So now, hopefully you have started your list of observations about your spouse's likes and dislikes, hopes and desires, drives and discouragements, weaknesses and strengths. Does she/he like the plates rinsed before being put in the dishwasher? Does she/he want to always be 5 minutes early to an event? What does she/he like to do that maybe doesn't really appeal to you? (I am not saying to go along with sinful behaviors).
We could go on and on giving examples, but you should have come up with at least 30 things and it should be ongoing that you observe and make a study of your spouse. You should be discovering things all the time.
When a person feels that their heart is being drawn to the mission field, there is usually a time of preparation in which you learn about the people, their language, and especially the colloquialisms or idioms of their language (terms or phrases peculiar to that culture). It is important to know what types of things could offend or cause misunderstanding (e.g., not eating the food they sacrificially made for you, or like my wife and I discovered when we lived in a foreign country, not arriving early to a birthday party).
Now why would we work so hard at doing this for the mission field in which two cultures are coming together and not work hard at studying our spouse and understanding his/her "culture"? When one thinks about it, marriage is really two, sometimes very different, cultures of families coming together. We may even be from the same community and have many things in common. Yet each family is different, not to mention each personality within a family.
So then, we should also consider our spouse our mission. I believe that is the charge that Peter gives the husbands to "...live with your wives in an understanding way..." I Peter 3:7, and wives are told to be “a helper suitable for him". Gen. 2:18
Now , how can you live with your wife in an understanding way or be a helper to your husband if you don't consciously study them and know them? It would be like going into a foreign country completely ignorant of their ways and intent on pushing your ways on them (not talking of changing the Gospel here). Believe me, you will end up offending and hurting more than helping them until you learn how best to blend in and become a part of the culture. This takes knowledge, hard work, and persistence (especially learning the language and idioms!).
That is the purpose for which to use your ever increasing list. Again, it would do no good, and maybe do harm, for a missionary to know what the culture expects and yet ignore it and blunder around like a "bull in a fine china shop". I'm sure the bull thinks he is doing a great job, but the owners of the shop are angry and in turmoil.
Many marriages experience the "bull in china shop" moments (sometime way too much of the time) in the marriage. I think the perpetuating problem is that, like the person intent on going to the mission field in a self-centered way, many (maybe most?) marriages start off this way (even before marriage in the dating relationship). When a person is serious about someone being a future spouse, the list should commence. But too often we are more concerned about how we "look" to the other person. We start off "self-focused", even doing things or looking a certain way to get that person to like us (idolatry, really).
So, if you are like me, you are going to need to work hard at what I Cor. 10:24 instructs us to do; "Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor."
Who is your closest neighbor? Your spouse and family.
In addition, there is a mystery that Paul seems to indicate when husbands love their wives selflessly. You are actually loving on Christ's Church Eph. 5:28-30, of which you are a part. So in essence, if you are a Christian, the selfless love you are extending affects you because you are part of the body of Christ.
So in conclusion, if you think highly of missionaries and how they are thoroughly equipped and prepared for the mission field, don't forget the mission God has set right before you!
May God help us to glorify Him in our relationships.
When I was growing up in the 70's there was a game on TV called "The Newlywed Game" . There would be about 4 couples (newlyweds of course) and they would take turns trying to predict what the other spouse (secluded off stage) would say about that their answers . The spouse that was secluded off stage was then brought in and the fun began. Many of them didn't know their new spouse as well as they thought. There are similar games played nowadays at marriage showers and couples events.
But I would contend that most couples that have been married for many years don't really know their spouse either, even though they think they do. And actually, while it is not at the heart of our arguments (selfishness would rank high there), it certainly contributes greatly to the problem. Here is a simple task that I believe is biblically directed to the husband, but by implication also to the wife.
Start a list of your spouse's characteristics. That is, start taking note of what bugs them, what gives them joy, what they are very particular about, etc... Do they like to be 5 minutes early? Are they detail oriented? What makes them anxious? What gives them peace and rest? Do they like to talk? What do they like to talk about? Does it bother them if you wear the same clothing two times in a row even if you think it is not dirty? When and how do they like to be intimate? What hinders intimacy? What do they like to do in their spare time: outdoor activity or indoor?
I could go on and on. And some things seem to fall into the male and female category as to tendencies. The point is that you will be surprised if you consciously start taking note (literally) of those times when something "bugs" or pleases your spouse or just how and when they like things.
Now, I'm a bit outdated as I still carry 3x5 cards in my pocket to write down notes. However, most of you will have "smartphones" and are able to conveniently record as you observe or think of your spouse's tendencies.
Try to be as detailed as possible in your observations. You may start off with general observations but try to get more and more detailed.
We will discuss the use of these lists next time, but for now, do your assigned homework, students! Yes, we are commanded to be students of our spouse:
I Peter 3:7 "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way..."
Men are to be examples to their wives as Christ is to The Church (Eph 5:25). We men need to understand that we are constantly instructing our wives (by what we do and say) and what we are teaching will come home to "roost" for good or evil. But that is a subject that we will get to another time.
Wives, you don't need to wait around for your husband to do this "exercise".
Women are commanded in Scripture to respect their husbands, evidently a big deal to men Biblically (and according to many surveys).
Eph. 5:33 "...and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband."
Since that is so, you need to find out what makes them "tick". Make your list!
For now, make that list! I am ashamed to say that I just did this a couple of months ago (after 35 years) and I found it to be very helpful in understanding my wife.
I believe if you take the time to do this, it will be a great help in working toward a better, more blessed marriage...especially if you are just getting started in marriage.
By the way, listen carefully to what your spouse says during the day and you will find a wealth of clues!
I would like to begin a series of blogs about what I think will be very practical instruction on marriage. These practical comments are derived from Biblical principals. One must always start with Biblical doctrine and then the application. This is the way of the Apostle Paul in his letters. In the application of these principles, there are, of course, different aspects that take on different nuances with each marriage.
I preferred to title this series; "Marriage Thoughts" because I thought the word "tips" may bring with it the "baggage" of "quick fix"; a formula that fits all; a secret revealed (Bible truths are there for all to read and apply).
The fact is that God's Word is unchanging and applicable to all generations and nations. It teaches us about who God is, what glorifies Him, who man is and what has happened to him, and most importantly, how God in Christ has redeemed fallen men. II Tim. 3:16-17
Now, to be frank with you these marriage thoughts are coming to you by way of my own failures (seems I always learn the hard way). Even though we've been married 36 years, I feel like I'm finally getting a grasp on this thing called marriage (still have much more to learn). Having been a Christian for a number of years now, I am ashamed that I've been so dull. But God is a good Father and longsuffering toward his children.
It is not my intent that these marriage thoughts should be anywhere near exhaustive. They are basically just thoughts that have have come to me from the backdrop of the Bible and trying to live out what God has instructed us.
It is my prayer that what I share on this blog glorifies God in assisting the saints to have marriages that truly exemplify what the Apostle deems a "great mystery" with reference to Christ and His Church. Eph. 5:32.
Stay "tuned" for the first one. It may surprise you because it is something that most of us have not done but is pretty basic....
Pastor Robert was born in San Antonio but came back to Northeast MO where his mother's family has roots. He received his B.S. in Education from Asbury University in 1988. He and his wife Kerri have raised three children and have enjoyed starting a U-Pick blueberry farm. Robert has always been passionate about teaching God's Word and it has been a joy for him to lead the saints at Faith Baptist Church since 2015.