From H. Wallace Goddard’s book Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage, I learned several elements of pride within myself that I hadn’t necessarily defined as such previously. The first sting was that “the natural man is inclined to love himself and fix others.” I find myself doing this with my children all the time. This is a marriage blog, though, what about with my husband?
I honestly think God blessed me, for some unknown and undeserving reason, to have the most amazing and Christ-like husband I could have ever hoped for. He’s taught me more about the day to day Christ-like living than I learned at any other time in my life. I would complain to him about things he did that bothered me – the wet towel he left on our bed, the socks on the floor. . . I don’t remember much else from the early days – but he would just accept any complaint I had and truly work on it and fix it completely. When I asked him what I could do to fix myself he said he had no complaint at all, that he had forgiven me already for anything he had struggled with. I quickly realized I needed to tone down my complaining and it was so easy to because he was never critical and rarely frustrated with me. Kindness truly is powerful. He said I was hard enough on myself on my shortcomings and flaws that he felt no need to contribute to my sad feelings about myself. Instead he worked on lifting me up and loving me.
“Anytime we are irritated with our spouses it is a call to repent.” This line from Goddard’s book was associated with another principle: “Acceptance may be more important than change.” As a recovering perfectionist, these complementing ideas hit straight to my heart. My husband loves and needs a chance to relax every day after work. He usually does it after dinner clean up and when the little kids are in bed. Sometimes he doesn’t wait that long, but almost always he’s got daily down time, and if he misses it, he’s off. He just needs that time to unwind and laugh. At first it bothered me that he was “wasting time” on such a regular basis, but the Spirit taught me that this practiced allowed him to reset his mood and lighten up his heart and that if I insisted that he skip it, I would not experience the same happiness in our marriage. I accepted it instead of changing it (or asking him to), and forgave him the time that could be spent better. I’ve since joined him in his entertainment practice, and we’ll choose a show to watch together one episode a night until we complete the series (Netflix).
I’m so grateful our marriage is in a fantastic place, but I definitely see the need for the love and kindness and understanding to start bleeding over into our children’s lives as faithfully as my husband’s. We do okay, but there is need for improvement on my part.
This week our three eldest daughters came home from church with notebooks and pencil boxes and ear buds – the score they sported from accomplishing different goals in their personal progress program. Two of the three were unhappy because one didn’t get the notebooks she wanted or the Skittles (someone else had chosen that first and other YW had first pick), and one of her sisters muttered “poor, unfortunate soul” from Little Mermaid, and she lost her temper and gave the offending sister an Indian burn. So these girls were getting hugely blessed but being angry, greedy, and ungrateful.
We came home and talked the whole thing through and got to a place where we modeled what selfish behavior boils down to: “MINE!!” “Me first!” and how it would look if all the YW were selfless, e.g., “Oh, you want the Skittles! You have them!” met with an “Oh, no! You take them! I love them so much I want you to have them,” and then, “You even got them on your birthday you love them so!” with finally an “Okay, okay, let’s share them then!”
The girls all smiled and for the rest of the day they emulated this selfless ideal. They pulled out all their “winnings” from the last couple Sundays of notebooks and gifts, and they gave them to each other with, “I know you loved this butterfly notebook, you said so when I first brought it home, do you want it?” and the goodies started exchanging hands and the hearts started getting swollen with joy and kindness. They felt doubly loved in the giving and receiving of their love and selfless giving.
The love started filling up the house like a delicious smoke, intoxicating everyone. I didn’t even want to remind my kids to do their jobs without being careful and loving. I realized how powerful that Spirit of peace can be when felt simultaneously, and saw what a family looked like when stripped of pride.
It starts with the marriage, we’re there. It can permeate throughout the hearts of the children, and as the tender flames are lit, if we blow ever so gently and cultivate its heat and light through humility and love, they can experience and embrace a life without pride, or at least remember these times as a touchstone for the rest of their lives.