On Sunday, March 13th, we will change our clocks to Daylight Saving Time again. I am one of those people who would like to see it stay this way permanently. I absolutely love having more sunshine and longer days. I am fully aware that there are some who disagree, but this is my blog, so... To me it is another new beginning; somewhat like January, but this time without the expectation and guilt of making resolutions. Spring brings something else, something new. It is the awareness that what is dead becomes alive again; that from the cold, hard ground peeks a tulip or a daffodil. I live in the beautiful state of Florida where the weather is mostly warm, but the last few winters have proven to be a little harsh for us sun lovers (don't hate). I lost a huge, gorgeous Hibiscus tree to a freeze, and my elephant ears, which are a natural window treatment, froze to death and were bowing on the ground in sadness. But only weeks since, new gigantic leaves are popping up and I can once again enjoy the view of them from my kitchen window. I can't tell you the joy this brings me. The Hibiscus, however, will not be coming back, but has already been replaced with pots of impatiens and petunias. What does this have to do with marriage you say? Well... I think it is a great metaphor for what happens in relationships. Just as there are seasons in nature, marriages go through seasons as well. In the book Creating an Intimate Marriage by Jim Burns, I had to laugh at Stephen Arterburn's Foreward. In it he describes the "spring" of a relationship:
"Most everyone who marries has high hopes and expectations of an intimate marriage. While dating, we try to eliminate the other potentials who just don't seem to have all that we want and need in a spouse. And then, somehow we stumble onto someone that starts the adrenaline pumping, the eyes sparkling, and the dreams developing. High hopes and low maintenance keep the relationship humming along toward Holy Matrimony. You find yourself so in love that just hearing the other person breathe so melts you that it is obvious you are in the presence of a soul mate. Hours and hours of talking prove that this is the real thing as poetic and profound words stream forth from your mouths. Shakespeare would not have the words to describe these feelings of romance, and there is nothing left to do but make plans and start shopping for rings."
Isn't that the way we feel in the springtime? The sky is bluer, the birds are singing sweetly, romance is everywhere and all is right with the world. Arterburn doesn't stop there. In an exaggerated account, he comes to the conclusion that there is something secretly added to the wedding cake and once it is eaten, things seem to change:
"Shortly after the icing has been wiped from each other's lips it starts to feel like the other partner just does not get it when it comes to meeting needs. Weren't they listening during those days of courtship? And from where did all these demands from the other side come? What was low maintenance now needs more attention than a Yugo. The Prince came with a horse and the daily task seems to be to clean up after the beast, whichever one fits that classification. The Princess came with nails and they must be allowed to dry and remained undamaged for a fortnight. Your soul mate seems more like a cold mate and you find yourself in a stalemate.
Holy Matrimony is now filled with phrases like Holy Moses and Holy Toledo and Holy Moley because the partnership causes some very unholy reactions. Even your partner's breathing is so irritating that private bedrooms may be an option if a cork does not work. Rather than words more beautiful that Shakespeare, all you want to do is shake your partner, and a spear seems like a handy tool to have lying around the house. For months it felt like you were on drugs and now you may have to resort to them if things don't pick up soon. The only people you are more disappointed in than your spouse are all of the married couples who knew this was going to happen but refused to let you in on their little secret, because misery loves company."
What Arterburn is describing in his comical summary is what happens in most marriages. Of course the spring is followed by summer where some of the initial romantic feelings are replaced by the comfortableness of routine as we figure out how to do life as a couple and maybe add some kids to the mix. But, in some marriages, autumn and winter can bring a coldness that can damage or kill a marriage. Author, Gary Chapman, in his book, The Four Seasons of Marriage, writes:
"If we respond well, in harmony with our spouse, we can keep our marriage in spring or summer. If we don't respond well or if our response clashes with our spouse's response, we can feel the chill of autumn or be thrust into the icy cold of winter-sometimes before we know what hit us."
I believe that "responding well" means honoring our commitment to our spouse even during those chilly and dreary seasons. I agree with Larry Crabb, who writes in his book, The Marriage Builder:
"If we deeply believe that the Lord is able to work on our behalf in all circumstances, then no collection of marital setbacks will prompt us to seriously consider divorce or withdrawal. If God is really as powerful as He claims to be, then the path of obedience will always lead to His intended purposes. The hope (better, the certainty) that God is at work to accomplish His plan even in the most difficult of marriages must remain firmly rooted in our awareness of His powerful grace."
Dr. Crabb views Christian marriage in the context of God's provision and our needs this way:
"All my needs are completely met in Christ. The riches of heaven are mine. I am called to believe this. And God has given me a taste of what lies ahead to excite my faith. The problem, sadly, is that very few Christians have really tasted and seen that the Lord is good. The joy of fellowship in Christ and service in His name is less than a thrilling reality for too many Christians because of inadequate commitment to Him. But those who have cast their entire lot with Christ know something of the joy and peace He provides."
So, to summarize, Dr. Crabb declares that,
"If I have experienced the answer to my deepest longings in Christ, then I will be able to see past my longings and discern my wife's needs; and when I see her needs, then my experience of satisfaction with Christ will create in me a deep desire to promote similar satisfaction in my wife."
Of course, this goes for husbands too. It's this commitment that leads us back to the springtime of our marriage. We have tasted and seen the goodness from the beginning of our relationship. Sometimes we simply need to revisit that and remember what it felt like and how it was. My commitment to my husband, in a simplistic way, is like my commitment to my elephant ears. They bring me such joy, but when they shrivel up and die because of a hard freeze, I know they will come back even stronger because I have experienced this time and again. In a more spiritual sense, I know that God is faithful- I have experienced His faithfulness time and again. Remembering His promises to me and truly believing that He will meet all my needs helps me to trust and believe in the commitment my husband and I made to each other on August 18th, 1978.
If your marriage is in the season of autumn or winter, remember that spring is coming and what was dead can be made alive again. A little pruning and TLC may be needed so get to it! As spring approaches, take the opportunity to look back and remember the spring of your marriage. Do something nostalgic. Last night, my husband and I went to see The Doobie Brothers at the Florida Strawberry Festival (don't laugh kids). We felt eighteen again, (even though they looked really old). It brought back old memories, reminded us of old times and brought us closer. Get out the wedding album, reminisce, and do something fun to bring back the spring. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
A Prayer in Spring
Robert Frost (1915)
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.
Click HERE to view The Rosberg's Date With a Purpose Marriage Link on "Demands and Doormats"
Click below for Becky Tirabassi's Change Your Life Daily Site:
Click below for The Intimate Couple
Click below for The Marriage Builder, by Larry Crabb
Click below for Jim Burns book, Creating an Intimate Marriage
Click below for The Four Seasons of Marriage, by Gary Chapman