When Healing Your Marriage Means Embracing Humility

When Healing Your Marriage Means Embracing Humility

After more than a decade as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I can tell you a few things with certainty:

1) The vast majority of marriages truly can be salvaged (in my opinion).

2) The biggest obstacle that most people face in marriage is their own selfishness, not their partner’s.

(Before I go on, I want to explain very clearly that I am not writing to women and men in abusive marriages. If you are being physically or psychologically harmed by your spouse, this article is not for you, and I URGE you to seek help immediately.)

That may be a very hard sentence to read. There were years in my life where I would have run the other direction if someone told me my biggest issue was my own selfishness. But now, standing on the other side of my own marital struggle, in addition to helping others walk through marriage challenges, I can testify that the one key ingredient to any success that’s been had - in others or myself - is humility.

Humility isn’t easy to come by. It’s often not modeled in families during our formative years. It’s certainly not the foundation of the character of our country. And we often miss it in church, the place where it should be most prolific.

But it’s worth searching out.

Humility isn’t something that we wake up one day and decide to try out. It’s something that is fought for in the inner sanctuary of the soul, with prayer, tears, and repentance.

And that’s why many marriages don’t make it. Fighting for and embracing humility goes straight against our human nature. We desire to be ruler of our own world, keeper of our desires, master of our own universe. And when we match up against another soul, just as selfish as ours, craving to rule and reign over our own wills and desires, we are absolutely bound for failure.

Unless…

Unless the hard work of repentance has been tended to in the soul.

Unless the desire to love rather than to be right has been fought for and occasionally won.

Unless a heart, cracked and broken under the weight of its own sin, has done its reckoning with the only One who holds the needle and thread to put it back together.

Unless the words, “I was wrong, and I’m so sorry,” have escaped the lips of the offender.

Unless, through whispers shrouded in tears, “Please forgive me,” eyes meet and forgiveness can begin.

Not demanding.

Only seeking to serve the other.

This is the only way.

Because it’s His way.

He did not demand that His life be spared, but offered it up willingly. He did not say, “You can be saved IF…” He only says, “Come just as you are, however you are. I don’t care, just come.”

Can we as wives lean into the emotional life of Jesus, that His own humility might overlay our lack of humility? To ask for what only the Spirit can do inside a willing heart. We can’t make this happen. But we can want it. We can look into our own souls, and see where we offend our Savior, and offer it up to Him in humble repentance. It is only then that we can go to our spouses and offer our brokenness in humility, not defensiveness, and say, “I screwed up. Can we try this again?”

It’s amazing what the humble heart of one spouse can do to the other. Humility often begets humility. If you want to start a good cycle in your marriage, ask the Spirit to do His humbling work in your soul.

Humility is utterly beautiful. To Jesus and to your spouse.

Why Your Words Hold so Much Power

Why Your Words Hold so Much Power

I'm often appalled at the things that come out of my mouth.  Just the other day, my ten year old said to me, "MOM!  That's sarcasm and we don't do sarcasm in this house!"  

Yikes.  Out of the mouths of babes.

But it can be so much worse, can't it?  I imagine you know what I mean.  

Most of us have heard the teaching from Proverbs 18:21 "The tongue has the power of life and death...." (NIV)  With it we can encourage and strengthen, and also we can condemn and destroy.  

But there is another passage of scripture that informs me more deeply and fully the truth of the Proverb above.

It's found on the first pages of your Bible in Genesis 1; it boils down to three little words: 

"And God said".

God created with words. He spoke it all into being.  His utterance brought forth sun, moon, sea, and land, not to mention human beings.  His speech has power.

And we are made in His divine image.  We are image bearers: imago dei.

That means our words not only matter, they hold power.  

Cutting words spoken in anger not only bruise the heart, they crush the spirit.

Mean names shouted to insult seer the soul, leaving scars.

Nasty phrases uttered carelessly tarnish perceptions and darken vision.

But...

Love-filled declarations bring joy and security.

Truth-bearing promises offer hope and build trust.

Humble repentance restores and brings healing. 

We speak with power and authority because our creator God gives us the weighty gift of being co-creators with Him.  In so many ways, in our individual lives and families, we are doing the work of creating every single day.  We create harmony or disharmony, gladness or regret, encouragement or disillusionment, closeness or separation.  

It's our choice.  

Part 2: Can a Marriage Survive Ongoing Depression? (He's Not the Man I Married...)

Part 2: Can a Marriage Survive Ongoing Depression? (He's Not the Man I Married...)

What happens when all the things you've been taught as a marriage and family therapist don't work on your own marriage?  

What happens when your cries for help and health and change are left seemingly unheard by a God whom you believe is good?

What happens when there's nothing left of a marriage except the fact that you made a covenant and you've got two precious kiddos who deserve to have their parents fight with everything they've got to stay together?

What happens when you believe that "perseverance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint...." but all you feel is disappointment and hopelessness?

Six years (and really, it was much more than that, probably 11 or 12 years if we're being realistic) of ups and downs, hoping and praying, shaking my fist at God and wishing I could just run away, wreaked havoc on my heart.  I wasn't so sure we were going to make it.  

So, can a marriage survive ongoing depression?  My answer to that question is yes, but it sure as hell isn't easy.  And some marriages don't survive it.  There are a lot of variables, and gray areas, and loop holes.  But at the end of the day, what it came down to was honesty, among other things.  Honesty with myself and with my husband, and a reality check of my own contributions to the demise of our relationship.

For years, because of his depression, I had been afraid to tell him how bad things really were.  Since I was met with only anger and judgment when I did tell him the the truth about our situation, I stopped telling him.  In fact, I stopped speaking to him about anything of consequence.  I wrote him off.  "He couldn't handle it," I told myself, and kept my desperation hidden.  

His unwillingness (in the early days) to get help had to be met with a firmness on my part that I was not used to wielding.  I could use my words like a sword - a beautiful, elegant, deadly sword to cut and pierce and mangle.  But words didn't bring about change.  Only action did.  And action was terrifying and risky to me.  

I had to learn to take a stand for what I knew was the right thing to do, and allow him to stand with me by his own choice, or let the chips fall where they may.  Luckily, he chose to take a stand with me.  Not all spouses will.

In future weeks and months, I will continue to unfold some of the details of our recovery from the verge of losing it all.  If you'd like to keep up with the happenings around here, please subscribe to my email list.  I'll send you free resources from time to time, and I'm also toying with the idea of releasing a chapter from a book I'm working on right now, all about men with depression and the women who love them.  If that intrigues you, I'd love to have you stick around.  

My hope is that somewhere in the lines of our story, you'll begin to find yours again, and the courage to continue, in whatever manner that takes.