Contact: Abigail Smith, PR Coordinator, National Institute of Marriage, 417-335-5882, firstname.lastname@example.org
HOLLISTER, Missouri, April 22 /Christian Newswire/ -- The following is submitted by Dr. Brett Sparks, Intensive Lead Therapist and the National Institute of Marriage:
Spring has arrived and it is a beautiful time here in the Ozarks. All around the area, the Bradford pear trees display their white blossoms looking like clouds that have floated too low. Long hidden daffodils have sprung up out of nowhere to produce their colorful bloom. The Red Bud trees add even more to the painter's palette. Bright touches of yellow, green, purple, red and white are seemingly around every corner creating a stark contrast to the dull grays and browns that still linger. Amazingly, there is more to come as other trees, plants, and flowers get prepared to show off their beauty and add more evidence that the winter season is ending and summer is coming.
In conjunction with nature waking up, a choreographed dance has begun around my house and neighborhood. Inside the house, dusting and getting things in order has taken on a new fervor. Warm weather clothes are dragged out of the basement and cold weather clothes returned there. More time is spent outside as the sun lingers longer in the sky. Fertilizer has gone on the yard. New seeds have been planted and the sprinklers have been turned on. The lawn equipment has been dusted off and tested to see if it still works. The neighbors are moving around their yards, too, and conversations are started that were avoided to get in from the bitter chill just weeks ago. It is an amazing transformation taking place.
As I was recently taking all this in, it struck me that our marriages can often seem very seasonal. We have our winters and springs, summers and autumns. We have seasons of dormancy where very little growth takes place (Unfortunately, this season sometimes lasts longer than any of us would like). We can have seasons of drought and dryness or times of flooding. There can be moments of chilliness or scorching heat. Yet, there are also those times when we have seasons of renewal, growth, color, and hope. There are times of plenty and times of harvest (sounds like Ecclesiastes) and those moments when the temperature is just right and we can enjoy the outdoors just a little longer. Have you ever experienced or longed for seasons such as these in your marriage?
What a great time of the year to be thinking about our marriages. As the drab of winter wears away, why not take some time to take in a little bit of spring. Perhaps a little "spring cleaning" needs to be done. Or, maybe we just need to enjoy the beauty that is there. Whatever the case may be for you, here are a few things you might consider to usher in springtime into your marriage.
Prepare for the potential of Spring in your marriage.
"Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." --Galatians 6:7 (NIV)
Late last fall, the final fertilization was applied to my yard. It was not intended to help the grass grow. In fact, its primary purpose was to prepare the grass for the best chance to come back in about three months. As I look at my yard now as the blades grow tall and green, I see the benefit of that preparation. It is hard sometimes to plan very far in advance, yet, those preparations can reap great benefits down the road. The same thing that applies to our yards, or other parts of our lives, speak to our marriages—they need to be prepared for the possibility of growth and development into the marriage we truly desire.
You might ask yourself, "What am I investing in my marriage that provides opportunity for growth? Am I doing anything that might stymie things from blooming? What could I start doing differently today—a kind word to my spouse, helping out with something important to them, discovering his/her love language, sharing my day with my spouse, etc.?"
Here are three things to keep in mind as you get ready:
- Prepare your own soil. It is wise to examine your own heart and the person that you desire to be. Get your heart ready for what it might receive and what it can give. Take a look at Luke 6:45, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart…" Whatever is happening in our hearts is going to come out. Are you preparing your heart in such a way that it has something good that will come forth?
- Don't try to prepare your spouse's soil unless invited to help. Your spouse will end up feeling like a project if you spend your time focused on what they can do better (Don't believe me? Ask yourself how you feel when your spouse or someone else is telling you how to be a better person). Jesus is aware of our tendency to look at problems in others without noticing the things that we aren't doing so well (see Matthew 7:3-5). If you have been doing this, step back and look for a new way to approach your spouse, honoring and respecting who they are; then see what kind of harvest you have.
- Join together to prepare the relationship soil. As you are working to prepare your soil, it will actually free you to contribute to the relationship soil. Consider some things that might honor the marriage covenant and allow you the opportunity to participate in the relationship in such a way that facilitates growth, not detracts from it. James 1:19 suggests some great relational advice, "…be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." In what ways are you honoring the relationship you have with your spouse? How might you celebrate what you have together and look for ways to enhance it?
Notice the signs of Spring in your marriage.
Spring won't last forever, but it is a wonderful time of year. You've probably heard the old adage "take some time to stop and smell the roses." Well, spring will pass us right on by if we don't stop and take it in. Right about now, it is probably easier to see signs of winter than spring (especially after a recent cold snap). Most of us are inclined to view the negative more readily than the positive. Yet, Scripture suggests that we focus in more agreeable directions. Philippians 4:8 says, "…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Take some time to focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy in your marriage. If a negative thought comes to mind, set it aside and resume looking for those things mentioned above. Consider writing your discoveries down. It is not that you ignore the negative, because we do want to pull the weeds that are growing, we just don't want to assume that a few weeds means the yard is ruined. If you don't find signs of springtime today, look tomorrow. Some things take a little longer to sprout and bloom, but they might need our TLC as soon as possible.
Maintain and enhance the Spring growth that occurs.
My yard grows best when I mow, water, and tend to it regularly. If I wait too long to mow, I end up taking too much of the grass blade, thus weakening it overall. If I wait too long to water, the grass goes dormant or worse, dies. So consider looking for ways to foster the growth that has started. Make a list of some things that you believe would enhance and sustain the enjoyable aspects of your marriage. Consider spending some time with your spouse to hear his or her list. Take some time to work together as a team and try some of them out. Examples might be to pray together, take in a marriage seminar, read a marriage book together, have a date night, create a mission statement for your marriage, etc. The list is endless and best when the two of you come together around something that sounds good to you both.
Keep in mind that we may need extra help at times. When we moved to our house four years ago, we had three large spruce trees. They were large and I was excited about the Christmas decorating possibilities. Well, one was pretty sad looking, actually, and ended up dying. A second one started looking pretty sad and was lost shortly thereafter. We didn't know anything about spruce trees so we called a lawn and tree service. They came out and were able to discover the problem and started treating our remaining tree which was showing some similar problems as the other two. Well, over three years later, we still have the third spruce—and one year it was nicely decorated for Christmas. Marriage is like this too. We sometimes need a little extra help to restore the vitality we need. If you think you need help for your marriage, visit with your pastor, see a professional therapist, or you can call us here at National Institute of Marriage.
Every relationship has the potential for new vitality, life, and health. After all, the Lord lets us know that he came that we might have life and have it abundantly (see John 10:10). Are you willing to take some time to make preparations for your relationship to be different? Are you willing to look for signs that your marriage has potential? Are you committed to putting efforts into maintaining and trying to enhance growth that occurs? If you can answer yes to these questions, your marriage has the chance to experience that springtime feeling that can be so infectious and delightful. Sometimes it is very simple things that can make a marriage feel alive and vital again as long as you are willing to look and try.
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