TITLE: Relational Pebbles (Part I)
By Catherine Craig
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A rock caught in my shoe drives me crazy. So does the pain of an unsatisfying or painful relationship!
Have you ever felt like that? As if your partner is little more than an irritation in your life? Or the relationship you once had such hopes for has deteriorated to such an all-time low that the only emotions it stirs up are negative?
I have. I remember a season when my husband, Jeff, and I, could hardly stand to be in the same room together. We wanted our marriage; at the same time, we didn’t want it. For me at least, the level of emotional pain was indescribable.
I recall others who have felt the same discomfort. Of all the ladies’ meetings I’ve attended in my fifty-eight years of life, one stands alone. Seated around a table were myself, along with four other women. In front of us was a small glass keepsake box, in which we were each preparing to place a heart-felt written prayer request.
I asked the ladies, “If you could ask God for just one thing for your marriage, what would it be?”
Each lowered her eyes, staring at the table. After a moment, one responded, “Kindness.” I’m sure my mouth dropped open as one by one, each of the others shook her head and murmured her agreement. They wanted kindness from their husbands – above all else.
Another meeting I attended revealed strikingly similar results. Present were at least twelve women of varying ages who had gathered for several months to study a Christian author’s book on marriage, hoping to improve their own.
I forget what preceded the leader’s question, but during a lull in our discussion, she asked, “How many women here are truly happy in their marriages?” A bomb may have as well been dropped.
Her eyes traveled from face in the silence that followed as we waited. Not one hand went up. I looked around, hoping someone would raise her hand, but no one did.
So, I’d ask this. What biblical options and guiding principles do we have in dealing with the pain of a difficult marriage?
Obviously, by the skyrocketing numbers of women who have chosen to divorce and remarry, for some splitting the sheets is the answer. But, what about us who want to remain in our marriages, and muck through the problems?
What are our options?
At one end of the spectrum, I see that Scripture does allow for a time-out, or a temporary separation. But there are strict contingencies laid down by the Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, and 15, Paul warns believers to be reunited. We are not to remarry someone else – except for grounds of infidelity (Matthew 5:32 and 19:9). On the other hand, a Christian is not permanently bound to a non-believer (in verses 1 Corinthians 7:12-13) who wants to leave. The believing spouse is allowed to remarry in this case.
My husband and I once pursued such an arrangement. The pain of our marriage became so unbearable, that we had to do something.
In our case, we got creative. We unblended our blended family to move into side-by-side apartments to deal with relational issues threatening to destroy our marriage – ones we couldn’t seem to resolve while living together.
For two years while we prayed and sought God for our marriage – which by God’s grace still exists – I could hear my husband snoring through my bedroom wall. (This was easily remedied with white noise from a fan).
Lee Raffel, in her classic book on separation, “Should I Stay Or Go? How Controlled Separation (CS) Can Save Your Marriage”, defends such actions. Separation is gone into with agreed-upon rules, and an end in mind – a desired outcome.
At the other end of the spectrum, according to 1 Peter Chapter 3, the Bible teaches women to suffer in silence. This passage draws parallels between Jesus’ meekly accepting mistreatment, while entrusting himself to God for the end result. He affirmed that godly responses have great value, both in this and the afterlife, which of course they do.
Interestingly, in the powerful Christian marriage primer for women “Created To Be His Helpmeet”, Michael Pearl, husband of its author Deby, adopts an interesting perspective. In his commentary at the end of his wife’s book, he places a limit on a woman’s suffering.
He holds that we, as Christian women, are to obey the laws of the land. Generally, it is against the law for a man to physically abuse another person. Consequently, he encourages wives to blow the whistle on their violent husbands, and to feel justified in doing so.
Personally I believe that the Bible is a book of balances. Yes, marriage can bring great suffering, not only to women but also to men. However, I disagree with the general assumption that women should always suffer in silence.
At times, suffering in silence while trusting God for the outcome is appropriate – for a season – as the Lord leads. However, too often we women lay on the Lord’s shoulders what he is asking us to do. As a result, we, and our families, endure unnecessary and prolonged pain.
Don’t take me wrong. The Bible is the final authority. 1 Peter Chapter 3 draws important lines! Obedience to God by maintaining a sweet gentle spirit, not arguing back when our husbands state their preferences or give instructions, and working on our “inner beauty” is crucial.
Prayer is essential, and being quiet allows for time to observe, getting a sense of what the Lord may be trying to do in each woman’s home, time to see what the Lord is doing so that we can cooperate with him. Yes! Prayer is the most powerful tool we have, both to be empowered to act, and to see situations change.
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