndrome that Elisha was in.  Speaking from personal experience, especially this summer, it takes more than positive thinking or pep talks from Tony Robbins. It takes Christ in your life.

The word enthusiasm comes from a couple of Greek words. The word “en” which means “in” and the word “theos” which is Greek for “God.” To be enthusiastic means to be “in God.” When you get in God, you have enthusiasm deep in your heart.

For our upcoming series at KFirst, I’ve been diving into Romans 12.  In this portion of Romans, Paul tells us how to be enthusiastic in Romans 12:11-12, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

“Rejoice in hope” – even when things don’t go the way you thought…hang on to your hope in Christ and it will give you joy.

“Patient in tribulation” – Remain patient because you know Christ will use whatever you’re going through for good. (Gen. 50:20)

“Be constant in prayer” – When tough times come, you have a choice: you can either pray continually or you can panic. You can either be on your knees giving it to God, or you can give up.

For Elisha, something new sparked new vision and purpose.  He went back to the oxen and plow and broke apart everything that was leading to the mundane (1 Kings 19:21). Now, I can’t say that I came back to my office and broke everything.  But these past few weeks I have been on a mission.  I am determined to “break apart” patterns of my life that are leading to the mundane.  Nothing is sacred.  Everything is eligible for change.  The way I approach the office.  My devotional schedule. My time with my family.  My dates with my wife. How much I counsel. My sermon prep.  EVERYTHING!!! I’m not scrapping it.  I’m asking the Lord to re-order my life and my priorities.  I’m “breaking up the plow” and asking for new vision for my days, weeks, years, etc.  Don’t get me wrong.  All of those things are a part of me that I love.  I just refuse to do it with a mundane, dull, routine spirit.

What won’t change.  I will continue rejoice in hope…I will continue to be patient with affliction…I will be constantly in prayer.  This is how my “in God,” my “enthusiasm” will come back.  And, quite frankly, it has come back with a vengeance.

Are you sick of the Elisha syndrome? Are ya sick of “staring at rears”?  Let go of the plow and pick up Romans 12.  Let the Lord be your enthusiasm.  Let Him bring back joy into your life.  Don’t be content with being mundane.

Thanks for letting me ramble…