Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Leah--5 Steps to a better marriage

How did Leah deal with her situation as a neglected wife? What can we take from her situation?

1) If you are going to stick it out, stick it out with prayer.

We know God listened to Leah. In order for God to listen, she would have had to have been talking. If she prayed anything at all like I do, it’s a cross between tattle-telling on my husband seeking “justice” and apologizing and repenting for my own short-comings. God is moved by deep sorrow. He is moved by pain. He is moved by pain that wives feel, and He acts on that.

Isaiah 54

4Fear not, for you shall not be ashamed; neither be confounded and depressed, for you shall not be put to shame. For you shall forget the shame of your youth, and you shall not [seriously] remember the reproach of your widowhood any more.

5For your Maker is your Husband--the Lord of hosts is His name--and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth He is called.

6For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken, grieved in spirit, and heartsore--even a wife [wooed and won] in youth, when she is [later] refused and scorned, says your God.

7For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion and mercy I will gather you [to Me] again.

8In a little burst of wrath I hid My face from you for a moment, but with age-enduring love and kindness I will have compassion and mercy on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.

9For this is like the days of Noah to Me; as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I will not be angry with you or rebuke you.

10For though the mountains should depart and the hills be shaken or removed, yet My love and kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace and completeness be removed, says the Lord, Who has compassion on you.

Have you ever heard God whisper into your ear, “My Lovely, do not feel confused, do not feel depressed, I love you and will show you kindness. Although the mountains burst, my covenant of peace and completeness I shall bestow upon you.”

If you haven’t, pray some more.

But what is the lesson from Bathsheba? When you come to him with your sorrows, you must first come with a clean heart. If you’re heart is not clean, he can not receive you. You must speak to him about your own shortcomings and sins in your marriage. His first priority is not your marriage---that’s second. His first priority is about you. If you are harboring sin in your marriage, because you are neglected (Bathsheba), first come out of that. Confess to the Lord, and allow him to wash you clean. Then, commit to praying through your marriage.

If it does nothing else, I promise you this, it will bring you closer to God. It will change your perspective over your husband.

2) If you are going to stick it out, prioritize and focus on your service ministry.

We are called to be servants in ministry. As women, our first and primary ministry is to our family, no matter what that structure may be. Okay, jump off point here, where in the Word does it say that? “Honor our mother and fathers.” “Love our neighbors as our we would want to be loved.” “The husband and the wife shall cleave together as one flesh.” As members of a family unit, our first priority of service is to our home. That is true for men as well. Its just simply I am addressing women right now. So, sisters, our first and primary ministry is to our family. Christ’s ministry was, above everything else, a ministry of servanthood. If we can not serve the needs of our families without feeling used and taken advantage of, how can we serve the church, the community, the needs of the world at large? Leah raised 7 children that she gave birth, and six more that she did not. Those children, with all of their love and their dysfunction went on to become the tribes of Israel. I would say, she did some raising. The act of raising children is, should be, by definition, service.

But, being wife, as a service ministry, especially when neglected is hard. We’d much rather kick him in the chin, than wash his dirty socks—let alone anything else. And, washing his socks—much less anything else—will make us feel resentful. What if I told you that Jesus washed Judas’ feet, knowing he was going to be betrayed?

John 13

1[NOW] BEFORE the Passover Feast began, Jesus knew (was fully aware) that the time had come for Him to leave this world and return to the Father. And as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He loved them to the last and [a]to the highest degree.

2So [it was] during supper, Satan having already put the thought of betraying Jesus in the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son,

3[That] Jesus, knowing (fully aware) that the Father had put everything into His hands, and that He had come from God and was [now] returning to God,

4Got up from supper, took off His garments, and taking a [servant's] towel, He fastened it around His waist.

5Then He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the [servant's] towel with which He was girded.

I use this example, because Leah expressed the same thing each time she named a son, “And this time he(Jacob) will love me.” She is saying, “I keep serving this wretched man, and yet, he continues to hate me. Maybe, now…” Ironically, the one child she dedicated to the Lord, Judah, which simply means, “I will praise the Lord” becomes the cornerstone, the foundational tribe of the Jewish people, and the birth tribe of Jesus the Christ. What if we simply served out of praise for the Lord? How would that change our perspective and our situation?

At the end of her life, Jacob buried Leah in the tomb of Elders with Sarah and Abraham and Issac and Rebekah. She lies there in eternity with Jacob. She is honored as the mother of the tribes of Israel.

At the end of her life, Bathsheba is offered a seat on the right hand of the throne of Israel by her son Solomon. She is honored with the status of mother to the king by her late husband David.

Can we be servants to our families even when our families may act with ingratitude? Can we serve a husband, though he does not respond?

3) If you are going to stick it out, forgive and keep forgiving.

Marriage is predicated on forgiveness. You are to individuals trying to be one flesh as God commanded. Compromise and forgive. Be humble enough to seek, acknowledge and accept forgiveness from your spouse. Be gracious enough to offer it. Forgiveness DOES MEAN FORGET. Learn the lesson, and forget the rest. God says he will not hold our sins against us. He says he will throw our transgressions as far from Him as east is from west. If we forgive, we must let it go.

We must forgive ourselves, and move on. Do not keep acting out of contrition. That’s not Godly. Once it is spoken, confessed and forgiven, learn the lesson and get on.

4) If you are going to stick it out, be bold in your passion for your marriage.

You know, I often ask married women how often they have sex with their spouse. Not because I am voyeuristic or anything, but because I want to know if my husband and I are “normal.” Why? Because, I am tired, that’s why. And, I want to know if I am the only tired sister on the planet whose feeling guilty that she is not making love often enough to her husband. Wow, way too much information right? Trust me, I meant it to be.

Sex in the Christian community is not talked about enough. Christians have sex. And, from what I can understand, the word of God is very clear that sex should be taking place in the marriage bed (or elsewhere that passion might strike a married couple.) Having sex in marriage is soo incredibly important. Its is so important, that it is usually, second to money, the biggest area of discontent when a marriage is not working out. Several of my girlfriends will claim “headache” when they are mad at their husband for major minor infractions. So, one day, when we were sitting around chit chatting about one such situation, I asked the friend, “Do you think withholding sex from your husband might be exacerbating the situation?” She replied, “Probably, but that is what he gets.” To which I responded, “And you are getting what in return? At least, maybe, possibly, some pleasure out of the argument?” I do believe I was a bit more graphic in that statement, but you get the picture. I continued, “Paul counsels very specifically that a married man and woman should not abstain from sex for long periods of time, except by mutual agreement and with lots of prayer. He does this cautioning that long periods of time without sex in a marriage can produce inroads where temptation can strike.” She looked at me perplexed. So, I continued, “We think that temptation is just the temptation to cheat, but there is stress involved with being in a relationship where levels of intimacy are expected and yet not achieved. When we are engaging with our husbands in this very physical way, we can not help but to be moved emotionally, AND spiritually. So, how much more understanding might the two of you be when you discussed these issues if you were coming from a place where you were connected and bonded. I am not suggesting that you will always agree. I am simply suggesting that if the two of you spend more time engaged in love making, it will balance out and open each one of you up in such a way that issues might be able to be resolved in a more empathetic nature.”

There are lots of stressors in a relationship. But, if we try to be passionate about our relationship with our spouse, he can not help but to return it in some measure. And, even if he is slow to respond the way you want him too, being close to him will allow you to see more issues from his perspective. Maybe if you continue to not agree you can at least grow to respect his opinion—why? Because there is an intimacy already established.

Do not belittle the impact sex has on our relationships. I do not think I can overestimate how important coming together regularly with our husbands is. Its not just important to satisfy them, and to keep their minds on us. It is important for our own wellbeing in the relationship that we have with our husbands. Now, it could be just me, but I know I feel more beautiful when I get passionate attention. It could be just me, but I feel more relieved and at peace when I have this kind of attention. I feel closer to my husband, and, therefore, a little more open-minded.

Now, as with anything, there are lines that can be crossed, and there are manipulation factors. But, the intention of this short exposition is simply to encourage you to foster this kind of relationship with your husband---passionately. Do something crazy and unexpected. You might just be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

5) If you are going to stick it out, stick it out with prayer.

IF THERE IS ANY TYPE OF ABUSE—PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL—GET OUT NOW. You can be a better wife to that man by getting away and praying for him than you can by staying believing you can change him. I promise you, God will see you through that situation. But, without having to consider it at all, get out. You can pray for him from afar.

Short of abuse, I will not tell a woman what she needs to do in her marriage. I will not council you to stay or leave. I will tell you this though: Prayers do get answered. We know from Leah, that God listens and acts on our behalf.

Praying for our husbands will temper our own attitude. We can’t be close to God and harbor pain, guilt, anger and vengeance. We simply can’t. We can bring those feelings to Him. We can yell to the high heavens about how miserable our situation is. But, when we bring it to the throne of grace, we must expect to leave all negativity at the door. And, when we get up from the throne, having bared our souls, we must believe our situations can change, and leave the negativity alone.

These are just my five steps to changing our relationships with our spouses. This is what I think is reflected in the Proverbs 31 verses with regard to being a wife. This is what I think Bathsheba was aiming for, and this is what I believe Leah acted on. I wonder if for just 30 short days if we couldn’t turn a bad marriage into something good and a wonderful marriage into an exuberant one if we were to follow these steps. Hmmm…I’ll have to try that. I’ll let you know when I’m done.

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