“Do not be conformed”
Happy New Year! 2014 is already upon us and I’m sure there are resolutions to be met! Here’s a resolution to consider: take the time to look at your marriage relationship this year and resolve to make it richer, deeper, stronger, united, and better then ever. The New Living translation of Romans 12:2 tells us, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” This is an often used verse among Jesus followers, but as I have found in the context of marriage, difficult to apply. As Kevin and I enter 2014 we have the joy of reflecting on our marriage (this September, total years 25 , this March total years, 15 for our 2nd marriage), and the marriages, in the last six months, of three very dear young friends we have known for a long time. Kevin was even able to officiate one of those precious ceremonies. Lastly, our son Brandon just got engaged in October, to a beautiful and tender woman, so we now have their upcoming marriage to anticipate with joy.
In the marriage ceremony there are many acts and behaviors that we engage in that seem like customs and traditions. There is the lighting of the unity candle, the vows, the pictures, the reception, the bouquet toss….and the list goes on. I don’t think the apostle Paul was telling us not to engage in these fun customs and traditions – the bigger challenge he is presenting is about our thought life. He is saying to let God influence our ways of thinking that are not like the worlds way. In the marriage relationship I can’t tell you how many times I hear friends, and even clients, tell me a story about their husband and I think “Yep, thats just the way guys are.” Then I make the mistake of putting Kevin in that box. Reacting in a way that reflects my low level of expectation because I already know the “traditional,” “expected,” and “typical” response or outcome. This leads to a never ending cycle of reactive behavior. I expect that he won’t listen, he then expects me to snap at him, then he gets defensive and I want more from him and so on and so on… Whatever the cycle is, we have traditions and patterns that we engage in. These are reactions, habits, world views, family of origin learned behaviors, and wounded responses that we continue in, and do not look deeper at. In other words, we find ourselves conforming.
In our first marriage my immediate response to Kevin’s passivity was to tell myself “Whatever! he can’t change, he doesn’t care about what I have to say.” This pattern of conformity led me to shut him out through the years, rely on myself, expect less from him and generally lose hope for any expectation or change. He developed a pattern of conformity that told him “I can’t ever please her, she is to strong, she doesn’t need me.” These two patterns interacted to make the perfect storm of silence, solitude, distance, strife, withdrawal, independence, and lack of unity in our relationship. It takes some effort to challenge long held traditions or behaviors that we engage in within the marriage relationship. Typically those behaviors or traditions of silence, not confronting, withdrawing or being a yeller; are things we hold tight to. We are being challenged to confront our thinking, to challenge our beliefs and responses. When we find ourself following one way of dealing with conflict, one way of confronting our spouse, or one way of dealing with our own stuff; we may be conforming.
It’s time to listen to our thoughts, its time to dig deep and to ask ourselves why we do what we do in marriage. Why do we yell? Why do we withdraw? Why do we cry? Why do we bash our spouse? Why do we withhold sex from them? Why do we look at pornography or engage in online relationships? Why are we selfish? Why do we work so much? Why do we find it difficult to listen to them cry? What do we want? Do we truly want to bring forth God’s best outcome? God’s best in our spouse? In ourselves? Or is the purpose to shield ourselves from pain? To protect our heart from another pointless encounter in our relationship? To selfishly fill a void that our spouse won’t fill for us? To manipulate our spouse into caring for us? I can relate so much with wanting to stay status quo, not make waves, just lay back to the silent lull of our marriage pattern of not connecting, not confronting, not uniting spiritually and not expecting anything different. “Conform” yells the inner voice of peacemaking.
Here’s some good news, the part at the end of this exhortation in Romans 12:2 tells us that when we challenge ourselves to not conform we will “learn the will of God.” I look at it this way, let’s be surprised by what may happen if we step out of our traditional roles, responses, habits, lifestyle choices and reactions. We have an opportunity to see the will of God unfold as we choose to not conform to our “tried and true” ways of living, relating and self-protecting in our marriage relationship. So what is it going to be for you? What tradition, custom, choice, or habit do you want to stop conforming to? What new way of relating to your spouse can you try this year? The bigger question is can you do it without depending on the outcome you desire or the response you expect from your spouse? Just do it and trust that God will unfold a new dimension of His will for your marriage, a deeper layer, another mystery unveiled. I know Kevin and I are going to stop conforming to the way that we think marriage is supposed to look like for people our age, in our season, with our personalities-and instead be open to unexpected surprises and changes in our marriage relationship. We are excited for 2014!
Continue to support the Mountain Haven vision of imparting hope to others all over the world
We covet your prayers We need more monthly and one-time partners to help make our donation-based services available. In 2014 we will be offering multiple group settings for clients in order to reach more people with the hope of Jesus and we aim to complete the ministry home by partnering with other ministry teams. God has been good.
Pray about how to support this effort. Give at www.mountainhavenmarriageministry.com or mail a tax-deductible donation to 1160 Diamond Back Trail Canon City, CO 81212. Stay in touch with praise or prayer requests as well. Thank you and we love you!