The last few months have been an emotional journey for me, Scott, and our marriage–death, sickness, surgery, stress, disappointment, depression, anxiety, fear, anger, worry, and devastation. It’s one of those periods in our lives that would test the resolve of any relationship. One of those times that would either kill us or make us stronger. We’ve chosen to be stronger. We’ve chosen to draw closer to God, individually and together.
We’ve spent a lot of the last few months learning, reading, and educating ourselves, going to seminars and conferences and soaking up the knowledge of every expert we can find on different marriage topics. I’ve got a lot of blog posts stored up for the future, though I’m not quite at the point where I can write some of them. I hope to get there one day, but for now, I’m still too raw.
At the beginning of the year, we were fortunate enough to go to the First Conference at our church. It was four days of incredible speakers who would give encouragement on making 2017 an incredible year. We were also doing a 21 Day Fast, and if you’ve never done that, it’s amazing how the Holy Spirit fills those voids where hunger for food used to be.
I’ll be honest, 2017 has been a rough start for me. I’ve battled depression a good part of this year and a whole host of other emotions. I tend to sleep a lot when I’m struggling with depression, and making myself work or get up and get moving isn’t easy. And to be completely transparent, these are struggles I don’t always share with Scott, because there is a fear within me of his response. Some of that has to do with trust. This is a struggle I pray daily about, so I can walk without fear and completely in Christ.
What I’m saying is that I struggle and battle with issues just like everyone. But I can also say that I’ve never felt closer with Christ than I have in 2017. Because I finally broke in my prayer closet and wept everything that was on my heart. Things that God already knew, but I finally laid them all at his feet and didn’t hold anything back.
Our pastor said something profound to us a couple of weeks back and it stuck with me. How do your prayers go? Do you ask God to forgive you and keep everything vague, going through the motions of prayer? Or do you bare your soul and truly confess, telling Him everything He already knows, but speaking the words out loud? How deep are your prayers?
I finally gave Him my all. I confessed things on my heart that had been there for years–all of those worries, the anger, the devastation, and disappointment. I’d opened old wounds and laid them at His feet. I wept. And I started the journey of healing. Don’t we serve a marvelous Savior?
During the First Conference, Dr. Henry Cloud talked about pruning our gardens. And that sometimes roses had to be pruned so the really beautiful roses had room to grow. This was a metaphor for pruning people or certain paths from our lives. Who adds value to your life? Who adds value to your marriage? Are weeds growing in your garden because of sin?
If your marriage is going to grow in the direction God intends, what areas need to be pruned so you can fulfill the plan He has for you and your spouse? Because He does have a plan.
Make no mistake about it. Satan is a liar. He’s a deceiver. He basks in our sin and looks for ways to expand it. He knows our hurts and weaknesses, and he knows just the thoughts to place in our heads that will do the most damage. That will cause us to keep sinning.
Satan hates marriage because it is so precious to God. It’s a holy covenant, and when he can separate a husband and wife with sin, just like he did with Adam and Eve, it gives him great joy. He’ll whisper things in the darkness of your mind like, “I married the wrong person,” or “I love someone else more than my spouse,” or “This person meets my needs like my spouse never can.”
Lies! God will never send you someone more perfect for you than your spouse. Please don’t fall into that trap. I watched a really great video the other day about the Jezebel Spirit, which can be found in both men and women. See if you have qualities of the Jezebel Spirit and then think about what it can do to your marriage. It’ll destroy it. You can watch it here: The Jezebel Spirit And really, it’s a whole other blog post, and I’m getting off topic.
At church one Sunday, Pastor Jimmy Evans said something that brought tears to my eyes. He said, “Did you know God is standing in your future looking back and smiling at you?” How incredibly powerful is that statement? God knows our future. He has a plan for our marriages, and no matter what we’re going through right at this moment, He knows our future. And if we keep our marriages centered on Christ and follow Him, He is going to do things in our marriages that we can’t even comprehend.
Scott and I have done a lot of pruning over the last months. There are sometimes hard truths to face when pruning. A lot of facing the past, our failures, and our flaws. And sometimes there are dead vines or stunted roses we want to hold onto because they’re a part of our past or they’re familiar. But the thing about vines is that they’ll eventually take over everything and kill your rosebush, keeping the most beautiful roses from blooming.
When you get married, you’re starting a new life with the one person God has picked out for you. If we’ve learned anything through all the classes and reading we’ve done, it’s that God doesn’t mess around when it comes to marriage. After following Christ, marriage is the most important thing in our lives. The. Most. Important. More important than our children, our family, or our work. Historically speaking, society is built on the strength of marriage. And when marriages fail, societies fall.
You cannot bring your single life into your new marriage. And you have to deal with your past when you get married. Otherwise, it’s going to show up whether you want it to or not. No one, and I mean no one, belongs in your marriage but you and your spouse. And if you’re a believer, and you’re only halfway walking in the spirit, trying to cling to your old life and cling to your husband or wife at the same time, guess what? God is going to knock your feet out from under you. He will not let sin against your marriage go unchecked.
Here are different ways you might have to prune your lives to make the beautiful blooms of your marriage grow:
1.) Family – A good rule about family is that you should love them, but you don’t have to live with them or tolerate them if they’re toxic to your marriage. Provide a protected environment for your marriage so you’re not always dealing with drama or hate or lies or vicious gossip. The bible says not to be yoked together with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). We all (or the majority of us) have family members who live immorally. Who are abusive. Who live in perpetual sin.
1 Corinthians 5:11 – But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or a sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
Ask yourself who does or doesn’t add value to your marriage. Ask yourself who causes conflict between you and your spouse. Ask yourself how much stress and conversation comes because of one person’s actions. When you can answer those questions, you’ll know who to prune.
2.) Friends – This is a big one. Friends can really influence a marriage, oftentimes more than family, because unlike family, we choose our friends and typically value their advice or counsel more than that of a family member.
I’ll be honest. I have very few close friends. And by few, I mean I can count them on just a couple of fingers and my husband is one of them. My friends have changed since my marriage. When I was single and I wasn’t walking with the Lord as I should have, I did what I wanted to do and hung out with the people I wanted to hang out with. None of them were believers. NONE.
1 Corinthians 15:33 – “Bad company corrupts good behavior.”
When Scott and I got married I started making new friends, his friends, and we both clung to the familiar. We had a lot of friends who weren’t believers, or the kind of friends who liked saying things like, “I’m praying for you,” as they rolled out of whoever’s bed they were sleeping in that night.
Guess what? We both had a lot of pruning to do. Friends, especially non-Christian friends, from your single life are not the kind of friends you need as a married couple. You need friends who are going to support marriage a hundred percent, who are going to build your marriage up instead of trying to tear it down, and friends who are going to encourage you to go to ladies’ bible study instead of “out with the girls” to the bar on Friday nights.
(A side note for the ladies – I can’t tell you how many times pictures pop up on Facebook with a married woman drinking at a bar with all her single friends. My first thought when I see that is her marriage is in trouble or it’s going to be. Don’t do it.)
Proverbs 13:20 – “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
I’ve been burned badly by friends in my lifetime. One of the things I value most in people is loyalty because of some of the betrayals I’ve been hurt by. There was a time recently when I discovered several people I considered friends knew a terrible secret that impacted my life drastically. It was one of those moments where it seemed everyone knew but me. I very quickly did a great deal of pruning.
Here’s the thing about sin. It wants to hold onto you. It wants to dig its claws deep into you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a drug or sex addict or if you spend your days gossiping about other people. It’s all sin. You can’t keep hold of certain parts of your life and tell yourself you’re strong enough to withstand the temptation to not fall back into the same sin. You’re not.
It’s too easy to say things like, “I know Joe has a bad drug problem, but he’s such a nice guy when he isn’t using and he knows I’m clean now.” Or something like, “I know Carol and I had a sexual relationship a few years back, but that’s in the past, so there’s no reason we can’t still be good friends.” Or something like, “Martha starts awful rumors about people, and I know how she keeps hurting people with her tongue, but I can still have coffee with her in the mornings because I can listen without believing the gossip.”
You have to prune those people, those “sinful influences,” from your life so completely that your garden might look like there’s nothing there but dirt and thorny stems for a while. That’s okay. The roses will eventually bloom.
Sometimes God will tell us to get away from people who seem harmless. God isn’t just about restoration, but he’s about prevention too, and sometimes things that are okay for others aren’t okay for us because we have a vulnerability or susceptibility that other people don’t.
Let me repeat, because I’ve talked to so many people who always have an excuse for why it’s okay to hold onto those dying roses. You cannot bring those people into your marriage and expect to have a healthy relationship with your husband or wife. You’ll be giving satan exactly the tools he needs to divide you. Look what happened to Adam and Eve when they sinned in the garden. Satan divided them, he came between their marriage, and they died a spiritual death. God intended for marriage to unite man and woman as one flesh.
Let’s talk about real friends. I guess this is the “harsh love” portion of the blog post. Let me tell you, a real friend isn’t just there to build you up and be your “yes” man or woman. If a friend doesn’t have the courage to tell you when you’re doing the wrong thing or you’re sinning, then they’re not a friend you need to have. If they’ll stand by and watch you make horrible decisions without uttering a word, then prune them and let new roses grow.
Now, there’s always something to be said for the way telling someone they’re sinning is delivered. It usually has everything to do with tone of voice, not just the content of what you’re saying. But as Christians and as friends, we need to be able to speak truth and light into other Christians, even when it might not be what that person wants to hear. And they might turn against you, because that’s what sin and satan does. But don’t lose hope. Keep praying for them and mentoring them. That’s what real friends do.
Scott and I are at a point in our marriage where we’re actively seeking out other married couples in the church to be with. Couples who have been married for a long time who can be mentors to us and support our marriage. We’re looking for those relationships that are going to strengthen us.
3.) Location – Sometimes you have to “prune” a location from your life. Remember that following Christ is your number one priority and your marriage is your number two priority. Your children are number three. Work and other things fall farther down on the list.
Marriage is hard. And sometimes hard decisions have to be made for your marriage. Make them anyway. It’s worth it. If moving to a different location will save your marriage. Do it. There is a lot of our “pasts” in where we live. Ex-spouses, ex-girlfriends/boyfriends, bad decisions, and a multitude of possible sins.
If these things are a heavy burden for you personally, guess what kind of burden it’s going to be on your marriage? It’s going to be compounded. Those temptations are going to stare you in the face every time your turn a corner. And it’s not fair to your spouse to bring them into situations they might be blindsided by. Prune it from your life and start fresh.
4.) Career Paths – Sometimes we have to prune certain avenues or choices in our careers. This can be a scary one, especially if your family relies solely on your job for income. Change is never easy, but in our careers, that safety net sometimes means spending our entire lives never spreading our wings and seeing what else God might have in store for us. He’s blessed each of us with unique gifts. Use them for His glory. When you use your gifts and strengths as He intended, He’ll bless you and your family.
God says in Genesis 2:24 that a man shall leave his mother and father, and be joined to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Are there things in your marriage that are keeping you and your spouse from truly becoming one? If so, then it’s time to start pruning, because other than your relationship with God, there is no relationship more important than the relationship with your spouse.
There have been a few recurring themes from many of the experts on marriage we’ve been studying.
1.) Transparency is a MUST in marriage. Secrets will kill a marriage faster than anything else.
2.) If you don’t let your past die, your future will never live.
3.) The best thing we could ever hope to do for our children is show them what a good marriage looks like.
4.) God designed marriage to be the most unified and intimate relationship on earth.
Who or what do you have to prune from your life to make these things happen?