I would love to start this post by telling you that I’ve succeeded perfectly in my endeavor to only speak nicely and kindly to my husband. I’d love to tell you that I’ve been able to heap blessings upon him with only kind and loving words! I’d love to tell you that he and I have grown much closer as a couple because of my goodness.
About 10 days ago I shared that my goal was to spend the 40 days prior to Easter speaking nicely to my husband; I was giving up unkind speech. No snide remarks. No snippy comebacks. No argumentative spirit.
It turns out…I still need a lot of work.
It’s frustrating, sort of. I wanted to pat myself on the back – to say that the first 10 days had gone exceedingly well.
I’ve spent time wondering what on Earth I was thinking when I suggested this in the first place. If you read the original post, you’ll know what got me into this predicament in the first place: my own mouth and my own heart.
So, let’s be real – these first 10 days have not been perfect. They haven’t been bad, but they haven’t been good.
My husband and I are working on rebuilding our relationship after a lot of things that have gone wrong. I shared that part of this journey for me is to begin to live in faith – not fear. God has brought us through a lot – a whole lot – and we could have thrown the towel in at any point. After all, we’re human, the world says to go ahead and get a divorce any time, for any reason, and goodness knows we’ve had plenty of reasons!
But the deeper truth is that all that has gone wrong stems from somewhere.
For me, my wrong words, attitudes and actions stem from fear – fear of all that has happened in the recent past. The easy way to cope with all of it is to just be continuously subject to the fear that it will all happen again. And when you live in any type of relationship with another person – friend, family, marriage – you know that you are subject to their choices. Once they make a choice that impacts you, then you have a choice of how to act, react, or respond, and many of us don’t respond well. Change that: I won’t presume to speak for anyone else. I do not always respond well.
The issues that my husband has struggled with stem from a long list of wrong choices by others in his past, and decisions to make his own wrong choices. Those choices have impacted me.
I’ve lived with a foot in two worlds. I have tried desperately to wait on God, to listen for His clear instructions. And I’ve struggled with fear. Both waiting and fearful. Full of shame and full of determination to keep on trying.
It doesn’t work well to try to hang out in both camps – fear and faith.
So these first 10 days, when I’ve tried to only speak kind words, have been a fight. I desperately want to tell you how well I’ve done.
But as I’ve been hearing from more of you lately, I’m not the only one in this fight – a fight for marriage. So many of you are struggling through marital issues as well. And maybe it’s better for me to just be honest and say I’ve not done as well as I had hoped.
There has been progress!
And that’s another thing I’m dealing with in my life – that often, progress turns out to be better than perfection! Perfection is about me, me, me. Progress means that I’m learning something that is changing me – hopefully for the better!
In my sometimes-feeble attempt at speaking nicely to my husband, I’ve noticed several things:
*I try to think before I speak. Apparently, people do this…<sarcasm>…and it’s a good thing. I try to imagine how my words will impact others. Ironically, my younger son has to go to therapy to help him learn this exact thing. I’ve always told him that we wouldn’t send him for therapy if we didn’t think it was necessary, and that we’d always be willing to learn the same things in our lives.
*I may not be succeeding as much as I’d hoped, but our conversations are lengthening. At the start of our marital mess, we mostly didn’t talk. We rarely even conveyed messages to one another – both of us extremely hurt, shamed and bitter. Now, though, a snide remark from me doesn’t end our conversation like it used to. It offers an opportunity to apologize, and it offers time for my husband to extend grace to me. I wasn’t looking for that grace; I was looking for my own perfection, not taking into account the fact that there may be opportunities for my own growth.
I have 30 days left to go in this journey. The good thing (sort of) is that I’ve already made my mistakes. I’ve already apologized and received forgiveness. I’ve already experienced what I thought might be defeat.
As it happens, I’ve really only just begun to succeed. We aren’t perfect, we aren’t made to be perfect. There are some people who can go a long time without something that is part of their typical life. Apparently, I couldn’t go 10 days without saying something unkind. Truthfully, I think it was about 3 days.
However, now I’m starting to view this as what I actually want it to be – a lifestyle change. Sure, I can probably go for the next 30 days and not say anything unkind (given enough duct tape to keep my mouth shut). And I will keep trying – I’m not giving up.
Chapter 4 of Philippians speaks to my feelings and my heart’s desire right now – specifically verses 4-9:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Instead of viewing perfection as the only success, I’m going to look for where grace is extended, where changes are happening, where God is causing new growth in my life. I’m practicing gratitude, I’m paying attention to the things I think about, I’m looking for the peace that God gives, and I’m asking God to make changes that will last much longer than 40 days!
Perfection cannot be my standard – I will fail.
I’m reminded of that line from Crowder’s song “How He Loves”:
“If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”
God’s grace is endless, boundless, limitless.
On my own, I fall short. All day. Every day.
I can drown in the ocean of failure, or I can walk on the waters of grace.
I’m choosing grace, friends!
Perfection in marriage is not going to cut it – I want lifelong changes from this challenge, not just changes that will be done when the 40 days are over.
Look for another update in a few more days!