This Thing Called Marriage
Hello and welcome! We are Julie and Frank Koehn, and we will be contributing a monthly blog dedicated to understanding, learning, and exploring “This Thing Called Marriage”. If you are like most people (namely us!) thinking about your marriage will bring forth a huge pallet of often contradictory feelings, impressions, and memories - for this most special of relationships between a man and woman can be supremely fulfilling and richly rewarding one moment, and then completely baffling and emotionally draining at another. Perhaps your own marriage is not like that, but is instead complete, uninterrupted blissful harmony for both your and your spouse. If that is the case, consider yourselves really fortunate - and really rare. For most of us, this most important relationship, the relationship that we build our families upon, can be a real roller coaster! How can we make it better? If you are married, engaged to be married, or considering marriage in your future, and I suspect that covers most folks, we hope you will find our blog valuable. We will be looking at marriage in all kinds of ways and angles, looking at its intricacies, its quirks, and how we might do it better. We will be sharing with you examples from our own marriage, how we get into and out of our marital challenges, with the hope that the stories of our journey will be helpful to you in yours. Most importantly, we will be looking at God’s design for the marriage relationship and the miraculous things that happen when we do it His way.
Bulletproof Feelings and Unpaid Invoices
Last week, Julie said something to me that hurt my feelings. That was not her intention, but nonetheless, it hurt. Now - I am a guy, and guys aren’t supposed to get their feelings hurt - at least that’s what today’s culture tells us. Somehow when we are on the receiving end of words that sting, we are to let it slide off, or better yet stuff it. Where these things are supposed to slide to, or get stuffed into - I really don’t know. And as far a I can tell, nobody else does either. More on that later. Maybe you can relate to what happened with me.
This is how things went - while Julie was away from the house running some errands, I made a decision about the scheduling of our landscaping maintenance, and I acted on it. In my mind I had done a good thing, and I was expecting (somewhat pridefully) a little validation, or even perhaps a “thank you.” Instead, what I got from Julie was a clear disapproval of what I had done. She did not agree that it was the right decision, and she had reasons why. Now, the importance of this particular thing was pretty minuscule in the overall scheme of Creation, definitely not on the scale of life, death, football, or taxes. Nonetheless, I was stunned and hurt! It would be nice to tell you I was really self-aware and “surprised at the level of my emotional reaction.” NOPE! I was dissed, and just really mad at Julie, plain and simple. So I turn to the common “guy-solutions”. I tried to “let it slide off”. How to do that? My thinking - heavy things don’t slide easily, so I told myself that it really wasn’t an important issue, and that what Julie thought about it, and me, wasn’t all that important either. Results - after a full evening of “slide-off” approach, my feelings just did’t seem to slide anywhere, they just stayed with me. Not too good. So next, I tried to stuff it. Here’s my thinking - the issue WAS important to me, AND what Julie thought about my handling of it was important also! Therefore, I would DECIDE to bury it by shear force of will, and just “move on”. I told myself to lock it away forever, and in prayer I asked the Lord for help to do just that. But the sting of her words kept coming back out of the mental locker I had stuffed it into, like a boomerang of resentment.Everything throughout the next day seemed to be a cue to bring back my feelings. All of this time my external countenance toward Julie was of course showing I was upset with her about something. I don’t know about you, but I am not very good at burying these things on the inside while being good on the outside. After more than a day things were starting to get pretty bad, as I can’t seem to shake my attitude toward her. Julie and I are really distant - and to my disappointment, my prayers for help seem to be going unanswered. So I am thinking- “Why Lord are you not helping me make this better?” At this point, “you know who” seems to be having a field day in my mind, offering up all kinds of visions taking me away from Julie into a state of separation.
The next morning I am still mad at Julie, and a bit at God as well (for not answering my prayers) I am doing my scheduled time in the Word with a big pit in my stomach, and my scheduled reading plan takes me to Mathew Chapter 19. In the text Jesus is responding to the Pharisees questions on justifiable divorce and the instructions that Moses had laid out for the Israelites. Brother - I encourage you to read this! I was getting that Julie is my wife- permanently, forever! Whoa! - I get it- that’s what the Father’s design is, plain and simple. Simple - but not easy. But what to do about my state of mind? I have been dissed, hurt, my character slammed! I don’t feel like getting close to Julie.
Then comes the 2nd half of the equation - my eyes wander over onto the previous page in the same chapter where Jesus gives instruction on forgiveness. He tells the parable of the king who wanted to settle his accounts with his servants. I encourage you to read and ponder these verses as well, for they convey the essential second half of the marriage equation. In it, the Master orders the family of a heavily indebted servant to be jailed, and his possessions sold to provide repayment of a very sizable debt. Pretty severe! When the servant begs for mercy, the Master takes pity on him, cancels the debt and sets him free. Later this same now-free servant demands repayment of a much smaller debt from another servant. When that servant asks for mercy he receives none from the first servant. Instead, the first servant has him thrown into jail. The other servants, distressed by this, go and tell the Master, who then jails the first servant for failing to show mercy to his fellow servant, when he had been forgiven a much larger debt. Here is what I get from this - Jesus is telling me (us), that the amount of forgiveness needs to fully cover the amount owed. The first servant had been forgiven all of his debt and so he should have in turn forgivenall of his co-servants debt. Jesus paid for all of my sins to be fully forgiven, and because of just that alone, I should in gratitude and appreciation, and perhaps even joy, be willing and even eager, to forgive what I saw as Julie’s debt toward me. Then I got it- I was praying for the wrong thing! I was asking for God’s help to fix it my way, not His way! Amazingly, once I began praying for God’s help to forgive instead of stuff, to mark Julie’s invoice as paid, things began to turn around with my attitude and feelings.
Here is what I learned in all this from God - What I really needed was for God to help me to give up my right to collect the debt I saw Julie as having on “my ledger”. Here is the difference - I was trying to take her unpaid invoice and stuff it into a locked drawer. What I really needed to do was mark it as paid and tear it up. In the first case, every time you open that drawer to put another invoice in, you will see all of the previous ones, and it will remind you of how much you are owed. Instead, if you tear it up and mark it in your records as fully paid, you can really put it behind you. That’s part of God’s infinite wisdom of forgiveness. It works in life, and it’s especially powerful in marriage.
God bless you!