Doesn't the post title "A Victorious Marriage" sound so Joel-Osteen-esque? Don't worry, I'm not channeling my inner-prosperity-gospel-preacher; that's why I added the subtitle, "Little Moments of Win"!
Here's what I mean: I've just been thinking about times in my marriage when I would consider myself "victorious." I'm not talking about times when I "win" (not really) a fight through cruel words or outlasting HH in the silent treatment. I'm talking about spiritual victories, even though they might generally seem so small as to be insignificant. In his book What Did You Expect, one of Paul Tripp's major theses is that marriages are made or broken in the little moments, not the big ones. To that end, I want to celebrate a couple of times when I've consciously thought to myself, "I am so thankful that God has given me the grace to conquer my selfish desires for the sake of my marriage."
Here are a few of those examples:
Victory in the Insignificant. Ken Sande has a great chapter title in The Peacemaker called, "Is this really worth fighting over?" It's a great question. There are a lot of things that I could spend a lot of time getting worked up about. Sometimes I do get worked up, and sometimes I'm more victorious ... I'm talking about the times when HH does or doesn't do something that's a minor inconvenience to me. Maybe he left a dirty napkin or dish sitting on the counter after eating breakfast and I have to throw it away. Maybe he didn't leave his cell phone on and I can't get a hold of him for a few minutes. Maybe he left something sitting in my way in the garage and I have to move it before I can put something else away. It takes me all of five seconds to serve him by taking care of it and not bringing it up to him later (which is essentially a form of punishment). My goal is to not even let these occasions phase me; if they do, my goal is to have the grace to say, "Is this worth getting worked up about" and to serve my husband by taking care of it and moving on without him ever knowing about it.
Victory in Apology. Call me crazy or overly sinful, but every time I work up the nerve to say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong," or "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have spoken to you like that," I count it as a spiritual victory. Because it's hard. Because it still doesn't come naturally. Because it's a conscious choice to live by the fruit of the Spirit rather than the fruit of my flesh. Because it's dying to myself ... and by that death, I promote the life of my soul and the life of my marriage. Don't take it lightly when you apologize to your spouse or when they apologize to you: God's victorious reign in your life is powerfully displayed in those two simple words!
Victory in Desires. I struggle here... I suspect that we all do. The progression of an idol shows us that we can have good, innocuous or bad desires. If you have a good or neutral desire but you escalate it to a demand, you are on the path to conflict. The desires can be small; in my teaching during my former life at PM, I would illustrate this with my desire for back rubs from my husband. He was so eager (and good!) to give me backrubs while we were dating and during the first 3 months of our marriage. Then the thrill wore off for him... but not my desire for them. Do I demand backrubs from him and punish him when he doesn't fulfill my demands? Or do I do battle with my desires and recognize where they are leading me? There are little desires like this (I pretty much desire that HH do anything that makes my life easier), and there are big desires that affect major life decisions. As the song says, "You can't always get what you want." I like to think that by training my soul to be victorious over my smaller desires, I am preparing my heart to be victorious over bigger desires/demands as well.
Victory in Asking Nicely. This is a bit of a follow-up to the "desires" bit ... there's nothing wrong with giving my husband the opportunity to meet my desires or to help/serve me. HH is a foot taller than I am; I asked him nicely the other day if he would change some lightbulbs for me -- it's a lot easier for him to reach up to do it than for me to climb perilously on a chair (even more perilous now that I'm 38 weeks pregnant!), and he was happy to comply. What if he hadn't done it right away? Be patient, ask again nicely, or overlook and do it myself. No biggie. Another part of being 38 weeks pregnant is that everything on my body aches, so I now ask him more for the massages that I desire. Nicely, without expectation, and grateful when he finds joy in serving me in this way.
Victory in Gratitude. HH does a lot of things that make my life easier. I haven't had to worry about caring for the outside of our house since we got married (and this after being the sole lawn-mower for 3 years!). He washes my car and puts gas in it. He carries heavy bags for me. He does the dishes that have been building up in the sink for two days while I'm still in bed in the morning! I could go on and on ... I think that the point at which I begin to take these things for granted or expect them is a defeat. To live in gratitude is victory.
Victory in Serving. This is the last one that comes to mind for me right now; I count it a small victory when I get out of my self-centered shell and ask myself, "How can I serve or bless my husband today?" Sometimes it's just being excited to see him and spending time doing what he wants to do; sometimes it's giving him permission to be busy with work or other friends. Sometimes it's writing him a love note or telling him that I'm proud of him; sometimes it's making him lunch. Sometimes it's asking him, "How can I bless you today?" I am living in defeat when my world shrinks to the size of my world (a Paul Tripp-ism, I think); I am living in victory when I reach outside of myself to serve others in love. And that service begins with my nearest neighbor.
Where do you find victory in your relationships with your closest neighbor? What are you doing to live in resurrection power today?